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Twenty Feet at a Time (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

I’m less than a week off my win at Houston and I know lots of people are thinking, “Man, you won $50,000 in one run at Houston.” Well, yes and no. In reality you have to run six calves to get to that point. Then, at the end, four guys rope for first place.

In a progressive set-up like that, my philosophy is to find out what you have to do to keep advancing and stay alive, and then do that. Every stage has a sudden death where if you don’t qualify in the top four, you don’t advance. It’s very action-packed with instant results, compared to rodeos with first rounds that can last two or three weeks.

Though roping six calves sounds like a lot to get to the winner’s circle, really you just rope one calf at a time. I made the comment the other day that rodeoing is a marathon that is literally run 20 feet at a time. You may run 20 feet today and then it could be a week before you run the next 20 feet.

Regardless, I want to be at the very top of my game for those 20 feet. This year I’ll run between 150 and 200 calves and each calf represents 20 feet. I want to be all in, all there; whether it’s for $500 or $50,000. My horse doesn’t know the difference and I expect him to give his all every time. Why would I expect any less of myself?

Ironically, before Houston I had the least amount of money won at this time of year than I ever have. Now after Houston, I have the most money I’ve won at this time of year. From the beginning of the year, somehow, I just knew it was going to happen.

I was riding around the arena before the rodeo started and thought, “Today could be a day I’ll never forget.” So I thought I should take it all in and enjoy it, which I did. I spent some time praying. Honestly, I don’t pray to win but pray for the opportunity to win. I ask the Lord for a chance and when that’s presented to me I do all I can to make the best of it.

I would like to win all the rodeos I go to, but sometimes my best is not quite good enough and I accept that. I’m not satisfied, but I accept it. I know God works in all things, and I’ve been at the very top as well as at the very bottom where the outlook is bleak. However, it plays out that I want to be the same guy whether I’m winning or not. I’ll be prepared and give it my best shot, but my life is complete and I’m content; though I’ll always do everything possible to run the best 20 feet I can.

Until next time, God Bless, and I’ll see you down the line.

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New Relentless Rope: C4

PLEASANTON, TEXAS (March 22, 2010) – Team Ropers everywhere, get ready to be rocked once again by the next explosive release in Trevor Brazile’s Relentless line from Cactus Ropes!

Hitting the rope racks May 1st, 2010, the C4 head and heel ropes are the next addition to the Relentless arsenal.

Constructed of four strands of 100% pure nylon, the C4 was built to complement the poly/nylon blended Xplosion and provide ropers with an ultra-consistent, snappy, full-bodied rope with tons of snap-back* in hot weather. The C4 is slightly smaller in diameter than the Xplosion, yet allows the roper to find tip weight with ease.

Trevor needed a rope to fit in his rope bag alongside the Xplosion. Having a C4 and an Xplosion with you at all times guarantees you a perfect-feeling rope no matter the weather conditions.

Although it is still in its testing stage, the C4 has already earned a few prestigious accolades in what will certainly be a long list of achievements. Coleman Proctor and Brady Minor both racked up strong finishes at the George Strait Team Roping Championship in Boerne, Texas recently with the new C4. Coleman won the event with his partner and fellow Cactus Ropes endorsee, Jake Long. Using the extra soft C4 head rope, he collected $79,815 cash, a new truck, trailer, saddle, and buckle.

Brady Minor, using the hard medium C4 heel rope, placed second to win $31,926. Brady’s partner and brother, Riley Minor, used an extra soft Xplosion. Brady and Riley were edged out of first place by a mere one-tenth of a second.

To find out more about the C4 and the entire Relentless line by Cactus, check out www.cactusropes.com.

*Snap-Back: the physical trait of nylon string allows it to stretch and then return back to a natural resting state.

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The Four-Minute Mile (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

In 1954, Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile. Prior to that, scientists had stated that it was physically impossible to run a mile any faster. Once broken, in less than a year’s time a number of people ran it faster than four minutes.

