I've talked to you about roping for a lot of years, and that's not going to stop. But I also want to share some of the other things that are on my heart from time to time; things I think are important to all of us in our lives. I got a pretty amazing response in April when I talked about some of my observations and opinions on the importance of getting a good education. This month, I'd like to talk about some other really important life choices we all face sooner or later. No matter what career or path you choose in life, whether you're a doctor, lawyer, preacher or professional roper, there are obstacles out there. It doesn't matter your race or religion, or what kind of family environment you come from, drugs and alcohol will take the best people down if given a chance. When we're young, we're very vulnerable to peer pressure. In high school and college, you're starting to spread your wings and spend more time out there on your own. You're wanting to fit in, and believe me, we've all been there. The college scene is basically about experimenting in a lot of areas. We all do what we can to give our kids a strong foundation and good decision-making skills. But every person at one time or another is going to get tested. And it's easy to give in. In fact, that's a whole lot easier than staying strong and saying no. I really encourage every person to set your own path and make your own decisions. It's hard. But you can do it if you stay strong.
First things first, and I can't say this enough to young people: Get a good education. Get that foundation. You have your whole life to rope. So get your Plan B in order first. Study hard. Don't be lazy. Work hard to develop a good work ethic. That'll help you succeed in everything you set out to do.
Surround yourself with a good support group. It doesn't matter how good or bad the people around you rope. Be with people who encourage you to be your best in all areas of your life. Choose people who understand and agree that you'll be your best without drugs and alcohol. You can basically look at your friends and see what kind of person you are. The types of people you surround yourself with are very important, so choose them wisely.
What I'm talking about here is true in every sport and every walk of life. There is so much wasted talent out there in all sports, including roping and rodeo, because booze and drugs have taken people's careers, and in some cases lives, away from them. I've never heard a successful person say they'd have been more successful if they'd taken more drugs and drank more alcohol. But I've heard a lot of stories of regret and how people's lives could have been so much different and so much better without those things. There are examples all around us.
Sex is a tough topic for most people, and I'm not going to go into any detail here. But this is another part of real life that we all make decisions about, especially young people. I'm going to leave the in-depth discussion up to families, as I respect their right to their own set of beliefs. But I will say to kids in families who don't talk about sex to please consider that there are real and serious consequences to poor choices in this area also. Sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS and herpes are forever, and unplanned pregnancies are life-changing. I don't have all the answers, and I'm not about to preach on such a personal subject. But I will encourage everyone to think long and hard about your choices in this area, because if you're not being really careful you're gambling. And the stakes are high. Tough things happen to good people too, and can change the course of your whole life.
Drugs and alcohol are everywhere. They affect our families and our friends. People have died from them. People have gone to prison over them. People have lost their families, careers and lives. All over trying it one time. They never thought they'd be the one who had the problem or the addiction. It was just for fun and short-term entertainment at first. Or maybe it was to help them over a brief bout with depression. But before you know it, drugs and alcohol can take over your life. It happens to good people all the time.
There's a bright side here in that it's never too late to make a change for the better in your life. This is just like learning the fundamentals of roping. If you're tired of not being very good, you go back to the fundamentals and start building from there. The fundamentals also pertain to success in everyday life. Drug addicts and alcoholics don't tend to be great success stories. If you do have a problem, get yourself some professional help. This applies to everyone of every age. You might not be able to fix things on your own. It's like a good roping instructor helping you get to the next stage with your roping. It basically comes down to making good personal choices. Take charge of your life and do the right thing. It all goes back to surrounding yourself with good mentors and role models. Don't listen to the kids at school telling you you aren't a man until you try this or that. Listen to people you admire. Give yourself the best possible chance at succeeding in the game of life.