Personal Growth

A Not-So-Secret Formula

IMG_4203 (1)Consider the organization you dream of building. How big is it? How may people does it engage? How many lives does it change?

Now consider the person running that organization. What does he or she do every day?

What does she read, and how much? Does he watch tv? How often does she exercise?

Now get personal. What does she do on the weekends? How long does he sleep, and whom does she hang out with? How does he treat people when he is worn out, and wishes they would go away? (That one hits particularly close to home for me.)

Now, what if you or I begin acting like that person, every day, starting now?

Christian

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Personal Growth

Sad Day at the Ahlmann House

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We buried Maggie on Monday. Maggie joined our family as a puppy from the local pound in 2008, just as we were beginning life in California. (We acquired her as a cattle dog, until we realized she was more terrier than heeler, a bad fit for rounding up livestock!) She saw our first house, new jobs, and birth of two kids, both of which had a tough time coming to terms with the fact that she’s gone.

What the kids don’t know, and Rachel has graciously forgiven, is the fact that Maggie wouldn’t have left the yard and run into traffic if yours truly had mended the fence in a timely fashion. That fact makes the loss a little more frustrating.

So, what’s the lesson? Fix the fence when it’s broken?   Maybe. Or maybe it’s simply that some days things go according to plan, and some days your buddy gets hit by a truck. I’m not quite sure what the lesson is. But when we set out to write a blog about “success and failure in the business of agriculture,” we intended to share the good and the bad. Now you know we meant it.

Christian

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Personal Growth

The Myth of “Not Enough Time.”

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I can’t tell you how often I leave the office wishing I had more time to finish an exciting project. And then I leave for work the next morning thinking “if only I had more time to play with the kids or pick there persimmons in the yard.”

Time is a tricky resource, because we can’t create more. We can make more money, buy more land, and irrigate more grass, but we can’t make more time.

Or can we?

Sort of.

The trick, according to the late Zig Ziglar, is to know that time usually isn’t the limiting resource.

Consider Zig’s famous talk about “the last day before vacation.”  Mr. Ziglar observed that all humans accomplish on average twice as much on their “last day before vacation” compared to normal a day.  This debunks the myth of “I don’t have enough time,” because obviously that last day doesn’t have twice as many hours in it.

What then, is the real limiting factor?

In most cases, the limiting factor is focused energy, not time.  When we march into the office (or pasture, or workshop) on a mission, like it’s our last day before vacation, it’s remarkable what we can accomplish. That’s when we focus on the important tasks, the ones that make a real impact, instead of the mindless easy ones that don’t.

The great news then is that we have taken a resource that cannot be increased (time), and turned it into one that can, energy.  We can create more energy, of course, by sleeping well, eating right, getting more exercise and focusing on things that we are excited about. In fact, it’s about time we did.

Christian

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Personal Growth

My Snooze Button is a Hindrance to Greatness

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I’m a snooze button girl. Waking up in the morning feels un-natural and my big bed with the down comforter is soooo cozy. The heaviness of my eyelids and that extra 10 minutes (or 30!) of sleep often win out over exercise in the morning.

Richard Thaler, in Misbehaving, says people have a Planner and a Do-er inside of them. The Planner sets the alarm, limits personal funds for restaurant spending, keeps the house free of junk food (chocolate!), schedules the tough conversations at work and seriously writes goals for future success.

The Do-er pushes the snooze button, blows the budget because cooking is just too much work, sneaks chocolate at the grocery checkout, avoids hard things at work, and spends free, low energy time on Facebook. Thaler argues that it is the Planner’s job to design systems so the Do-er can’t make as many impulsive decisions.

It is my Do-er that often keeps me from reaching my full potential. The solution appears to be making self-control easy; my Planner should design systems or routines for personal triumphs.

I’ve been working on my Planner. It turns out it’s a lot easier to get up to exercise if my alarm is on the other side of the room and I’m forced to choose between my comfy bed and ending the incessant beeping. It’s a small win in my world but it is a step toward major personal growth.

-Rachel

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Personal Growth

The Emotional Bank Account.

dog-lamb-589x295Have you met that married couple dedicated to a life of mutual irritation? How about the other one, the two that are so in love that their surroundings become ill?

Before you click to a new window, let me assure you that our ag-business blog has not turned into marriage counseling. It just happens that there are multiple applications here. Stay with me.

The secret behind both couples is what Stephen Covey calls:

The Emotional Bank Account.

Think of an account where good deeds add credit while irritations destroy it. For example, if I make coffee for Rachel, it adds credit to my account. If I do the dishes, more credit.   But if I drag my muddy mountain bike through our college apartment, it burns credit. (That never happened, obviously. Just an example!)

