This year before the Finals, I did stuff I’d never done before. I bought $14,000 worth of steers. I studied hours and hours of film. I really attacked it. We went out there to win a gold buckle because that’s all I have left to do. In years past, I’d get there and wake up in the middle of the night covered in sweat, so this year I told myself I’d go out there and have fun while I was trying to win that gold buckle.

Man, I just fell flat on my face. I was too concerned with the end goal. I had a $40,000 deficit behind Clay Smith, and I tried to attack that too early. The hardest part about having a bad Finals for me wasn’t my performance. I know I’m going to miss, and I’m OK with that. The hardest part for me is all the people who had to sacrifice for us—to have more practice time, to get ready for the Finals and to be prepared when we’re there. My wife’s mom comes to the Finals for two weeks to help with the kids, and my mom is there the whole time. All the people who come to watch you—they have their own disappointments. I know everybody is still proud of me, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a gut punch to think about.

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When I came home from Vegas, I didn’t saddle a horse until after Christmas. I was Mr. Mom for two weeks. I didn’t even watch my runs from Round 7 on. I just took a short break.

When I went to get back into it, I realized two things: first, that 2019 is only a bad National Finals if I don’t learn and do better in 2020. If I make the same mistakes in 2020, then it’s a bad Finals. Second, I was confident my process was right. I wasn’t ill-prepared. I didn’t go out there with half effort. What I did do was go out and not ride my horse well like my plan was. When you miss in the first few rounds, your confidence just dwindles. I was depressed and trying to go for day money, and that’s when mistakes are made.

My partner, Ryan Motes, was awesome through the whole deal. I’ve never gone to the NFR and only spun three steers. He was banking on a big week, and he and his whole family handled it awesome.

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Believe me—I do not like to lose. But I choose not to make a fuss about it. I take 10 minutes in the trailer and visit with myself and have my conversation there. I would love to be able to talk to more people about winning humbly more so than losing gracefully, but I believe you have to do both. As competitors and professionals, it’s our job to do that. I’ve roped with people before who wanted me to show emotion and be hard on myself. But at the end of the day, when I’m hard on myself, I look at it like I wouldn’t talk to a stranger that way, so why would I talk to myself that way?

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The fastest way for me to get better is for me to keep my emotions in check. I look at it like it’s a math problem. The more I can focus on my process, the outcomes will be where I want them. The No. 1 thing we can do is focus on beating the steer that walks into the chute every night. In 2020, I haven’t done a very good job yet. But my practices have been good, and my horses are better than they’ve ever been. The outcome is just a matter of time. I’m programming myself to win. The year is too long to be worried about messing up at Denver.

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