You have to be around awhile to have somewhat of an understanding of what perseverance is. Early in my career, I really didn't have any concept of what perseverance meant as far as applying it. But as I look back over more than 25 years of professional rodeo, I'm starting to get a glimpse of what that actually means. There are a lot of things that pertain to roping and competing that perseverance applies to. Sometimes I look back on my career and think I wish I knew then what I know now. That's another aspect of roping and competing that I've always enjoyed and loved-the knowledge part-learning by mistakes, by watching and by experience. If you keep on going and you're trying to learn and get better, it's there. Jake (Barnes) has a saying: "You either win something or you learn something." I was watching Monday Night Football last night and Mike Ditka said, "You're either the teacher or the student." I often think about all the schools we've put on over the years and all the people who've come to those schools trying to learn and get better, with the hopes and dreams to compete and learn more about what they're trying to accomplish and how to win, to where it becomes more fun. Sometimes from our perspective, because we're competing at the top level, we don't realize what a struggle it can be for them. I always try to put myself in their shoes. Sometimes the difference between success or failure just comes down to perseverance.
I've seen certain people over the years just keep their heads down and keep going and trying, and they persevere through the hard places of learning, growing and putting in the time and effort. They end up having success with their goals. That's the cool part about perseverance. If you're not willing to give up, you have a good chance at success.
There are so many cool clichés from philosophers and great leaders that pertain to perseverance, pressing on, keeping your head down, plowing on through and not giving up on your commitments, your goals or your work ethic. Like they say, "It's better to try and fail than never to have tried at all." You can't always draw the best steer in the herd, and nobody said this would be easy.
One of the turning points of my career was when I rodeoed with Jimmie Cooper. His whole demeanor and attitude came out in his actions, his way of life, his way of competing and practicing. His personality and character were all about hard work, perseverance, gritting your teeth and not giving up. His attitude had a huge impact on my career.
As I started to apply those same principles to my roping and other areas of my life, it was a real turnaround. Those are the key ingredients to success in any aspect of life, from business to marriage to raising kids and roping.
There are always peaks and valleys. I've been blessed to be able to reach places in my career that were high points and places where I thought I was competing at a level that was among the best in the sport. I've also been in low places where I didn't feel that way. Everything I seem to have learned along the way has come from watching people I've highly respected-guys like Leo Camarillo, Walt Woodard, Denny Watkins and Mike Beers, who I've rodeoed with for years and years throughout my career. Watching them as they've persevered through the peaks and valleys of their careers has really helped me stay hooked in my career.
It all comes down to commitment. When I was really young, I made a real commitment that this was what I was going to do, and this was how I was going to do it. Without really realizing it, I was locked in for the long haul. If I wouldn't have made that commitment, there would have been many opportunities to step away along the road. It's not easy making a living roping. Now, as I look back on almost 30 years of roping for a living, I can honestly say it's been a rewarding ride.