Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop"

Throwing My Loop…    

By:  Michael Johnson 


 As a Man Thinketh…

      Are you a believer?  Does positive thinking work?  Some say it has no value.  Many say they have tried it, and it simply doesn’t work.  Tons of books have been written about the subject, and most of the time, none of those books change our lives for the better.  Nay sayers have good reason to doubt the validity of the subject because most define the belief system about positive thinking based on what others say. 
     We have all had the experience of attending a seminar or watching some motivational speaker on television, and it seems to me all they do is yell a lot.  They remind me of my high school coach, a fellow who said everything twice, and said it really loud.  “Okay, Okay.  Let’s Go Let’s Go!  Hustle!  HUSTLE!”  Our record was 0 – 10 under that guy, and I’m kinda’ proud of that.
     If we really examine ‘positive thinking’ however, we find there is a great deal more involved than just repeating slogans, wishing, or someone saying “If it is to be, it’s up to me.”  And there are some good books out there, and when you read the books and hear the authors, they don’t yell.  They tell powerful truths.  When I heard those truths, they did a world of good for me, to me, and inside me as well. 
     When I was young, rodeo was my life.  Literally lived for it.  From age 17 to 21, I was on the road.  Not that I was very good at it, mind you, but such small matters never deter real rodeo bums.  And that’s what I was – a rodeo bum.  I roped calves and rode saddle-broncs. Note that I use that word ‘rode’ loosely.  Sudden meetings with the ground were all too common.
     My lack of winning did not stem from laziness.  I was an ‘arena rat.’  I worked constantly, and I loved to practice.  Yet my performance failed to improve much at all.  I did all the things ‘they’ said to do - I mounted countless horses and roped even more calves.  When I bucked off a horse or missed with my loop, my internal drill sergeant had a field day yelling at me in an effort to create improvement.  So I rode and roped more.  When I failed, I reacted with anger and frustration.  And my performance failed to improve much at all.  
     My academic record was the same.  A chronic F student, I failed miserably in school, and no matter what I did to change my world…nothing worked.  Then I read a book suggesting that thinking differently was the first key step.  I have read the book many times since, and each time I learn something new from it.  As my years have increased in number,  my understanding of what ‘positive thinking’ really means has grown as well.  For years, I thought the magic was in the book.  That’s wrong.  The magic is in us.  To do better, we must think better.  And of course, that’s scriptural… “As a man thinketh, so is he.”
     Have you ever seen a basketball coach screaming at his players and slamming his towel down on the floor in disgust?  Have you ever seen a shortstop let a grounder go through his legs, and then throw his glove on the dirt in rage?  We all know golfers who throw clubs.  And we have all seen the roper miss and take his frustration out on his horse, now haven’t we? 
     That last one bothers me.  The horse should never be blamed for a miss.  If we miss because our horse did something wrong, whose fault is that?  The trainer of that horse is at fault.  Besides, while horses are really smart, I’ve never seen one that could throw a rope.
     The coach, the ballplayer, the golfer and the roper are experiencing frustration.  We all do.  Question is what do you do when that happens?  How do you think at that moment?
     Will throwing the towel on the floor create higher performance in players?  Will throwing the glove cause the shortstop to catch the next one?  No.  And slinging golf clubs and hitting horses won’t improve things either.  Those are ineffective reactions to mistakes that we are bound to make.  Those people are not thinking better, and probably not ‘thinking’ at all.  They are experiencing frustration, and reacting with anger.  We’ve all done it.  What should we do instead?
     There are better ways to think.  High performers come to know doing better begins with thinking better.  Here are some examples of others who had to learn the same lessons that help us all.
    When Arnold Palmer was fourteen, he threw a club in anger.  His dad, a greenskeeper, walked over and picked up the club, and told his son, “If you ever do that again, you can’t play anymore.”  Tennis star, Bjorn Borg, credited his mother with his future championships.  “I threw a racket once when I was young.  My mother retrieved it, and forbid me to play for six months.”  At twelve, Tiger hit his golf bag in a fury after a bad shot.  His mother pounced on him saying, “The bag did not hit that shot.  I bought you that bag, and if you are going to hit anything, hit yourself.”
     All those parents were teaching their children the same lesson.  While we all make mistakes and experience frustration, to improve our performance – we must channel anger into something productive.  This is not simple and not easy, but it is doable.  We do that by taking gentle hold of our mind in the heat of battle, and replacing negative thoughts - which drain our energy - with different thinking that provides energy and power.
     At a recent roping, I was competing against a number of ropers – among them, the McReynolds clan.  This is tough.  Dad, Mackey, sons, Albert, Anson, and Caleb are really good hands.  Mackey and Caleb were in my same roping.  Caleb missed two heel loops after his dad had turned the first two steers nicely.
     Between runs we sat on our horses under the big shade tree just outside the arena.  Caleb rode up to his dad and said, “What am I doing wrong?”  We all waited for Pop to provide some technical suggestion on rope delivery or other horsemanship tips.  Instead, Caleb’s dad offered some unexpected and even more valuable advice – and a crystal clear example of the positive energy that results from higher thinking.
     “What you are doing wrong is…you have frown on your face,” his father said.  “Your shoulders are slumped, and you are down on yourself.  Get your head up and smile.  We have plenty of steers left and this roping is far from over.  You can’t rope with mope on your face.”
     I think that is just one of the best tips I ever heard in my life.  Apparently, Caleb did too.
He didn’t miss any more steers, and they won third.
     Keep your heart up.  Let your spirit be light.  Be grateful for the experience and learn from it.  Remember the good only comes after an extended period of time and effort.  Remember it is impossible to look good while you are getting better. 

Have faith – certainly in a spiritual sense, but in your self as well.  The Lord is too kind to shortchange us.  There is more inside than we dream.  That’s what caused my turn-around long ago.  Caring adults in education and agriculture told me much the same as Caleb’s dad told him…
     “Don’t sit at the back of the class,” they said.  “Sit up on the front.  And get your head up.  You can’t learn anything with your head down.  Believe – have faith – try again!” And since there was nothing left to lose, I did – and my world began to change.  While I haven’t won the Nobel Prize, I didn’t go to prison either.  And that’s where I might well have been headed were it not for good human beings who taught me “As a man thinketh…so is he.”  

                                   “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to the mountain, ‘Move,’ and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you.”

                                                                                               Matthew 17:20

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