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If you’ve been keeping up with the action here at BarrelRacingTips.com, you’d know that we’ve been partying like rock stars to celebrate the release of Secrets to Barrel Racing Success!
In celebration of the occasion, I’ve been sharing an abundance of quality, original barrel racing articles, tips and inspiration – all developed to help YOU generate real results!
Below, I’ve shared four key lessons that I’ve taken away from my recent experiences (that may also prove helpful in your life), where yes, I actually traveled nearly 2,000 miles, attended five clinics, wrote eight articles, made 106 Facebook posts, and celebrated my book reaching best-seller status on Amazon!
#1. There is Great Value in Repetition and Learning How to do the Basics Better
After being a seriously dedicated student of barrel racing and horsemanship much of my life, I had developed some what of a distain for hearing the same things over and over. As my life responsibilities have increased over the years, and allowed what seems like even less time to spend sorting through and taking in educational resources, I’ve become even more selective in order to avoid “information overload,” and to make the most efficient use of my time.
I’ve learned though, that even when we think we’re advanced, or even if we feel like there is a limit to how much information we can take in, it can still be immensely valuable to hear the same things described in different, unique ways, from a variety of sources.
When a pattern is recognized, it really helps drive a point home – we no longer have to think of certain concepts as being semi-important, when we’ve heard them stressed multiple times by a variety of horseman that we respect. In addition, there’s a firmer level of confidence developed when you learn that you already resonate deeply with certain high achieving professionals, it’s a feeling of confirmation that you are on the right track.
The foundation of confidence in my own knowledge base is so much more firm than it was five clinics ago! That new level of confidence is valuable, and it was only gained for me recently, when I was willing to put myself out there in a way that would possibly risk hearing “things I already knew.”
What I’ve also realized lately, is that it’s one thing to do the basics, and it’s a whole ‘nother thing to do them well. Performing the “basics” in a quality way, makes a huge difference in the end result. The deeper I go into developing my abilities with horses, the more I realize that it’s not just about DOING things, but HOW we do things. When we realize just how much the WAY we go about developing our horse matters, it presents an entirely new challenge.
So in order to make the greatest advancements on my own journey, I’ll especially seek out those who can teach me in even finer detail – how to perform simple tasks in a quality way, which also deepens my understanding of how doing so, leads to success. When I look at it this way, simple tasks suddenly become very advanced. It’s no longer possible to “check things off the list” and consider my (or my horse’s) understanding of the basics as “good enough.”
As a self-professed “clinic junkie,” at this time last year, I had pretty much decided that I would limit the number of clinics I attended in 2012. Secrets to Barrel Racing Success was barely more than a sparkle in my eye. In fact, I remember feeling a little discouraged with my tendency to take in more information than it seemed I had time to apply. As much as I love learning, I knew I needed to keep a healthy balance between education and implementation. After all, I firmly believe that knowledge is only valuable if you take action on it.
With the development of BarrelRacingTips.com, the writing of my book, and the timing of it’s release with some amazing learning opportunities, my “clinic limitation” policy went out the window, and let me tell you – I’m so glad it did. After all the articles and content I’ve been providing this month – I hope you are too! And I hope you’re encouraged to get out there and take advantage of learning opportunities that present themselves in your area as well!
#2. Life Balance is a Myth, Kind of
For years now, I’ve been chasing this thing called “life balance.” I imagine I will have it captured when I feel like my marriage, horses, career, and personal projects are all getting the time I feel they need to flourish, while still having “margins” in my days – to be present, to smell the roses, to maybe even sit on the deck on a warm, Wyoming evening and not just see work in my view! Honestly, I have often felt like the pace I have set for my life has been too frantic for too long, and that what I’d really like to do – is catch my breath.
THEN, I decided to write a BOOK!
Not only did I write the book in three months, but over the course of three more months, I designed the cover, formatted the book, learned what it took to be a successful self-published author, then planned and carried out a month-long book launch to celebrate it’s release into the world. So much for taking it easy! Of course, I could have extended this process out over many more months or even years, but NO, I have MORE I want to DO! Ugh – are you tired yet?
That’s how I have felt on many evenings, when I was up past midnight writing content for BarrelRacingTips.com. A couple of times, I (a little jokingly with a whiny tone) said to my husband, “I wish I was normal!” Honestly though, the energy and motivation – even at the depths of severe sleep deprivation was not that hard to find. Why? Because I am SO passionate about helping barrel horses and their people!
