Farmers, expect nothing; do something


When Thomas Paine wrote those famous words, he inspired Americans to continue their battle for independence from England. The late 1700s were certainly a different time than today, but the quote speaks to many of us in agriculture right now.

These are the times that try men’s souls. Farming in 2009 has been enough to try anyone’s soul.

If you are struggling, hold on to your integrity. Your honesty. In a world of Mark Sanfords and Eliot Spitzers and Tiger Woods, we need good people around us.

No, you can’t pay your bills with character, but the foundation of trust (and previous commitment to paying on time) will go a long way in this economy. Honesty and integrity should be the bedrock of your farm business, and those values will ripple around you to motivate others to do the right thing, too.

And others do look to you for leadership. You may not see yourself as a leader, but staying committed to your ideals, to people and to principles does influence others. “Stand with anybody that stands right,” said Abraham Lincoln.

Seth Godin — author, entrepreneur and self-proclaimed “agent of change — posted an 82-page e-book to his Web site this week. “What Matters Now” is an engaging presentation of “things to think about (and do) this year.”

“Big thoughts and small actions make a difference,” the intro page reminds us, and then points the way with single-page sermons, lessons, and motivational charges written by some of the best minds in business, media, industry and social causes.

Management guru Tom Peters, for example, exhorts us with “19 E’s of Excellence,” like Enthusiasm, or Execution (quoting the Bill Parcells doctrine of “Blame no one! Expect nothing! Do something!”) and Expectations.

Tony Hsieh, CEO of, likens everything he’s learned about business to poker: “You will win or lose individual hands, but it’s what happens in the long term that matters,” or “The players with the most stamina and focus usually win,” and “Stick to your principles.”

Authors Chip and Dan Heath point out: “We’re wired to focus on what’s not working. … Stop agonizing about what’s not working. Instead, ask yourself, ‘What’s working well, right now, and how can I do more of it?'”

And the e-book includes this gem from author Tim Sanders, who tells us to “exercise your gratitude muscle.”

“Gratefulness is a muscle, not a feeling,” Sanders explains. “You need to work it out daily.

“Every morning, give thanks to two people who helped you yesterday and one person who will assist you today. This will focus your mind on what you have, and you’ll soon realize you are not alone.”

It may sound corny, but it works.

None of us will emerge from 2009 unscathed and, for some, 2009 may have brought huge changes to your farm and your livelihood. But we will emerge.

Hold on to your soul.

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  1. Susan when I fell after getting my knee replaced, and the result was a spiral fracture of the femur, I found what you are saying is true. A fellow farm bureau member went to my home, which is on the market, and got it all spiffied up to be sold. Shw worked many hours doing this and I was ever so grateful as I am out of state, recuperating with my daughter in Vermont, which is a state much more caring of family farm dairy operations than Ohio. I am grateful for the friends I made in Ohio and when my home is sold, plan to return to Ohio. I still have a daughter living outside New Albany and three grandchildren there whom I miss very much. I am enjoying a very white Christmas with my daughter and her two sons here. I am grateful for what I have a roof over my head and help to keep my dog and cat. Yes, they are with me too!

    Farmers used to live frugally in the days before all the subsidies were given to them. This has, in my opinion, spoiled their values. I do hope they get back to this type of living.


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