The Unsexy Truth Reading Journal Week 28

This morning I read Playing BIG: The Unsexy Truth About How to Succeed in Business by Kim Flynn. Julie attended an online seminar recently but, due to technical issues, the seminar couldn’t happen. The speaker, instead, sent everybody a free copy of her book. The book and the author’s primary focus are on women in business but truth is truth…even if I don’t understand the author’s near-constant references to shoes and haircuts named Bob.

I often start with a tangent then roll it back to the farm. Today, my friends, is no exception.

As I was sitting to write this post I accidentally clicked on Notepad++ icon in my toolbar instead of the Google Chrome icon. I spend an awful lot of time in Notepad++ professionally. Clicking on that icon just seems natural. But before I used Notepad++ I just used Notepad. But before I used Notepad I just ran stuff from command line. The first command line I remember using was on our Commodore SX-64 which Wikipedia tells me was released in 1984.



31 years.

I still practice. I still learn. I still read. I still research. Every day. I work each day to get a little bit better. I work to make myself a little bit more valuable. I work to gain skill and spread knowledge among my peers and employees.

31 years of continuous work and I still have a lot to learn.

That, my friends, is the unsexy truth. Kim Flynn says it clearly on page 21:

So here is the unsexy truth: You can’t shortcut growth.

And again on page 76:

The hard part, and the part that most people aren’t willing to do, is the every day. Doing small, seemingly insignificant things every day, one at a time, over and over again, now that is hard. You win the race by doing these unsexy, sometimes boring tasks, day after day after day.

How do you get a job like mine? You spend 30 years learning to type, writing scripts to delete files, writing scripts to retrieve data more quickly, writing scripts to notify system administrators of processing failure…the same solutions over and over and over day after day after day.

It’s time to roll this back to the farm.

Once upon a time I shared a big vision. What if we could graze all of Illinois? That’s not really our vision, that’s just an exercise we went through. What COULD be? What would it look like? I also read about Bob Kleberg of the King Ranch. He brought home the reality of that vision…apparently owning a big cattle operation includes a lot of flying around the world, making deals and drinking large quantities of alcohol.

But let’s step that back a bit. 5000 cows. That’s a more realistic vision.

How do I get to 5000 cows?

I start here.

I start with 20 cows. And I have to cull some of those.

Every day I walk to the cows. I greet my cows. I look at my cows. I look at the pasture behind my cows. I look at the pasture ahead of my cows. Every day. In the rain. In the heat. In the snow. Whatever. It’s kind of a grind.

But that’s what this book says business is all about. It’s not a series of efforts to begin something new. It’s a series of efforts to build momentum over time toward a single goal.

Now, let’s be clear. The book has some good advice. The author isn’t wasting the reader’s time with pure advertisement but the book is an advertisement. The author makes her money through coaching and seminars, not by authoring books. However, there is value in these pages. She lays out steps I can act on here at home, at work and on the farm to become better. In an early chapter she has you score yourself on leadership, marketing, customer service and finance. In the words of Wile E. Coyote, “Yipe!”

We have been here for 5 or 6 years, Julie and I. 5 or 6 years. We are still at the beginning. In part because we have so much to learn. In part because we haven’t been serious students.

This book was a light, quick read and served as a reminder that I have more “dream” than “do” in me right now. Big hat, no cattle.

But while the book was a light read, it is also worthy of further consideration. The author did an excellent job of pointing out my weaknesses. Now I have to address them. Little by little. Day by day. Year by year. I’m going to start with standardization and automation. I hate writing SOPs but I need some way to ensure that I am not a single point of failure either at work or on the farm. So we’ll begin by breaking things down. Here’s what you do on Monday. Here’s what to do if it goes wrong. Here’s how to know if it went well.

I am probably choosing this exercise because I don’t want to learn QuickBooks as the author suggests. That sounds like a lot of work.

I’m sure I’ll revisit this book in the future. But the author has given me a lot of work to do between now and then.

What Is It About You?

I kissed you for the first time in December of 1993. Do you remember that?  Of course you do. That didn’t end well.

But why didn’t it work then? I don’t really know. You were/are a pretty girl but…I dunno…something wasn’t quite…

The next summer I was busy telling you all about that other girl I was hoping to marry someday. But said girl wasn’t having any of it. Why was I telling you?

Shortly after that I swore off playing kissy face and got more “serious” about work and school. You remember that. I was “tired of wasting my kisses” (ah, the smell of teen drama…). I wouldn’t kiss another girl until I knew I was going to marry her. You were there. I told you about it. Why were you there? My parents had a party to celebrate the new house they had built. We were sitting on the front step talking. I was talking about that other girl. You were rolling your eyes.

How did you know?

I didn’t hold out. Somehow you broke down my barriers. I remember kissing you in November of 1995. Do you remember that? Of course you do. I got you an engagement ring at Christmas but it arrived late. I spent every last dime on that ring and I didn’t have a present for you on Christmas Eve. Not even a card. Oh, the things I would do differently…


What happened in between? How did I go from “something wasn’t quite…” to “let’s get hitched”?

You came home from a trip in the fall of ’94 talking about some dude you met and I felt myself getting angry. Mark. Mark, Mark, Mark, Mark, Mark, Mark, MARK! Why was I getting angry? I had nothing to be jealous of. We weren’t dating. I was just hanging out at your house playing video games with you and your brothers.

I wasn’t there specifically to be with you. I was watching movies and making potato guns and listening to music…you were just somewhere nearby. We played king of the mountain in the snow, we caught frogs and snakes and stuff…we just played around. You were there too.

Why were you there?

Why did we get engaged? Not because of Mark.

What did you do to me?

Whatever you did seems to be working. Nearly half of my life I’ve been married to you. And Mark hasn’t. Nanny-nanny boo-boo. (I hope I don’t find out someday that Mark is fictional…)

So what is it about you? Is it your hair or your looks? You are certainly a pretty girl. 20 years and four children haven’t changed you at all.

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The ever fashionable rainsuit.

A post shared by Julie Ann Jordan (@handfulofacorns) on

Maybe it’s that you look great standing in the rain and mud after milking the cow and taking a selfie. Or maybe it’s that you stand in the rain and mud after milking the cow and take a selfie. Or maybe that you milk the cow in spite of the rain and mud. Maybe that was the point of the selfie.

I really don’t know.

So what is it about you that I married?

Remember that part about your brothers? Your dad played video games with us too. Heck, your mom played Dr. Mario with us. And your mom made us pizza every week while we watched movies. And your grandpa hired me. And your grandpa fired me. And your grandma hired me. And your aunts and uncles are pretty cool.

Maybe I married your family and you were just a bonus.

Maybe. But I don’t think so.

I think it’s just something about you. Something I can’t quite pin down. And I have no idea how you did it.

Maybe I’ll figure it out in another couple of decades.

I know that I love you. It’s hard to be specific about what I love about you so I’ll just take the whole package and not ask “Why?” questions.

I love you. Happy 18th anniversary Julie Boo.


Friday night Julie said, “I know you do a blog post for our anniversary every year. It might be nice for us to work on that together.”

“Um…it’s already written and scheduled.”

This post isn’t old enough for me to regret writing it yet but maybe I should have just scrapped it in favor of the collaborative effort. But she’s reminding me of details that…ugh. What a dork. Why did she marry me? She even said, “You can’t put that in the post…” Nope. I can’t. Ugh.