What I learned, is that even if (like me) you seek more “life balance,” that when you are striving to achieve great things, and when you are living the life you were created for with unstoppable enthusiasm, that certain parts of your life will take precedence, while others go on the back burner – and that’s OK. In the past few months, one house plant died of sheer neglect, I drank way more mocha lattes than I care to admit, and my gelding Pistol’s long braids got snarly, but you know what? It was ALL worth it!
What I recommend based as you’re navigating the seasons of life, is to let go of the idea of achieving “perfect balance,” but DO hang on to what is most important, like your health and relationships. Don’t allow one area to lead so much that the sacrifices become too great in others. Turns out that for me, an occasional walk, hot bath, weekly dates with my hubby, lots of salads, and soft hugs from a certain, very affectionate Australian Shepherd went a long way in helping me maintain my physical and mental health.
I’ve realized that sometimes we have to give up some balance in order to achieve something great that requires our full focus. Learn to be content in the current season of your life, even it temporarily takes you away from other things you enjoy. Know what is most important to you, and make sure that you remain committed to doing enough of what is necessary to ensure that you don’t end up losing more than you gain.
#3. The Art of Village Definition and Appreciation
You’ve probably heard that it takes a village to be a successful barrel racer. I’ve realized that it takes a village to write a book about barrel racing, too. I am not much of a social butterfly and am actually more energized by alone time than by being in a crowd, so my personal village is small – but oh, so mighty!
When you go through hard times, OR good times, you begin to better understand the role your village members play. Some friends and family members surprise you. Some surprises are pleasant, while others may be disappointing. Some village members are your cheerleaders, some step forward with a shoulder to cry on, some are your counselors, some you party with, some you go to church with, some you share intimate details with, some you work with, some drop out of the picture, while new village members appear.
I’ve learned that just because a certain village member doesn’t play the role you expected they would play, doesn’t mean they aren’t playing the role they were meant to play, or are capable of playing at the time. When it comes to our relationships with people, I’ve learned we’re better off to not make assumptions and to accept people as they are, where they are, at the moment.
Sometimes certain village members step up and completely shock you – in a good way. It’s like you don’t know the great lengths to which your village members are willing to go, until an opportunity presents itself. That opportunity came up in the past months for my husband, Craig. In fact just thinking about the sacrifices he’s made and the extremes to which he went, to keep our world turning while I was working on my book, still nearly inspires me to tears.
Craig has what I call a “servants heart.” It’s not uncommon for him to follow me around with a boot bag over his shoulder and video camera in hand at a barrel races. In the past months, he even gave up riding his own horses in order to oversee numerous projects, keep critters fed and healthy, keep ME fed and healthy, and generally hold down the fort in the absence that writing my book created. He’s done all this without a single ounce of resentment or a hint that I might “owe him.” He’s been completely sincere, and operating out of the pure goodness of his heart.
Even though we haven’t spent as much quality time together in the past months as we normally would, seeing this side of him has created so much gratitude and appreciation in my heart, that it’s taken our relationship to a new level. His support has been a daily reminder of the lengths to which he’s willing to go for me, and a demonstration of his love, for which I’m eternally grateful. Although he’s not once led me to feel obligated, of course I’d be more than happy to support him in the way he has supported me.
My suggestion is that when you strike out to achieve something great, tell your village! When you share your desires, you become accountable and helpable. As you do, release any pre-defined thoughts of the roles you think your village members will play. When you want to celebrate, need a helping hand or a listening ear, by all means communicate that, and trust that those who are willing and able, will step up in whatever fashion they are able to at the time. When they do step up (or don’t) love them regardless, and make sure you express appreciation to those village members for the contributions they make to your life! Craig offers support with joy in his heart, without expecting anything in return. His example of unconditional love inspires me, and now, maybe you too.
