May 22, 2013 | James Parrish
Entering taxidermy competitions is much like entering any other competitive event. Having the right mental perspective is just as important as possessing technical or artistic ability. In other words, to do your best in a taxidermy competition, or any competitive event, you must have your mind "right". In this article, I will discuss a few good attitudes to have and some to avoid. Let's dive in.
1. "Psyching" Yourself Out
This is a hard one to avoid, but it happens to many competitors. They start doubting their abilities or comparing themselves to other taxidermists. They begin to believe their work is inferior or not as good as Joe Blow who won some awards at the last show. While some of those things are true, you have to avoid looking at competitions through that lens. What happens is you beat yourself before you even start mounting your entry. By thinking that you are
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not going to measure up, your mind will begin to really believe it and you'll fail to do your best work. As an aside, I believe this is the single biggest reason most taxidermists refuse to charge what their work is really worth. They don't believe that their deer heads are worth more than $350 so that's all they charge. I believe there is power in speaking things into existence. Tell yourself things like, "I can do this" or "I am capable of earning a blue ribbon". Say it out loud over and over (works best when you are alone) and eventually you will begin to believe it.
2. Ego/Arrogance Problems
Ego and arrogance problems are the exact opposite of #1above, but yet they are still a detriment to doing your very best in a competition. A competitor with this kind of mental outlook problem will believe his work is better than it actually is. Having this kind of attitude will cause you to become complacent and will keep you from putting in 110% effort. This is a hard problem to break as those who display it don't really think they have a problem. Usually a couple bad score sheets is enough to wake most competitors with this problem. Still, some are hard to teach this lesson and they will blame everyone for their failures except themselves. You'll hear them say things like, "That judge doesn't know what he's talking about" or "That guy that won is a student of the judge" or something of that nature.
3. The "Student" Attitude
This is a great way to approach competitions. The competitor with this mentality will be the first to admit that he or she does not know everything. At the same time, this type person will show a desire to learn and improve regardless of how well or how poorly they did in their last competition. They will ask a lot of questions but more importantly, they will listen to what their judges have to say. I've met people from amateurs to World Champions with this attitude. They realize that when you stop learning from your competition performance you will start down the road to decline. They know that as long as they give it their best effort and try to learn and improve, they are winners, regardless of the ribbons attached to their mounts.
4. The "Teacher" Attitude
This mental outlook pairs well with the "Student" attitude. A competitor with this outlook will try to share what he or she has learned with others who have not yet reached his or her level of expertise. They gladly answer questions asked of them and offer friendly advice to others in the competition room. Helping others brings "good karma" and helps you feel good about yourself, even if your mount performed below your expectations.
5. The Attitude of Expectation
This one is an attitude that many competitors struggle with. You turn your mount in and then you see other folks bring in mounts that you believe are better than yours. You thought you did well until you actually see others' mounts at the show. It makes you nervous about your prospects in the competition. You then lower your expectations to believe that you are not going to win. The opposite also applies. You expect to do well based on the mounts you see being turned it. Either one can set you up for disappointment. This attitude is easily overcome by simply focusing on getting your mount groomed and turned in and then leaving the competition area. Try to keep an attitude that says no matter what the outcome, I came to learn and improve myself as a taxidermist.
As always, I hope this is helpful as you start or continue down your competition journey. Keeping the right attitude will keep competitions both exciting and rewarding. Any awards or ribbons you receive are just icing on the cake.