For years, the team roping record was 3.5 seconds. It had been tied several times but remained unbroken until the 2009 NFR. Then, in the 9th round, JoJo Lemond and Randon Adams broke the record with a scalding 3.4-second run. They were able to hang on to the world record title for only two runs before Chad Masters and Jake Corkill came out and were 3.3.

When we knock down our own barriers or stretch our limitations, we enable others to break barriers of their own. I have learned that when I don’t reach my potential, there are more people affected than just me. It affects not only my friends and family, but can also affect people I may never meet.

In the last couple of months, we’ve talked about the importance of setting goals. There are some more steps in the process. First and foremost, you must have a plan. There’s an old saying, “If you shoot at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” The second step is that your plan starts with one small step followed by another, then another, and another. Third, use what you have right where you are. It’s easy to find excuses for why you are unable to reach your goals. For many people, it’s easier to find excuses than it is to take the small steps.

Personally I am doing all I can to reach my full potential in hopes that someone else can use my success to expand their horizons. I believe we all have an obligation in this life to do what we’re called to do and do it the best we can. I want to be the best I can be in all facets of my life. One of my most important jobs is being a good dad. I know most of what my sons pick up from me is caught, rather than taught. It’s not about doing, it’s about being. I can teach my sons what I know, but they will catch who I am.

Until next time, God Bless, and I’ll see you down the line.

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Resolutions (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

Recently, I heard the comment that the goals we set for the New Year are called “resolutions” because we intend to break them. Lately I’ve been talking about the importance of setting goals. We’ve started a new year, and by now you’ve been knocked off the course of your goals a time or two and had a chance to throw your sucker in the dirt.

Now the real test starts, to see if you have what it takes to get back on the path and stay the course. Don’t let one mistake or one less-than-perfect performance trash and tarnish the big picture. Keep your confidence high.

It’s easy to have confidence if you’re someone like Brett Favre or Kobe Bryant. But the fact is, we don’t all have that kind of capability. What’s really important is how you view yourself. Your vision and the way you view yourself is exactly what you will become. You must have confidence and be able to visualize yourself at the end of your goal.

There is a Biblical principle that I use to reinforce my confidence. This principle is: You have to speak it for it to be. Stand up in front of a mirror and look at yourself. As crazy and as easy as it seems, say something like, “I’m a winner going somewhere to win.” Quote your goals to yourself.

What works for me personally is that my faith and confidence are not in me or in my rope. Ultimately, my rope is not my provider. God is my provider, and my faith and hope are in Him. What I say is: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I’m not standing on what I can do; I’m standing on the promises of God, which state that I can do all things through Christ. If Christ is for me, then who can be against me?”

When you speak your goals in front of a mirror, something key happens. Not only are you looking at yourself, but you also hear yourself. The strongest words you’ll ever hear are the words you speak specifically about yourself.

Now you have framed yourself up for success. Let’s walk this out.

Until next time, God Bless, and I’ll see you down the line.

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Goals vs. Wishes (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

This is the time of year I usually talk about the importance of setting goals. In 2008 my goals were: 1) To win a world championship; 2) To win the NFR average; 3) To win the Texas Circuit. For the first time in my career I was able to check off all the goals I had set for the year.

My goal, for so long, was to win a world championship and I had never thought past that. I didn’t have another goal after winning a gold buckle. I had never thought about winning two gold buckles.  Achieving those goals was such an event for me and so emotional that it took a toll on me in 2009. I didn’t realize how much until we were half way through the year and I wasn’t in the top 50. Then I started bearing down and winning and ended up getting hurt which all but killed my chances of making the finals.

I always take time between seasons to think about my goals. This year I’m at Dodd’s, my trainer, in Florida in the ultimate training camp. We get up at 5 a.m. and go until midnight or later. We’re either training, eating or talking about strategy and goals. It is amazing how heightened your mental state becomes when you break yourself down physically.

