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Attributes of champions: 5 key principles from world-class cowboys

Published: Monday, Feb. 11 2013 7:35 p.m. MST

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

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Recently I attended the National Finals Rodeo and Convention in Las Vegas for the first time. While there, I listened to several workshop presenters from the PRCA discuss best practices in the rodeo business.

My purpose, as the new chairman of the Ogden Pioneer Days Foundation in Utah, was to learn all I could about how to enhance our own activities and rodeo programs.

Our festivities — now in their 79th year — take place every July to celebrate the pioneers’ arrival in 1847 to the valleys of the Wasatch mountain range. These early ancestors were rugged farmers and ranchers who earned their livings off the land. Horses and cattle were assets they owned, and were part of their daily lives. Learning to ride a palomino and tossing a rope over the head of a wayward calf was a basic and necessary skill for many workers in those days.

As you can imagine, in time the young men with a competitive nature formed ad hoc events to demonstrate the abilities they had honed to ride a bucking bronco, with or without a saddle. Those who were fearless also proudly climbed aboard a crazed 2,000-pound bull for a few seconds ride. Winners were applauded. Losers nursed their wounded egos and broken bones. That celebrated tradition continues today, not only in Utah but across America where more than 30 million fans watch thousands of riders and ropers compete for prizes and recognition at more than 1,500 professional rodeos every year.

This year at the NFR, the 15 best U.S. cowboys came together in each of seven categories to compete for the honor and glory of being the best of the best, in bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, tie down roping, steer roping and bull riding.

What makes these warriors so great? What is it about these remarkable lads that separates them from the other wranglers?

I chatted with several PRCA golden buckle Champion Cowboys of the Year to learn their competitive secrets and how they might apply to the business world. It didn’t take them long to answer my questions. In sum, here are the five principles they follow that make them better than anyone else. Successful entrepreneurs can learn to do them as well.

1. We need a positive, winning attitude

We should arrive at work each day knowing we can be successful, and then give each task our very best effort. We should end the day with a resolve to learn from our mistakes and to celebrate every achievement. We should also be grateful for the opportunities we have received.

2. We need to have clear goals

Every winner needs a purposeful vision, a thoughtful strategy and well-defined tactics to achieve stated objectives. Champions know where they are going and how to get there. They have a well-conceived plan and they follow it.

3. We need to study, learn and practice

Highly successful business leaders are great students. They know how and what to study. They learn lessons well and they retain needed information. They also apply what they have been taught with precision.

4. We need mentors

No one can succeed alone. We all need coaches and advisers who have gained knowledge from their experiences and who are willing to share with us what they have learned. We should be humble and willing to follow their great counsel.

5. We need a support team

No matter what our assignment is, we all need the kind assistance of others, both supervisors and subordinates, who can lighten our heavy loads and clear our path. Being grateful for their support is fundamental to our long-term success.

Whether they be world-class cowboys, award-winning athletes or highly praised executives, champions all possess a passion to win and a deep desire to follow time-tested patterns for success.

This article originally appeared in Alan’s weekly Forbes column.

Alan E. Hall is a cofounding managing director of Mercato Partners, a regionally focused growth capital investment firm. He founded Grow Utah Ventures, is the founder of MarketStar Corp. and is chairman of the Utah Technology Council.

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