Lessons from the NFR...(part 2/3) and some things I’ll leave behind
Updated: Jan 5
This year we had the wonderful liberty of watching the NFR from our couches. And if you were also part of team ‘couch-jockey’ then I’m sure you could agree; while it’s fun to watch, we have absolutely no skin in the game.
We got to hold our breath while the rough stock bucked, rope our dummy while the ropers swung, and cheered on our favorite barrel racers. Among the 119 competitors we observed many things, talent, skills, try and… pride.
image ©RodeoReady do not copy
The demeanor when your are in the spot light and under pressure is one thing, but I feel like true character will always shine (or be exposed) through.
As glorified couch jockey’s It was interesting to observe and sympathize with the victories, losses and overall trials in each event. And so from this perspective I want to share another principle that I observed (AS SOMEONE WHOSE FACE IS NOT MARRED WITH THOMAS AND MACK DUST) which could be a hindrance to all of us who compete on any scale.
We are not avid bull riding fans but we definitely made sure to watch the best of the best in the kick-off event of rodeo. Night one first round we heard the crowd erupt with fandom as the top bull rider took the money with swagger. Night two was a different story - and to make it short my kids are scarred for life from witnessing the wreck of the same top dog bull rider in the second round.
On the one hand…that’s rodeo right? One night you’re up on a mountain, and the next you are literally down on the ground. Wild animals, gritty cowboys and a whole lot of adrenaline make for a good show. And anyone will pay for a good performance. But after the dust settled from the concussion-inducing wreck I wondered how high of a price are the COMPETITORS willing to pay, to perform.
Then to our shock and horror night three rolls around and what do we witness…? The proclaimed best in the world, with the sustained head injury CLIMBS ON ANOTHER rank beast without batting an eye. Our stomachs turned as he could barley stay on for a jump and a half, only to be tossed like an inebriated rag doll. Night after night, the same scene replayed with no change in the outcome other than now clearly visible fear and apprehension from the bull rider.
Eventually one of my kids said something during one of the rounds after another failed ride. “Mama, why does he keep riding? It’s like he’s trying to prove to everyone he can do it but he keeps getting in danger!” My heart sank and my spirit agreed. The need to be, show, and do the best all the time is a fast track to failure and the pit of rejection.
Yes…Bull riders ARE a different breed, and it does take a person with major guts to ride something with balls that bucks. But rather than correct her and fortify his efforts by saying ‘Well honey that’s what cowboys do, they get up and try again’. I told her what I felt as I transparently witnessed as the most obvious problem…Pride comes before the fall.
Proverbs 16:18-19 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud.
What is the cost to stay on top and be the best? What is the cost to prove you can do it? What is the cost to show you are not weak? Is it 8 seconds of bravery for a chance at winning a $26k round? Or is it more than that?
In my new book, He Carried Me, I shed some blinding truth on the danger of having pride in your performance. Being obsessed with being the best might just be the most exhausting thing I've ever done. I think that when we're SO fixated and foundational fixated on winning, pleasing people, impressing the crowd, putting on a performance and hardwired for man's approval, we'll have no boundaries for anything else. When we're hurt, tired, or broken we'll carry on as it if never happened. The problem is IT DID, and consequently the failure of our humanity is enduring opens the door to compromise. Instead of going back to the basics we just mask it the a mirage of understanding. Instead of getting strategic about a new way to do something we repeat the same old habits. Instead of healing we pop and Advil (or more extreme). Instead of giving our horse a break we will just give him a shot of something to make it through. And the dominos tumble. Rodeo is justly an entertainment industry. No one ‘rides bulls for a living’. Real life application of rodeo exists in roping, cattle work and horsemanship no doubt, but rodeo is largely a hobby/form of entertainment. The problem is with every other ‘entertainment’ industry - you can fake it. An actor reads a script. An artist can still create when injured or ill. A producer can still delegate responsibilities. Rodeo performance athletes can’t fake it and don’t have a ‘double’ to come in for them. Because rodeo is as real and raw as it gets, sometimes us competitors get met with the lie of ‘if not tonight, then never again’, ‘the crowd came for a good time’. The crowd did not come to watch you make a fool of yourself and strap yourself onto deaths back unable to fight back for a bounty of $6k-$26k. The crowd actually will have more respect for you for treating a head injury and taking care of your health which will play the ultimate role in your career and personal life. No one wants you to be the best at the expense of your life. And that is the lie that comes disguised as hard work: Pride. Thinking we have all the power to be the best, pursue the best, and do the best. When we take our talents, skills, and effort and chain it to PERFORMANCE we will only be happy if it meets the standards of others. We will only ‘function’ well, on top, and not know what to do the the scene changes or disaster strikes. Sometimes life is not about holding on for dear life…sometimes its about finding refuge and trusting you’ll get a second chance. Let’s not go into next year pretending that if we don’t put it all on the line for people to love, commend and accept us then we are failures at our core. Grace is more powerful than any two thousand pound bull, and it certainly worth more than 8 seconds. If you need some wisdom and encouragement for learning to when rest and when to resume be sure to sign up for my new book, He Carried Me.