Clay O'Brien Cooper: Diversification is Smart Business for Your Future

Clay O'Brien Cooper's lesson for team ropers to start young at developing a mindset of diversification and capitalizing on your successful earning years.

If you rope for a living for very long, there will be times when you’re winning good money and hard times, too. As expensive as trucks, trailers and horses are today, turning a profit can be pretty tough. So to start young at developing a mindset of diversification and capitalizing on your successful earning years is just smart business and an important investment in your future.

Time flies, and there will come a time sooner than you think when you’re contemplating your departure from rodeoing full time. If you plan ahead, that doesn’t have to be a scary time when you’re worried about what you’re going to live on and what you’re going to do next.

[LEARN: from Clay O’Brien Cooper on Roping.com]

To be really good at roping for a living, you need to be resourceful and sometimes even a little creative at organizing your finances. It takes a lot of juggling to make it all work, especially early on when you’re learning the ropes of the rodeo business. If you’re fortunate enough to get the ball rolling and make it, most people have about 10 years to capitalize on their roping careers. There are exceptions, but that’s about average.

Making the most of your earning years will be important as Father Time rolls on. Cultivate relationships, and work on a plan to have something to step right into when you step away from rodeo. The goal is to be like Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean, where the ship comes in and you just step right off onto the dock and go on with your life after you stop rodeoing.

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Rodeo’s not the most lucrative sport financially, but it does offer unique opportunities during and after a successful career. There’s no better place than rodeo to network with successful business people outside of rodeo. We’re lucky to have so many good and successful people connected to our sport, who rope as a hobby. And they connect well with successful cowboys.

If you can be successful in the rodeo business, you can surely be successful in the business world. It takes the same planning, commitment, ingenuity and work ethic to succeed in both. You just need to step out of your comfort zone, and pay the price with hard work.

It’s easy to get caught up in the right now when you’re young and out there on the trail. But the sooner you realize that there are a lot of years beyond rodeo, the better. The sand runs out of the hourglass for everyone, so don’t get yourself locked into a dead-end road. At some point, we all have to step off of the merry-go-round and step into another area of success.

[READ: Clay O’Brien Cooper: Keep Challenging Yourself]

When you’re in your 20s, and you have your youth and the opportunity to compete, go for it! Also look at the big picture of your entire life from time to time and be strategic, knowing that you won’t be able to stay competitive into your 60s and 70s. I’m looking at my life decisions in hindsight now, and I’m suggesting to kids and families who ask to take the time to get a good education. Get a degree under your belt. Invest in your future, and use college and amateur rodeo to hone your skills.

That extra time in school also keeps you in an open frame of mind. There’s no single path to success and we’re all different, but I encourage you young guys to fight the natural instinct of having tunnel vision. Take the blinders off, and look at all this big world has to offer. Rodeo’s not the only thing there is in life, and you’ll wake up 60 sooner than you think. What 60 is going to look like for you depends on steps you take to diversify now. Keep a hand on your life’s rutter at every age—20, 30, 40 and 50—and you’ll be ready to make a strategic move onto the next chapter when you decide you just ran your last rodeo steer.