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.
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.
Ain’t that the truth. I wish I wasn’t so practiced at washing dishes…and you know Quickbooks isn’t hard. Gotta go look at cows and grass and gardens.
Big Hat, no cattle. Yup, I can relate. I am definitely one of those who does more dreaming than doing. Do you think it maybe depends on the dream too? Salatin dreamed of having a farm that supported him and his family in a reasonable comfortable lifestyle. That’s how he started. He did all the daily grind start small down and dirty stuff and now look at him. But the dream itself wasn’t crazy unreasonable given his work ethic, the fact that he started with income and no debt, he didn’t have to buy land, etc.
SOPs – I do something similar every so often when I write up farmsitting instructions for when we go camping every few years. Just for the minimal daily stuff like feed and water. I’ve learned over the years to keep them to a page or they don’t get read. Let me tell you, that is hard. Much harder than Quickbooks, which isn’t difficult, just boring. At the end of the day, though, the exercise of writing out how I manage daily care is beneficial, as I can see my inefficiencies very clearly in black and white – things like keeping the buckets in a separate place from the feed cans, or the other buckets separate from the water hose, or the special instructions for all the broken stuff that I just cope with instead of fixing or replacing. Nothing like looking at things with someone else’s eyes.
Scale. Culling 50 cows from a herd of 5000 is an entirely different thing from culling Mrs White from a herd of 20.