Juan Antonio Jimenez Cobo is a world-renowned dressage rider with countless successes in the dressage arenas, perhaps the most outstanding one as a silver medallist at the Olympic Games in Athens 2004.
What is it that makes a person become so successful? How does he think? How does he act? What does he focus on ?
In this open and sincere conversation, Juan Antonio Jimenez Cobo shares who he is and his perspective on who you need to be and what you need to focus on to be successful. Thought-provoking advice for anyone, regardless of profession…we are life-long learners and our attitude towards this fact makes the whole difference.
Juan Antonio, what is your definition of success?
Success for me is when you are able to achieve something that is really difficult and complicated. For example, to achieve what I have achieved with one of my horses lately, Vietkong. He is a very difficult horse and in my last competition, he gave me everything that I could expect from him. Afterwards, everyone acknowledged all the work that I have been doing with this horse for a long time. To know that your work has touched people – that´s the real compensation for your work and effort.
What made you choose training horses and riders as your career?
This makes me feel alive. It´s what I like to do and what I do well. To train horses and other riders gives me everything: wellbeing, joy, sadness…at the end of the day all of those are good things. Everything that helps you feel good in life, even though it´s not all joy.
In your view, what characteristic have helped you get to where you are now?
Perseverence, persistence – to want to reach my goal whatever it takes. To make sacrifices, although I don´t experience it as sacrifice. ´Sacrifice´ in the sense that there isn´t time for other things. I experience my work very intensely. It´s about being satisfied every day. It doesn´t feel like an effort. I feel pleased every day.
What recomendations would you give to a person who wants to achieve a goal?
“Be prepared for the difficulties. It wouldn´t make sense without them. Know that it´s an effort. Be perseverent and constant in your work. It will not be easy and there will be moments when you will be demoralized. Sometimes you need to take other people´s negative opinions and critisism and even…their jealousy.
It´s important to be different and be yourself – every person is unique. Don´t think about the money but follow your feelings. You have to be touched /fulfilled by what you do and transmit that to others. It´s not about technique. Don´t be like everybody else. Let your own personality and magic show.
Live it, enjoy it, feel it – it´s about the experience.
Be positive. Believe in yourself and fight for it. I never thought to myself that “I will never be able to achieve this”!”
How do you deal with the setbacks that show up on the way?
A setback for me is when I have doubts about if I´m doing the right thing or if I´m on the right track. Then I look for a way to solve it. I never get tired and give up. Actually, the worst setback is sometimes the people that surround me: the negative opinions, criticism and jealousy.
Whatkind of thinking do you think a person has to have in order to succeed? How/who do you need to be?
- Be genuinely interested in what you do.
- Have a good teacher, or ´maestro´. Although I haven´t had one in particular, I have learned through observing others.
- Observe how others work and learn from them, both those that work well and those who don´t.
- Make mistakes and learn from them. I have made lots of mistakes. Today I don´t make those mistakes any longer…but I make other ones! In order to learn you have to make mistakes – it´s how you learn.”
What makes a good learner? What differences do you see between a student who learns fast or slower? What´s your advice?
There are people who learn fast and others that need more time. Neither one is better than the other – it doesn´t tell me what the end result will be. An important attribute is to be sensitive and quick in perception, to have feeling. Have the capacity to feel and listen.
It´s important not to be a perfectionist, because they never feel satisfied. Be positive and focus on the positive that happened during the day and don´t be obsessed by what didn´t go well.
Don´t try to accelerate the process. You have to be energetic, but at the same time gentle and not aggressive. Be calm. Think quickly and act slowly. Less is more.
How do you teach and what makes a good teacher?
I adapt my way of learning to every individual. I analyse my student and try to understand his or her psychology. Every lesson is unique. I experience every lesson very intensely. You have to be patient and really like to teach. Teach with your heart and not for the money. And of course you need to be good at what you teach.
When will there be nothing else to learn for you? When are you going to be perfect?
“Never! I am always learning. That´s what makes me feel alive.”
Anything else you would like to add?
“I always try to give everything I have inside. People say that I stand out when I ride with music, in the Kürs. Some people have told me after they saw me ride with music; ´Juan, you made me cry”. Emotions are important. I easily get emotional.
It´s important to be yourself. I am just myself and don´t try to be like anyone else. I don´t compare myself to anyone. This is my ´way´ – I´m not superior nor inferior to anyone else. I always tell my students: “Don´t try to ride like me. Have your own style.”
Finally…I think it´s important to be honest and respectful with people. You know…at the end of the day…everything finds its´ right place in life, no matter who you are.”