For the majority of my life, I’ve been fascinated with successful people and learning how they found the motivation and focus to achieve their goals. I suppose my draw to them had something to do with my upbringing. I was raised in a family and social environment in which I wasn’t expected to be good at anything. I was never pushed to be a winner, and I didn’t understand that I could expect better of myself. From boyhood on, I had a passion for horses and livestock in general, but when I told my parents, teachers and other adults in my life that I’d someday like to make a living working with animals, they discounted the idea and belittled my ambitions. As a result, I grew up with a lack of confidence and a sense of inferiority, and experienced little success in early adulthood.
My outlook on life changed when I went to work for a man by the name of John Kingston and began showing horses for clients. I was 26 at the time and John ran Kingston Rural Management, a firm that oversaw properties for absent owners. He offered me a position as an on-site property manager, which was a fairly big step for me at the time. Suddenly, I was taking part in management meetings, forming budgets and educating myself in a business sense. Working for people who had high expectations and set goals, I found I was achieving things that were way above the expectations I had of myself.
When I went to manage the property, my neighbor was a man named Rob Irvine. At the age of 36, Rob had $600 to his name and decided that he’d work for 10 more years and then retire. He had managed to do that, and encouraged me to focus my attention on the goals I wanted to achieve in life. He gave me a motivational tape and really set me on the path to setting goals and pursuing them. I realized that if you want to succeed at something you have to focus on it and not do incompatible things. I started to pick up books and read biographies of really successful people. I took a real interest in people who were succeeding and engineered ways to meet them, and then I was brash enough to ask them how they got to be successful and how they focused on achieving their goals. I didn’t just read about successful people in the equine or livestock industries, I sought out successful people in all fields and endeavors.
Since then, I’ve always collected motivational sayings, one liners and the like, and I know Clinton shares quite a bit of them with you. Back then, I started putting those sayings on the walls in my kitchen so that when I was having breakfast I could read them and keep myself focused on the goals I wanted to achieve and the attitude I needed in order to be successful.
The very first one of any great substance I put up on the wall was when I started training horses for the public. The quote read: “Only those who risk going too far know how far they can go.” At the time, the idea of being a horse trainer professionally frightened me to death because rarely had anyone done it successfully in a business sense before. The horse industry in Australia is nowhere near the level it is in America, and that was especially true at that time. So I knew it would be a huge challenge and an uphill battle to make it profitable, and I wondered if I would be up to the task.
In 1981, at the age of 36, I set up my first training stable in Widgee, Queensland. The locals thought I’d fail because there weren’t enough horses in the area to keep me busy, and on top of that I had low funds, but I also had a great work ethic and loyal supporters. In the early days, John and the contacts I made managing the property sent me enough horses to keep me going.
My greatest regret about that period is that it took me so long to understand that all I needed to do to change my life was to change my attitude. I am living proof that if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting. Sometimes, if you’re brought up in the wrong kind of environment, you can be a little afraid of success and the responsibilities that come with it. So the next challenge for me became changing my attitude. On my kitchen wall, I hung the saying, “In order to change your life, you must first change your attitude.”
I had it in my head that other people were more deserving of success or more likely to succeed than me. I changed my way of thinking by taking a hard look at what I had done with my life up to that point – I had put in the time and I had put in the effort to succeed. So when I went to a major show for instance, I’d turn my advice around and remind myself that I had put in as much effort, if not more, worked harder than anybody else and had a really good horse that deserved to be recognized as a champion. Then, I would go out and make a run in such a way that someone would have to run a lot harder to beat me. My thought was if someone was going to win, they were going to have to deserve to win. I wasn’t just going to hand it to them.