Have you ever met someone in life and thought “How do they have so much energy?”, “How do they stay so focused, so driven, and seem to never slow down?” What makes those people so motivated? More importantly what makes them STAY so motivated? You know the ones… always pushing forward, getting up first, going down last. In the horse training world, it’s being so worn out late at night, but riding one more colt anyways, then riding another. Riding all day just to load up and go to a jackpot, and then come dragging back in after midnight, only to get up and do it again bright and early. Whether it’s 100 degrees or 20 degrees, the elements have no hold on their perseverance. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet a few of these highly focused and driven individuals in my lifetime, and I can tell you they are incredibly inspiring to be around. I myself have had to learn to push beyond the conceivable limits and illusions of weakness, fatigue, monotony, and doubt put forth. I’ve heard so many times things like “How do you keep going?” “Don’t you ever get tired?” “Where do you get your energy from?”, or statements like “I could never work that hard.” The truth is these “people of the grind” do not have any more energy than you. They are just as tired, just as overwhelmed, and just as susceptible to the vast spectrum of emotional baggage as everyone else. The difference is what they do with their baggage.
To find out how that “never back down” fire stays lit, you’ll first have to notice what lights it in the first place. In terms of success and work ethic, the number of exceedingly dedicated and disciplined individuals is extremely low. Which makes it easy to identify the first commonality among them. What is it? Passion of course! Passion lights the fire. Now that’s a cliche answer, I know, but there is much more to the point.
Passion. Almost EVERY barrel racer will say they are passionate about horses or the sport. Yet, only a small percentage put forth 100% to be the best rider, horseman, or trainer they can be. They still slack in many areas. Riding if or when they feel like it, half-ass cleaning stalls and buckets, not educating themselves on good maintenance and nutrition, or not seeking to better themselves as horsemen. It’s too hot, it’s too cold, it’s too cloudy, throwing your sucker in the dirt after a bad run. These people rarely claim any long-term success, yet they are “passionate” if you ask them. The reason? Passion only lights a fire, it will NOT keep it lit. What keeps it lit?
Purpose. When the winds of doubt and crappy situations blow, and the hailstorms of fatigue and hopelessness fall, purpose will keep that fire kindling. When you have a goal or a dream you want so badly that you can’t not think about it, you have a purpose. No self-help book, coach, mentor, or friend can give you a purpose. They can give you motivation, but motivation alone usually falters when the going gets tough. What is the difference between passion and purpose? Passion is the emotion. Purpose is the reason.
Passion statement- “I enjoy running barrels, it’s fun to me”
Purpose statement- “Barrel racing is an art and complex skill I want to refine and master”
My passion for riding barrel horses isn’t going to get me out there when it’s 20 degrees, or when I’m dog tired from a late night of riding because I don’t enjoy riding when it’s cold, or hot, or at 3 am. What gets me out there is my PURPOSE, wanting to spend as much time as possible in the saddle so that my horses and I stay sharp and consistent. I love what I do, but what keeps me going when I’m out of gas is picturing winning that futurity. I can feel the joy in that moment when I picture it. I can feel the pride of knowing my hard work paid off. I can feel it, I can see it, I can taste it. I just have to keep going until I can grab it.
Looking ahead is what keeps the people of the grind going. Not the now. Stay focused on the end goal. Think about it so much that it consumes you. Become that goal. It starts with passion but it’s sustained through purpose. Both of these are vital pieces to staying driven but they are long-term qualities. We don’t typically choose a different passion or purpose daily, but we do have to choose to pursue them each day. So how you do you stay driven and focused each day even through the tough times?
