I had several people tell me they thought I should offer my thoughts on my upcoming induction into the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame on Thursday night at the Fresno Convention Center. I’m very humbled to be part of a class that includes Fresno State and NFL great David Carr and NBA star Melvin Ely.
I was very reluctant to write on the topic, but as I began to think about what I’ve learned from my sports career – as a decathlete and later an angler and a guide – key insights about both began to emerge and I thought I might pass them on. Funny, this kind of thing is almost like going to your own funeral, it makes you think about what it’s been all about – and what worked and what turned out to be important. So here goes.
First, I’ve been very fortunate in both arenas to have had coaches/fishing partners who taught me good fundamentals from the start. Those critical foundational lessons from people who knew what they were doing taught me early on what I needed to do to succeed and thrive. They wouldn’t let me fall back into bad habits or be lazy. Great start!
Second, as important as fundamentals were to any success I’ve had, I now realize that the real key for me was having someone who could personally “model” success – what it looked and felt like! This is the real game-changer, because it teaches you how to think and behave, in all situations. Champions transcend their technical expertise with how they think and react. How do you learn the habits of focus, drive, mentality and grit: By deliberately hanging with others who have mastered those disciplines!
My time with world-class and Olympic coaches, athletes and anglers has had a lasting impact and is something I wouldn’t trade for anything. You absorb what you are around, and being around true champions is what I believe can totally transform your mentality and performances. We catch more than we know. I believe that there’s a badly flawed attitude going around in society today that we are not influenced by what we see, hear and think. I suggest the truth is just the opposite: We are profoundly affected by who we are around – what we see hear and observe – more than we might understand.
I think we learn more unconsciously than we do consciously. I’ve found that Olympic-class performers are very meticulous and careful about what they allow into their brains; they know how important it is. World-class anglers are the same way.
Even though I didn’t call it modeling, I found that this method catapulted me forward, letting me learn how the whole enchilada worked, not just the mechanics. In addition, you’re not wasting time doing things the hard way, learning from failure. It’s a fast track that lets you put all your energy into the right physical and mental patterns, rather than wondering if you’re “doing it right.” It also lets us catch on to the habits of successful people.
Lastly, one of the real counterintuitive effects of spending so many years learning from world-class teachers and mentors was not just having some material success, like landing a monster bass, it has actually been the realization that the most valuable part of my journey has been what I’ve learned and who I have become in this whole process. Funny, the little considered byproduct of learning to be a better athlete/angler became the most important real long-term outcome of the whole process for me.
That’s why I love fishing so much. It’s a pure sport that gives all of us a pretty level playing field where we can achieve a lot of personal goals and practice being better human beings. Being our best selves, that’s my key takeaway. It goes with you, when the rest is gone.
As I said earlier, this whole thing has kind of hit me like being at my own funeral in some ways, making me realize that I’ve been doubly blessed to have had two passions that have driven me. Yes, I’ll never regret a single day of fishing. What’s your legacy …? Never give up!