Never Settle for the Status Quo with Jake Barnes
Jake Barnes on always trying to be your best.

A lot of people have described me over the years as never satisfied. I guess that mindset of always trying to get better is all I know. It’s not a show for me. I’ve just always been out there trying to prove to myself that there’s always room for improvement. The way I see it, there’s always something more you can do to better yourself and be more successful.

Read: What Makes People Winners with Jake Barnes

Taking a day off and taking it easy is not in my DNA. I’m going to be 61 years old here shortly (on April 4), and this lifelong quest for always improving is almost getting scary now that I can’t possibly keep getting better physically. But I do still keep my eye on the ball at all times, and keep working every angle. I stay in search of a better horse and don’t let up on the work ethic.

Maybe never settling for the status quo is why I’ve lasted so long. The only path I know is to always try to get more out of my horses and myself, which has helped me evolve and change with the times. Other people say they see this trait in me, but it’s hard for me to think of it as anything but normal, since it’s all I know. I’ve always thrived on bettering myself. I know what it takes to reach the highest level and stay there.

You can never be complacent or think you’ve reached the top. That’s when you’re guaranteed to backslide. Because if you don’t keep evolving, you become obsolete. I haven’t been going hard the last couple years. More of the winter rodeos are limited now. I’ve pulled a rabbit out of the hat a couple times—like making the Finals with Walt Woodard after starting at Reno in June (in 2011), and making the NFR roping with Junior his rookie year (2014). But that’s not easy to do.

[Read: Develop a Winning Roping Attitude with Jake Barnes]

I went to about 30 rodeos in 2018, and only went to seven rodeos in 2019. I pulled up early both years, because the NFR was out of reach and I wasn’t willing to stay the course for the whole season just to try and get qualified for the winter rodeos the following year. I’m in this industry to pay my bills, so I can’t afford to just stay out there to break even.

Sometimes these things are a blessing. Clay (Cooper) called me last winter to see if I wanted to do some roping schools, and doing those with him has been phenomenal. We did over 25 schools in 2019, from Pennsylvania to Missouri and Tennessee. The roping industry is booming right now, and there’s just so much hunger for information. There’s no place I’d rather have been last month than roping at the NFR. But that’s a 365-day commitment in effort and finances.

Read: Jake Barnes Put a Positive Spin on the Mental Games

There’s something to be gained by never being satisfied for ropers at every level. One of the things I try to pass along to students at our roping schools is dedication and the determination to never settle. All ropers need to train. World Series ropers may have jobs and limited spare time, but in the end it’s a matter of how bad you want it.

Rope the dummy. Ride your horse. Rope a machine. Practice with the intent of improving every day. Have your runs videoed and study them, just like the big dogs do. It’s ok to just go out and rope for fun as a hobby or social activity. But if you want to keep climbing the ladder, you need to get after it.

Read: Learning to Lose with Jake Barnes

I’m not rodeoing hard right now, but I’m still striving to get better and I’m always on the lookout for my next great horse. The horse component is part of the journey, too, and you never know when the next Barney’s going to show up. The great ones are game changers.

None of the greats in our game were willing to take no for an answer. When it got harder to win, they trained harder and tried harder. The desire to win at any cost is in every great’s DNA. Never say die. That’s me. Trying to be the best has always just been me, from when the sun rises to when it sets. Like Leo (Camarillo) used to say, “We’ve already won something today—we beat the sun up.”

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