Ask lots of questions

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farmer in wheat field

Everything that happens to you is your teacher. The secret is to sit at the feet of your own life and be taught by it.”

— Mahatma Gandhi

 

Throughout history, some of the grandest accomplishments have come about through quiet determination. Those who are loud enough to be heard over the masses become tiresome, or sometimes just plain tired. They come at the world, tripping over their own pride, to hurry announcements of latest greatness.

Observers

The wise are often those who stand outside of that crowd, refusing to rush headlong through every single day. Observing is more than just watching. It involves studying how others have come close to achieving success.

What tripped them up? What might have brought accomplishment and growth? When so much is out of the boundaries of our control, keeping the balance sheet as steady as possible is a constant consideration.

Thinking out loud

I was fortunate to meet a man who drove General Patton during much of World War II. He said before some of his most historic meetings, Patton talked out loud the entire trip to those meeting points, asking question after question. This fellow was a young lieutenant, initially unsure of how to respond, wondering if the general was asking questions of him. “Sir? Did you need something?”

Patton, gruff as history presents him to be, said something along the lines of, “I need you to shut up and drive! I’m asking every question that comes in my head so I can figure out the answers!” It might have been considered a strange approach, though it worked for him. That young officer, speaking to me from the wisdom of old age, said that as it turned out, if Patton was asking something of him, “You sure as heck knew it!”

Ask questions

The most successful farmers I’ve known allowed themselves to ask questions. Some who have lasted the longest in a tough market asked advice of those who might look at the big picture in an entirely different way.

There is great deliberation with themselves while listening to alternatives, never assuming their way is the only way. And most, if not all, come to realize that doing the hardest, most tiresome jobs to earn a living on the farm might have to be endured, at least until a market turns around or a great break opens a better door.

Stretching dollars

When the latest and greatest flash in the pan agri business opportunity hits the stage, the old sage will say, “We’ll see,” instead of, “Can’t spend my money fast enough to jump in with both feet!”

The slow and steady may not have the very best high-dollar equipment or a brand new machinery shed to store it in, but have found a way to still be swinging at the pitches in even the toughest of times.

It is the quietly determined who learned a very long time ago how to stretch a dollar. And they know, over the course of a long life, that even those paltry nickels and dimes count.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.

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