The best things I’ve learned were outside the classroom.
It’s hard to believe that school is back in session already; at least it is in my locale. My youngest sister Kaley’s first day as a high school junior started yesterday. Meanwhile, my middle sister, Courtney, is busy buying her text books for her last semester at South Dakota State University. Even harder to believe is the fact that I’ve been out of school for four years now. Where does the time go?
With back-to-school sales in every store in town, it’s hard to escape the feeling of nostalgia when perusing the aisles of back packs, folders, notebooks and planners. As I thought back to my college days studying agricultural communications, I realized that there are at least a few life lessons that can’t be learned in a classroom and can only be learned from the school of hard knocks.
Here are the top five lessons I’ve learned since I’ve been out of school:
1. It might look good on paper but...
The best laid plans might look good on paper, and they might pass the critical eye of a banker, but things don’t always go as planned on the ranch. The prize bull calf you watched grow all summer might come up lame in the fall. The bred heifer you bought in an auction sale might slough her calf when she gets home. Or the markets might shoot up the week after you sold your calves. I’ve definitely learned that sometimes things don’t always work out as you’d planned.
2. The boss man isn’t me...
With two families working on our operation, on any given day, “the boss role” might fall into the hands of different individuals. Based on our strengths and weaknesses and the job at hand, sometimes one of us gets to take the lead and the others follow. I’ve come to learn that while I would like to be in charge (I blame being the oldest child and having a Type A personality), I rarely ever get to be the boss man, or woman. As much as I hate to admit it, I’ve learned that I have to make concessions at times, and follow the lead of someone who might know better than I. (I hope my husband doesn’t get smug about that admission!)
3. The grass isn’t always greener...
Trying to keep up with the Joneses is an exercise in futility. Someone may have a better truck, a new trailer, more cattle, more acres, bigger calves or higher yields, and that’s just fine. After all, the banker might just be the one with the paper on all they have. Those neighbors you could envy might be spending more than they can afford. Heck, they even might be trying to one-up you!
It’s great to have peers who will motivate you to improve and become a better farmer/rancher, but it’s not okay to get caught up in comparing bank accounts. I’ve learned to stick to my own plan and not be shaded green with envy.
4. If it was easy, everyone would do it...
My professors might have given great lectures on the ins and outs of the cattle business, but those thoughts and words don’t always translate to real life. I’ve learned it may look easy in a classroom, but the real-life application can be much more difficult, and could even end up as a disaster.
5. Never stop learning...
Okay, I may have learned this lesson in school, but it’s always a good reminder for folks who are now out of the classroom. The final lesson we all should take note of is we are never too old, or too experienced, to learn something new. Go to cattlemen’s meetings. Attend guest lectures at the local university. Get active in a group. Take on a leadership role in your community. Read new studies. Read BEEF magazine. Talk to neighbors. Go on ranch tours. I’ve learned the opportunity to learn and grow is always there; we just have to seize those opportunities.
What are the best lessons you’ve learned from the school of hard knocks? Share your best advice and/or hard-earned life lessons in the comments section below.
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