When The Student Is Ready, The Teacher Will Appear

Illustration: Roper Taylor

Illustration: Roper Taylor

It has been said“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” The origin of the quote is up for debate, but I first heard it while listening to a lecture given by Dr. Wayne Dyer.  It was meaningful enough to me that I decided to use it in my book, Heart of a Champion.  I speak about missed opportunities for learning lessons that I’ve had right in front of me.  For some reason, I was not ready to RECEIVE the lesson.  Was it that I thought I didn’t need to learn anything at the moment or maybe didn’t recognize there was a lesson presenting itself?  That’s when my mindset changed.  I began seeking opportunities to learn and grow. I became more aware, more open to change, and more receptive to new ways of thinking.

In mid-November 2015, during the beginning of the 2016 Women’s Professional Rodeo Association Rodeo season, I was excited to travel to Durant, Oklahoma to compete in the Betty Gayle Cooper-Ratliff Memorial Rodeo. On the way, I stopped at Troy Pruitt’s ranch to get a much-needed roping lesson tune-up.  At that time of year, the calves are big, hairy, and “waspy.” The practice I had with Troy was nothing less than ugly.  He had to step in to save me and Chester a couple of times. After thanking him for everything later, he opened up a conversation with me that would change my thinking forever.  Looking me straight in the eyes, Troy said, “Donene, you either win or you learn.” He went on to explain what he meant by that, and something very cool happened. I Got IT!      I was ready, and the teacher appeared.  The light bulb came on. I replayed that conversation over and over again in my mind. It was a pivotal moment for me.  That short phrase was crucial, and I embedded it in my mind, heart and spirit. The seed was planted.

I maintained this new mindset, as I competed in Durant. I won second in the tie-down roping against the best ropers competing at this great rodeo. My new mindset would be the foundation and saving grace of my entire 2016 WPRA rodeo season.

For decades, I had been consumed with a results-oriented perspective.  Being in “the standings” meant everything.  I was so critical of myself and of each performance that it became counter-productive. My unhealthy perspective put me on that crazy ride known as the emotional roller coaster. 

That simple phrase, “Either you win, or you learn,” was exactly what I needed to hear to begin the process of getting off the dreaded emotional roller coaster- -forever. 

Riding the emotional roller coaster requires emotion and lots of it. Remove the emotion, and voilá — no crazy ride. Getting emotional in the arena, halts your progress. You become stuck in the emotion, until you stop being emotional about the results.  Even though, I completely understood the benefits of not getting emotional in the arena, it took a lot of practice and time to master it. 

Shift perspective and stop that nasty, judgmental voice in your head once and for all.  Get off the dreaded emotional roller coaster and stop telling yourself, “I’m a winner, if I win!” “When I lose, I am a loser!” And stop worrying about what people might be saying and thinking about you.

Here is a sure-fire way to bail off that crazy ride once and for all.  Before entering the arena, whether practicing or competing, put on your pretend, white lab coat, and channel your inner scientist. Think like a scientist in your lab, the arena.  The scientist doesn’t get frustrated.  She’s patient.  When she doesn’t get the desired results, she gathers data and learns from the failures. She uses the failures and mistakes to teach herself.  From what she learns, she will find a new, better way to take the next step forward. 

 When a reporter asked Thomas Edison, how it felt to fail 1,000 times, Edison replied, “I did not fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”  Failure is an excellent teacher.  No one gets a free pass from enduring adversity.  As you put on your “lab coat,” I want to invite you to shift your perspective of how you see yourself, your situation, and your world. 

Here are some examples of what a shift in perspective may look like. You can master this kind of positive thinking with practice.

I am not getting the results I want.I am not getting the results I want YET.
Blame, complain and get defensive, when “stuff” hits the fan.I take 100% ownership of everything that happens, when “stuff” hits the fan.
Entitlement: “ I deserve to win.”This is an opportunity to do my best.
“I failed.”  “ I’m a loser.”I am challenged and ready to learn.
Failure is final.Failure is welcomed feedback.
“I am in a slump.”This is an opportunity to learn more about myself and my situation.
Victim mentality:  “Poor me.”  “Why me?”  “This ALWAYS happens to ME!”Victor mentality:  Develop an overcomer mentality that says, “I can figure it out.” “ I will find a way.” “I can bounce back quickly.”
Avoid mistakes and struggles.Mistakes and struggles help me learn and grow.

Another mental performance strategy to practice, while wearing your “lab coat”  is to press the “pause button” for a moment, when you hit problems. Sports psychologist, Dr. Ken Ravizza, said, “You have very little control of what goes on around you but total control of how you choose to respond to it.” The fact is you control all your own buttons. Other people may push your buttons, but you choose your response. Pressing the pause button gives you an opportunity to take a breath. Smile, as you take a nice, deep breath and think about how you will respond.  After some deliberation, take action. 

Later, you get to reflect how well you responded to that situation.  Remember, take the emotion and self-criticism out of it.  Collect data and learn from it. Lather, rinse, repeat. You have many opportunities during your day to practice this mental performance strategy: at work, in school, in traffic, while shopping, and time with friends and family.

In fact, one day I was telling my husband, Stan, that when I finally got off the emotional roller coaster it made my life SOOO much better. Stan smiled one of his signature smiles and said, “Donene, when you got off the emotional roller coaster, it made all our lives SOOO much better!” Oh boy, he hit the nail squarely on the head with that comment. 

Being “up” and “down” all the time negatively affects everyone you come into contact with. Life gets much better when you adopt Troy Pruitt’s phrase, “Either you win, or you learn.”When you struggle, I encourage you to look at it as a great opportunity to get outside your comfort zone. It’s an opportunity to learn. Getting comfortable being uncomfortable– and learning is where you will grow exponentially, in and out of the arena.

When I “drew a line in the sand,” stepped across it, and decided I would no longer ride the emotional roller coaster, I began experiencing more joy, peace and fulfillment, while in the arena. I became more efficient in the arena by raising my level of habits and training. The decision to focus intently on my process and growth of taking the next step forward helped me reach the outcomes I desired more quickly and peacefully. 

With consistent practice and the proper mental performance strategies, over time, you can get off the emotional roller coaster too. Learn from your losses and control your emotions.  I assure you, it will absolutely be worth it!  


More strategies to easily implement and help you step off the emotional roller coaster can be found in my book, Heart of a ChampionProven Strategies to Help You Discover the Heart of a Champion That Beats Within You. It can be found on Amazon and is available in hard copy and for digital download.

I can help you develop strategies of how you can grow from your losses and control your emotions through one-on-one coaching sessions. If you would like to book a coaching session contact me at [email protected]