Learning How to Lose – Part Two

A Pinch of Rodeo

By Joe R. Nichols


Learning How to Lose – Part Two

The manner in which a loss comes to you, can make a huge difference in your mental health for the next twenty-four hours while dealing with the let down. As discussed in part one, when you perform at your best and take advantage of your opportunities, you have to be satisfied no matter the results. But, when the reason for failure is totally your fault, it’s much harder to accept.

Another example from the United States Team Roping Finals in OKC a few years later. My partner and I were seventh high call back. Less than one second separated the top six, and the number one team only had 1.3 seconds advantage over us. When it was our turn to rope, we had to be a 7.2 to take the lead. A respectable time, but very doable.

My mistake was made by concentrating on the 7.2 time, instead of making the run as fast as the steer we had drawn would allow. If we were nine seconds plus, we would have won a lot of money. If I would have focused on the fundamentals, instead of a specific time, we had a steer that we could have easily roped in under seven seconds.

I skipped a very basic step. The steer veered left slightly, and I let my horse run in straight behind him. I should never have let this happen in the first place, but once I recognized I was out of position, I thought I could pull off the shot anyway. After all, we had to be 7.2, I didn’t want to take the time to move my horse over and correct my position.

I missed. I split the horns with my loop, and it flipped off empty. First place paid $69,000, and we had a legitimate opportunity to sack it up. I mentally blew it. Nobody’s fault but mine. No excuses, nothing to do with luck or circumstance, just my bone headed, blanked out lack of focus. Not only did I let myself down, but there’s your partner to consider too. Also your friends and family that have all gathered to watch you and want to see you succeed. It feels like you disappointed the whole world.

This took me years to recover from, if I have ever yet to completely. Before this incident, I was always so confident in the short go rounds. Roping well enough to qualify for the finals, gave me an aggressive, positive attitude, and I always roped my best when the money was up. Fighting off doubt and the fear of failure, became a new process for me. It took a long time to overcome the hesitation and learn to be proactive again.

Do we all let our past mistakes and misjudgments effect our future performance? Yes, we do. It’s just human nature. The secret that everybody knows, therefore it is really no secret, is to not dwell on the past, and to learn from our mistakes. We have to keep competing and repeating the process until we succeed. That’s the hard part, but it’s also no secret.


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