In this environment my goal setting has reached a new level. My goals are very specific and I have a set of both short and long-term goals. I have three pages or sets of goals: professional goals, personal goals for me and my family and spiritual goals. I have a fourth page that is a summary of these, which contains my top six to ten goals.

When setting goals it’s important to be strategic and I always take time to think about what I want to happen this year, in the next ten years and how I’m going to get there. Goals need to be realistic and be something you’re willing to work for. Goals are much different than a wish or dream. Normally we make them too big or too small or don’t write them down. You have to have a road map of how you’re going to get there.

For every goal I make, I run it through the grinder and ask myself if I’m willing to do what it takes and make the necessary sacrifices to reach those goals.

Any goal without time spent, is a wish – not a goal. There’s a lot of difference between a wish and a goal. You can dream big, but know that the sacrifice will have to be just as big to reach it.

On a different note I’ve been given an opportunity to keep people up to date with what I’m doing and be able to share my training routines, etc. Now in the Applications section of iTunes there is a Stran Smith app available for the iPhone for $2.99. I’m pretty excited about it and hope you enjoy it.

Until next time, God Bless, and I’ll see you down the line.

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No Substitute for Time Spent (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

Recently I was given a book titled Outliers, The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. I have always believed and said that there’s no substitute for time spent and this book reinforces that for me. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a school teacher, calf roper or rocket scientist. If you want to be the best there’s no substitute for time spent. The person who spends the most time at something is the best.

When you hear that someone has “potential,” while a compliment, it also means they haven’t accomplished anything yet. According to the Outliers, it takes approximately 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. There’s about 2,000 hours in a year of 40-hour weeks, so depending on how hard you work and how much time you devote to something, it can take five to ten years to become an expert.

These statistics made me reflect on my career. I’ve always felt a little behind because I didn’t start roping until I was sixteen. Though I’ve never doubted my ability, I also never felt like I was as good as I wanted to be. Therefore, I practiced all the time and couldn’t practice enough. I look back now and didn’t realize what I was doing, but it was what I needed to do.

I’ve always said that you get out of it what you put into it and that’s proven. The person who spends the most quality practice at something will be the best. In the book they talk about musicians and athletes and the difference between those who went on to become teachers versus the elite who became the very best. The elite practiced more and spent more time doing it.

I can’t think about roping and longevity without thinking of Allen Bach. He’s worked hard, continued to change with the times and is still a driving force. He didn’t rest on his laurels and at 50-something he’s still working at it and will continue to until he quits. It’s no accident that Trevor dominates the All Around. He’s spent more time at it – that’s no secret. Hanging in my office is my quote: “Practice is not what you do when you get good – Practice is what you do to get good.”

Today while I was practicing, the father of one of my students was there and afterwards he asked, “Do you always practice this hard?” Ironically, it wasn’t really that tough of a day for me. I don’t practice to get a warm and fuzzy feeling, or out of anger or to prove anything. I constantly challenge myself to be the very best I can be.

If you want to be the best – do it more than anyone else. Period.

Till next time, God Bless and I’ll see you down the line.

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These are my People (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

From time to time I see young people do or say things to cause me to wonder about future of our country. I just got home from the FFA National Convention in Indianapolis where I spoke to approximately 600 state delegates. Overall there were probably 57,000 kids in attendance. Meeting and speaking with these kids was so refreshing. Most of these kids are courteous and goal oriented. They know what they want and how to go about getting it. My hat is off to their parents for involving them in the FFA and also to the FFA for the positive impact they have on these young people.

I left there very refreshed and proud because these are my people. They are kids that are from farms and ranches, who have the same morals and principles that this country was founded on. Spending time with them has allowed me to breath a sigh of relief.

