The new year’s here, so it’s goal-setting time. I roped at the (Wrangler National) Finals (Rodeo) 27 times between 1980 and 2015, but making the Finals was never really the goal. That was not optional. It was a must. My goal was always to try and win the world championship. Getting to the Finals has worked out for me 27 times, and I’ve had the good fortune of winning the world seven times.
It’s been a little different for me the last few years. That horse fell with me when we (Jake and Junior Nogueira) were practicing right before the Finals in 2015, so I had to sit that one out. Then there was the knee replacement. And I couldn’t rodeo in the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) in 2016, because of the ERA (Elite Rodeo Association).
In recent times, I’ve basically been starting at Reno in June, and it hasn’t panned out. I wasn’t willing to sacrifice staying out there to maintain a top-40 position, so I came home. That’s just not enough for me to justify staying gone.
Rich (Skelton) and I were doing decent when we started roping together last year, then my good horse got hurt. Not to make excuses, but that set everything back. So I came home. Now I’m kind of back in the same boat of trying to figure out my next move. I’m not qualified to go to the big winter rodeos. So I’ll go with Plan B, and go to Tucson in February, then my year might not really kick off until the spring run in California. I’m not sure yet who I’m going to rope with.
Setting goals is important not only for the top guys, but for the younger guys, too. That holds true for ropers at every level, for that matter. I’ve always felt that way. We all go through chapters in our lives and careers. I’m at a different chapter in my life now, so things aren’t the same. But I still think it’s critical to put a game plan in place if you want to reach your goals.
I don’t care if that goal is making the National Finals, the World Series Finale, or winning a gold buckle. We all need something to shoot for that’s important to us. I don’t know how you get through life without having a goal. Without goals, you’re just wandering, and you’re more likely to not improve. Trying to get the biggest piece of the pie was how I made a living all these years.
You have to assess your strengths and weaknesses. I was riding on a plane, and visiting with a lady about my outlook on making a living. She told me I ought to be a motivational speaker. I don’t know about that. Maybe I’m just cut from a different cloth. But I expect so much from myself. I’ve always wanted to be the very best I can be. I realize that if you want to get the most out of life, you have to give it 100 percent. I’ve always wanted to be the very best I can be. So goals are a must.
Before you set your goals, you need to assess every aspect of the business. Your horses, partner, rig, and yourself. It takes a special recipe and special glue to hold this thing together. You can go from rags to riches instantly—or vice versa. You can have a wreck driving to Rapid City, like I have. Or hit your head having a horse fall with you, like I have. Or cut off your thumb at the NFR, like I have.
You never know when the tide will turn. You need to set your sights high, then make a strategy to get there. And you have to constantly go back to the drawing board when circumstances change. My goals are changing. But I still have that spirit, and the aspirations that I will win again. I get up early, clean my pens, saddle my horses, and get after it. I know what it takes. And nobody expects more from me than me.