Here’s one of my favorite jokes:

A rancher is walking through his pasture one day and stumbles on a lamp. He picks it up and, just like the other stories, out pops a genie. The genie thanks the rancher for setting him free and grants him three wishes – one per year.

The rancher thinks for awhile before deciding that it’s been so dry the past few years that he wants lots of rain and belly-deep grass. Sure enough, the rains come and the grass is the best ever.

A year later, the genie returns and asks the rancher for his second wish. The rancher remarks that his current calf crop is the biggest, heaviest and stoutest he’s ever weaned. So he wishes for a six-weight market of $1.25/cwt. Sure enough, the market rallies and six-weight calves shoot to $1.25.

The third year, right on schedule, the genie appears to grant the rancher’s final wish. Without hesitation, the rancher asks for $1.25/cwt. calves again. The genie is perplexed and asks the rancher: “Why would you wish for the same thing as last year?”

Looking sheepish, the rancher squirms around a bit before admitting that he hadn’t actually sold his calves for $1.25. “I held out for $1.30,” he says.

I suppose I like that joke because I can see it happening to myself, as well as quite a few people I know. Another axiom that applies to a lot of us is Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Now, that is something we definitely do. We all want our calves to bring more dollars, we want to lower our costs, increase efficiencies etc., but we want to accomplish those goals doing things pretty much the exact same way we always have. We’re all addicted to our comfort zone.

As strange as it sounds, it’s human nature to prefer doing something that doesn’t work, but which is in our comfort zone, than to do something that would be more effective but that is outside our comfort zone. The way we look at the world, or our paradigms, is probably one of the best examples of this phenomenon. For example, recovering alcoholics invariably have to change their friends in order to succeed in getting better. That’s partly due to the fact that those friends tend to be a bad influence, but not necessarily because they want to bring the person down; they’re just incapable of looking at that person differently.

It’s an important lesson to keep in mind. As in Einstein’s axiom, the chance of a breakthrough or dramatic improvement if one remains in their comfort zone, by its very definition, makes it virtually impossible. Probably the greatest way to achieve significant advances in your operation is to first sit down and truly define what your comfort zone is, what habits, what ways of thinking, what activities and what beliefs are shaping your business today. Doing that, you can ascertain the boundaries you must cross if you’re really going to see improvement.