Perspective. We’re talking mental game. It’s all about perspective. We set our own limitations believe it or not! My favorite quote of all time is “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you are right”- Henry Ford. You are what you think, so you must filter and control your thoughts. Be fueled by adversity, don’t be defeated by it. Get mad at it. Bulldoze through it. You can do it. There is a way. It may seem impossible, I know firsthand how that feels, but nothing is impossible with the right perspective. You can’t stay purposed if you don’t truly believe you can achieve that purpose. You won’t try as hard, because deep down you feel you won’t make it anyway, so it’s not a big deal to miss that ride or cut that corner. When your purpose is a reality to you, you take your work, trade, and skill set seriously. This is because you feel that you are truly getting one step closer with each advancement. The winners you look up to were once beginners, were once in seemingly impossible situations. They may have even sucked at one point. Those parts are rarely seen, but it’s the truth. They kept going, kept trying, and now they are where they once dreamed to be. They never backed down.
Practice. It’s just as important to practice your mental game as much as it is your physical. Start with eliminating the excuses, excuses, excuses; they are dangerous and addictive, easily becoming a habit. Stop that! Quit degrading yourself after bad runs and start studying techniques. Take the emotion out of it and start simply analyzing why you are getting undesirable results. Seek help from those better than yourself. Learn. Practice positive, future-oriented thinking every day. Make that a new habit. There are tons of mental toughness books available to help with mindset. To start, I can recommend “With Winning In Mind” by Lanny Bassham if you’d like a suggestion. If we haven’t improved our mental game or physical skillset at all from this time last year, it’s time to re-strategize. If we aren’t improving or working to be better, what are we doing with the valuable time we’ve been granted?
Now the reality of life is the unfairness of it; some of us just have to work a whole lot harder. It sucks. Plain and simple. It can take the wind out of us for sure. You know what I mean, watching others succeed who seem to have an easier draw. However, it is counterproductive to be jealous of those who don’t necessarily have to take the road less traveled. It’s wasted energy. That’s their story to write, focus on your own. Again, keep your perspective. You can dwell on that hand and lose for sure or put on your best poker face and go all in. I can speak on this subject. I didn’t come from money or connections. I know how it feels to bust your ever-loving butt for that 3D check on an $800 horse you bought and be so proud about it to quickly have that pride fade when some kid that’s never known a hard day wins the race out of 400 on a six-figure can turning machine, discouraged me? Hell no, it FUELED me! If I can’t buy a 100,000 dollar horse, I’ll keep trying until I make one. No excuses, right?
Passion, Purpose, Perspective, Practice. I come from way down under south Mississippi, breaking some of the rankest horses imaginable for free just to get any kind of notice with no money, no direction, and no freakin clue. Just a dream to be a futurity trainer. All-nighters, reject horses, terrible runs, freezing temperatures, training jobs, losing training jobs, fatigue, pain, tears, wanting to sleep in, wanting to quit, wanting to just admit I don’t stand a chance for lack of money and talent. I’ve been there. I’ll admit at one time I’ve even lost passion, but I never could shake this purpose. Deep down it’s what I’m meant to do. I don’t know how to tell you to find your purpose if you don’t feel you have one. However, you will know it when you do find it because nothing will keep you from achieving it.
I’m now living my passion and purpose training horses in Pilot Point, TX. Horse capital of the world. I’ve worked under and have befriended the BEST trainers and riders in the world. I never dreamed they’d even know my name. I have the nicest bred horses one could want in my barn and for some of the best clients. Here I am writing this article for HORSEpro.tv. I have not met all my goals yet. I have a LONG ways to go! It’s still hard. I still get tired. I still have moments where doubt and fatigue sting. It’s okay to not be Iron Man. That’s not the point. What’s not okay is to be less than your best. You’re cheating yourself of untapped potential in the end.
So go ride when you don’t want to, make mistakes, go learn from those more knowledgeable, take constructive criticism, stop blaming the horse. Get serious, get goal oriented. Make a plan! The one thing that got me farther than I could ever have imagined was not talent or money, it was work ethic. Outwork those around you. You’ll get noticed. No matter where you are or the circumstances, it can happen. Scrap the excuses! Where there’s a will there’s truly a way, but mere passion will not cut it. Stay purposed my friends!
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