I missed making the National Finals by about $3,000 and this is how it played out. When the doctor released me I had three weeks left in the season to qualify for the finals. My first rodeo back was the tour finale in Puyallup, Washington where I won $17,000. I won El Paso, placed at Albuquerque and at the finale at Omaha. It all came down the Heartland Circuit Finals in Waco where I needed to win about $5,000. There I drew a couple of calves that weren’t very good and only won $600.

Though I’m not satisfied with the way this year turned out, it was still the most fun year of my career. Most people don’t realize that after you win the world the first time, you want to win the second title just as bad, if not worse. For me not to make the finals this year is harder to swallow than losing the world championship by $1,000. But in all honesty during this year there have been seven or eight times where I said, “That was the most freakish thing to ever happen to me.” So it just wasn’t meant to be.

Sure I’m disappointed, but I’m not going to let it affect me and ultimately my family. I’ve got two little fellows on that bus that don’t know the difference between a gold buckle and a goat roping title. But they would know and feel the difference if I didn’t take this in stride and handle it well. Poor behavior on my part would affect my family and everyone I come in contact with.

As I rode out of the arena at Waco, I let that feeling of disappointment motivate me. In 2010 I’ll come back with a vengeance. I spent three hours in the gym today; I have fifteen head of calves and twenty more coming. Now I have something to prove to myself.

Till next time God Bless.

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Lemons and Lemonade (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

I’m home recuperating from a torn hamstring and am actually rather enjoying myself. At the rodeo in Deadwood, South Dakota, I partially tore my hamstring and tried to pamper it for a couple of weeks thinking I could get by. I didn’t realize how serious it was and at Sikeston, Missouri, my body was in a compromising position due to my weak hamstring, and I did it in. The next morning Dr. Tandy scheduled a MRI and sure enough I had torn the muscle almost completely away from the tendon. Surgery cannot repair this injury and it will take five weeks for the muscle to heal and reattach to the tendon.

The other day I was thinking about the old saying, “ When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” For the most part cowboys are very independent and have a hard time being made to do anything. Personally, I’ve always had a tough time with people telling me what to do, no matter how open and coachable I’ve tried to be. So when I’m given lemons, I’m thinking I don’t really want lemonade. I’m thinking I’ll just turn my lemons into lemon meringue pie.

So, I’m home with my family in August – that’s never happened before. I feel great and am riding my bike and working out. I’m roping with a breakaway, I just can’t get off. This year I’ve been traveling with my three nephews, Tuff, Cliff and Stetson. They called me the other day from the road and I told them I wasn’t sure they could afford me because I’m doing such a good job keeping the horses tuned up. I’m really enjoying myself and taking advantage of this time at home.

The most common question asked of anyone who rodeo’s is, “How was your Fourth?” My answer this year was, “Great!” The next question is usually, “How much did you win?” I didn’t win a dime over the Fourth, but it’s probably the best I’ve had as far as enjoying myself.

I’ve always felt and said that you don’t have to be a champion or win consistently to be happy and successful. Now that things aren’t going my way, I’m not changing my philosophy on that. I’ve enjoyed this year more than any other and yet it’s been one of my least productive as far as winning. When I’m allowed to come back, I’ll still have ten days left in the season with a shot some key rodeos and Tour Finales.

I’m making the most of the situation and enjoying my lemon meringue pie. The two judges that concern me the most are three and five years old. They don’t know the difference between a gold buckle and not making the finals. But their watchful eyes would see any poor attitude or behavior on my part – and that’s just not acceptable.

If you have any questions, or something you want me to write about you can email me at strant@aol.com. Till next time, God Bless, and I’ll see you down the line.

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Time Spent and Knowledge (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

Most of the time when ropers are shopping for a new horse, they try to buy the best horse their money can buy. My philosophy is a little different because I have a specific style of riding and roping, and will do my best to find a horse that fits my style. I would rather have a horse that’s not quite as good if he fits me better. It’s not about who’s riding the best horse – it’s about who can win the most riding their horse.