All people, in business, friendship and marriage, have emotional bank accounts with each other. When accounts are full, the other can do no wrong. When they are empty, nothing works. In the latter scenario, comments like “ I can’t believe she blew up over such a little thing” are common. Why did “she” blow up? Because the account was overdrawn.

Little things, over time, make a big impact. Consider smiling, saying “thank you,” and looking up from your device when someone walks in. These are freebies, deposits into emotional bank accounts that come in handy later.

The beauty here is that you can actually make people like you, or even love you, by simple acts. In marriage, it means that saying “we just don’t love each other anymore” is as ridiculous as saying “my car just isn’t clean anymore.” In both cases, the power to fix it is entirely yours.

Okay, so maybe that did turn into a marriage blog. But I promise the emotional bank account exists with everyone. Try it, and tell us what happened.

Christian

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Personal Growth

Character is the New Black

It may surprise you, but I can be socially awkward.  Oh yes!

I recently typed “how to make friends with anyone” into Google.  Great tips popped up, like “hold eye contact” and “give positive affirmation” and “listen, don’t talk.”  All good things.

Then Steven Covey ruined my attempts to duct tape over my social weirdness.  In his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, he talks about the character ethic versus personality ethic.   The personality ethic teaches you to put on a great face, smile, make eye contact, etc., without changing who you are within.  The character ethic teaches you to improve yourself.  For example, instead of trying to make the person you are talking to think you care about them by maintaining eye contact, try actually caring about them and acting accordingly.

This is extremely relevant when talking to customers.   If I try to sell our products to a customer, I actually need to care about whether or not they need them.  If I don’t care and I just try to make the sale, they will see through me.

Every list in my Google search was more of a Band-Aid.  It turns out I actually need to improve myself.

Pretty simple, right!  Except sometimes it is actually quite hard.

Rachel

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Personal Growth

College Degree DONE. Show Me the Management Suite.

Pretty-Photo-of-Residential-Green-Houses-at-Night-Time1-300x199My first job after college was on the “plug line” at a commercial greenhouse in Manhattan, Kansas. The plug line is as sexy as it sounds, a conveyer belt surrounded by college students, all aiming to “plug” seedlings into moving planting trays fast enough to avoid a pileup. Only I wasn’t a college student, but a recent college graduate. And I was making $6.25 per hour.

That would be quickly solved, I reasoned, once I applied my bachelor degree in horticulture to an epic greenhouse improvement program. I began taking notes, which I brought into the owner’s office, and asked him to take a seat. I would, in very short time, explain how he might repair the miserable business he had taken 30 years to build.

To my surprise, the proprietor had little interest in repairing anything. He didn’t care about my academic insight on synthetic plant hormones or their capacity to reduce his greenhouse space by eliminating the need for half his propagation materials. He didn’t care that he was wasting time on inefficient watering methods. He was, apparently, making a fine living and perfectly happy with it. To get that message across, he handed the next promotion not to me, but to a smiley dental hygienist who knew nothing about plant hormones, and was only there to make a few bucks for dentistry school.

I learned a lot of things that spring, but mostly that a good college degree is best used in combination with a lifelong dedication to understanding and appreciating people. I’m still working on that one.

Christian

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Personal Growth

Moving the Salt Shaker

I used to assume that leading required tactics like those from leaders with strong personalities. If I was going to get anything done, I thought, I would have to drive it through. That might work for others, but it almost never works for me. I end up un-genuine, and everyone can see it.

In his book Setting the Table, Danny Meyer explains that leadership is like keeping a saltshaker in the middle of a table. People around you will always move the saltshaker a little off center, off the standards you expect. Your job as a leader is to move the saltshaker back to the middle of the table, calmly but consistently, before it gets to the edge. Meyer calls this leadership style “constant gentle pressure.”

This totally works for me. Alternatively, muscling the saltshaker off the floor is just the pits.

Rachel

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Farming, Personal Growth

I Learned to Flip a Sheep From YouTube

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Indeed, I learned to flip a sheep from YouTube. (See Picture for my sheep handling skills) We had one that required urgent care while the experts at Kaos Sheep Company, whom we usually call, were not available. So I spent an evening at home watching videos and practicing on imaginary sheep in the air. The next day, I went out and performed the deed, from catching to flipping. It took two tries and was exhausting, but the task was done. When the experts came out for shearing, I got some tips on how to do it better; my method was almost right, but if I had to do it my way all day, I would have been too tired to walk. With an adjustment from an expert, things became easier for me, and less dramatic for the sheep.

My lesson: Seek the advice of experts, even if you feel like you already know what you are doing. Most likely, you can do better.

Rachel

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