#4 Be Realistic, Know Your Limits, then Aim to Stretch Just Beyond Them
Even though I’m now an author, my first love, passion and focus has always been, and still is, barrel racing. Writing and sharing my book with the world has been my primary focus over the last six months but my passion for running barrels still leads the way. Even though it’s more important to me to be a top barrel racer than a top author, when I realized there was a chance of my book becoming a best-seller, I thought – while I’m at it, why not? In fact, I’m reminded of a memorable quote I once came across by an NFR barrel racer…
“The sun will rise tomorrow, and there will always be round two… But what the heck, you might as well win this one.” – Jill Moody
Anything worth doing, is worth doing well, right!?
In order for my book to reach category best-seller status on Amazon.com, it needed to be appropriately indexed with other horse books. After all, chances of my little barrel racing book outselling “50 Shades of Grey,” and being an over-all Amazon best seller would be pretty slim. Upon researching Amazon categories, I found a handful in which my book would fit, but learned that it could only be indexed in two. Initially, I chose the “Rodeos” category which is home to 134 other books, and the “Showing and Training” category, where there are 591 books listed. When I announced the availability of my book on Amazon.com to the world, I figured reaching #1 would be a sure thing, in the “Rodeos” category at least.
Then, I had second thoughts. After all, how much meaning would it have to compete against only 134 books, and win? It wouldn’t take many book sales at all to reach #1 in that category! So I decided to change categories somewhat last minute (it takes Amazon 1-3 days to make a category change) and instead had my book listed in the “Equestrian” category, where it would compete with 2,197 other books! NOW, the competition would be tough, and if my book reached number one, it would seem like a much more meaningful accomplishment.
This process reminded me of when I was young and naïve and I set out on the rodeo trail with my little mare. You know – “Livin’ the dream!” I kind of wish someone would have shook me awake back then because I didn’t have even a remote chance of placing. The experience I gained was valuable, but I was basically donating my entry fees, and because traveling with horses and paying entry fees isn’t cheap, there was a limit on how much of it I could do “just for fun,” without going broke. I was “out of my category” back then – in a big way!
I knew my book had the best chance of reaching #1 in the first week I announced it’s availability on Amazon, so I watched the stats closely during that time. I had made up my mind a while back, that I REALLY wanted for it to be a best-seller. Once my book was no longer indexed in a category where the competition was easy, the suspense was nail-biting. I watched as it gained a #2 spot in “Showing and Training” (the easier of the two categories it was listed in), and then dropped down to #4.
I started to worry that I had made a mistake by taking my book out of the “Rodeos” category and putting it into the much larger “Equestrian” category. I panicked. Maybe I was over my head? Maybe I should have stayed in the small pond? Maybe it would have been better to be a sure thing against easy competition, than to not reach #1 at all!? But it was too late to change categories. I just had to wait and see and the suspense was killing me. In the end, “Secrets to Barrel Racing Success” not only reached #1 in “Showing and Training” but also reached #1 best-seller status in the “Equestrian” category against 2,197 other horse books.
All these months, I had worked so hard to write and spread word of my book and then decided to stretch myself even further – to take a risk, a dare, to enter up against tough competition, and take a chance on coming away without a #1 title. Even though I had second thoughts at the last minute, I did it because I believed being #1 was possible, and I wanted a credential for myself and for my book, that was not a sure thing – that had meaning.
The lesson here, it that it is important to know your “category,” and choose competition environments that are appropriate for the level you’re currently at. When you’re careful not to jump in too far over your head, you’re more likely to create positive, confidence building experiences. At the same time, although we want to set ourselves up for success, we must also know when and how to take a bit of a risk and challenge ourselves.
My advice is to set your sights on accomplishments that are not easily within reach, not too far out of reach, but just a little stretch beyond what you feel comfortable with. Along the way, set smaller, more simple intentions for yourself, such as “ride my horse 5 days/week,” or “dedicate 3 hours per week to reading, studying, or watching horsemanship/barrel racing DVD’s,” etc.
Waiting to see how my book would rank was a lot like waiting to see if a fast time will hold at a barrel race. It was more than a little grueling! If you’re consistently placing near the top at open barrel races, it might be time to test the rodeo waters. You might feel like a little fish in a big pond, like I did. In the end, you might get eaten by piranhas and end up donating your entry fees, OR you might find you that you really can swim with the best of ‘em, and reveal a new level of confidence in you and your horse’s abilities as you do.
I jumped in the deep end of a big pond and surfaced victorious with a #1 best-seller. 🏅
In your barrel racing and in life, I encourage YOU to leap too!
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