If you own three horses and they’re all different, you will constantly have to shift gears and change what you’re doing and that’s disruptive. I prefer horses that are quick and short strided and if all my horses are similar I can maintain a better rhythm. I also have to be smart enough to recognize that type of horse.

It’s important to realize that every horse won’t fit in the same cookie cutter mold. I see a lot of mistakes made by people trying to use the same training and practice methods on every horse they ride. What’s good for one horse is not necessarily good for the other. Though I have a philosophy on riding and training, I realize I will have to tweak that philosophy for each horse. All horses are unique individuals and to enjoy success with a horse you will have to get to know him and find what works best for him.

Horsemanship is key and most cowboys today don’t have a fraction of the horsemanship as the “old time” cowboys. The old timers who roped forgot more than today’s rodeo cowboys will ever know. They were real cowboys because they rode more than they drove and spent almost as many hours in the saddle as not.

It wasn’t unusual for them to ride for ten or more hours before they roped. Not only were they smart about their horses, but their horses were experienced, ridden down and ready to work. Now days we keep our horse in a stall, feed them high power feed and supplements and then expect to knock the edge off after fifteen minutes of loping circles.

I realize it’s not 1940 and most people want to rope and enjoy themselves. Most people don’t want to take a $50,000 horse and long trot them across the pasture, although I do with mine. We’re in a day and age where we have access to a lot of information, too much information actually. Everyone has advice: from reiners, cutters, horse trainers and guys who rope for a living. You can learn something from every one of them. It may not always be right, but it will challenge you to think and may even solidify what you believe.

Time spent and knowledge – be a student of it. Till next month, God Bless and I’ll see you down the line.

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Are you Hungry? (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

Recently, I’ve been to three awesome jackpots where attendance, in both contestants and spectators, assures me our sport is alive and well–even in the midst of an economic crunch.

The first was Joe’s Boot Shop Roping in Clovis, New Mexico and I have to commend Joe Rhodes for putting on another great event. They roped nearly around the clock for three days with the open held on the third day. There was something for everyone to rope in.

Next, was the Justin Mass roping in Giddings, Texas. Another great roping that paid well. That night, we went to Joe Beaver’s for the ten-man elimination style match roping that benefits the children’s hospital. Trevor won it. The amount of spectators at this event was mind-boggling.

These are great jackpots where you get to run a lot of calves for a lot of money–and it was exactly what I needed. Up to this point, I have been struggling somewhat. In the past, I’ve always had lots of motivation at the winter buildings and through the spring. To compete successfully, day in and day out, you have to be driven and hungry to win.

This year, after achieving a lifetime goal, it’s been more difficult. Everywhere I go, people slap me on the back and congratulate me. They’re so supportive and happy for me. It’s been hard to keep the determined mentality that I normally have. It’s made it hard to come back with a vengeance.

It’s kind of like going to the grocery store when you’re hungry versus going after you’ve just eaten.  You can be determined, but unless you’re hungry, it’s not the same. I’ve been full and content. I’ve probably roped and practiced as much as ever, but I’ve been looking for the spark–that “eye of the tiger.”

I talked to Joe Beaver about it and he said after he won his first gold buckle, he almost didn’t make the finals the following year. I totally understand that. I still have the same competitiveness and even the dissatisfaction when I don’t win, but the hunger before I rope has been lacking. These jackpots gave me the taste of blood I needed to be hungry again.

Most sports, especially at higher levels, require a balance. Let’s face it, competing at a world class level requires an edge where you have an animal instinct with a taste for blood. It’s the opposite of wandering through a beautiful garden and getting a warm, fuzzy, and peaceful feeling.

Though you need to tap into that animal, you need to learn to turn him on and off. You better be hungry and able to feed that animal, but also know when and how to turn him off. That’s where we’re called to find a balance–both ways.

Till next time, God Bless, and I’ll see you down the line.

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