Lessons from the Farm: Know Your Season

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Our year is divided into four seasons: Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer. Sometimes, living in Texas, we feel like we experience all four in one day, but each season brings its own unique challenges and benefits.

Growing up on the farm, we lived by different seasons. Depending on the main source of income (feeder cattle, pairs, wheat, cotton, etc.), our seasons would vary.

When we were growing wheat, we knew August and September were the target to get the seed in the ground. And in July we knew part of getting the seed in the ground would long days ahead. But there was always comfort and solace in knowing planting was only for a season.

We didn’t have to plant wheat 12 months out of the year. Instead, we would work like crazy to get it in the ground, then slow down a little while it grew.

Ebbs and flows. Ups and downs.

Knowing the season you’re in and the season on the horizon are crucial if you want to survive. None of us wants to work ourselves to death, or to make our lives miserable working. But sometimes, you have to work like crazy in order to reap the benefits.

And it’s easier to work like crazy when you know rest is coming.

Let me encourage you to pause for just a moment today and evaluate the season you’re in and the season that’s coming.

For me, I’m finishing up the school year with the end of a 4 week crazy season, and then summer comes. I can look at my calendar for June and July and realize I’ll be living at a different pace, so the next two weeks are critical for me to find moments of rest.

What about you? What season are you in? What season is coming? What steps can you take in the next few days to help navigate the two? Are you willing to do it?

Sluggards do not plow in season;
    so at harvest time they look but find nothing.
– Proverbs 20:4 NIV

Lessons from the Farm: Take a Break

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I don’t know how many farmers you have met in your life, but can I let you in on a secret? There are not many farmers who survive the long haul by being lazy.

Farmers don’t punch a clock (this Lesson from the Farm is worth clicking to just to see the picture!). They may track time, but they don’t punch a clock. Cattle don’t look up and ask where you’ve been when you finally show up. Tractors don’t get jealous when they haven’t seen you in a while. Wheat is going to grow regardless of your presence or absence.

The danger, though, is if a farmer isn’t careful then the work at hand can become all consuming-requiring more time than one person can put in during a week.

That’s why it’s important to learn to take a break. As a Christian, I believe this is why God gave us Sabbath. We need rest. We need a break. We need a moment away.

Successful farmers know how to walk this line. They know the weight of the work, but they also know the importance of rest.

If you’re anything like me, there are going to be moments where you feel as though the work staring at you this week is overwhelming, and there’s no way you could take time off. But you need it. Your brain needs it. Your family needs it.

If you want to last in whatever it is that you’re doing, learn to work hard in all you do, and then learn to take a break. Your body, mind, and family will thank you.

Lessons from the Farm: Know Your Herd

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Would you like to know a little secret about cattle? Some are never satisfied. They almost intrinsically want to find a way out of wherever they are.

There are exceptions, of course. A good wheat field (today’s picture is actually a picture I received in a text this morning!) will stop a hungry herd in their tracks.

But when you move cattle to a new field or pasture, they will walk the fence line. It seems they do this for two reasons: first they want to know their boundaries, and second they want to find a way out of the field.

That’s why when grazing was not great we would spend time putting cattle back in our fences. And often times it was the same ones over and over.

Sometimes we could see the cattle who were on the wrong side of the fence as we drove through them, but sometimes it wasn’t always that easy. That’s why it was important to keep track of our herd-how many we had, where they were supposed to be, and even kind of what they looked like. We didn’t name every one, but you gain familiarity over time.

The same is true of leadership. Not that people like to jump fences, but we need to know the people we are leading. Spend time getting to know them. Ask questions about their life. Listen to their stories. Care about their lives. You don’t have to be best friends, but leadership is so much more effective through a relationship.

The best part: as you get to know the people you lead, trust is built. And as trust increases, productivity multiplies.

Who do you need to reach out to today? What are you waiting for?

Lessons from the Farm: Fix the Tire

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Alright. It’s time. I grew up working on my dad’s farm, and even spent about 3 years in adulthood working on it too. Along the way I picked up some leadership principles, and each year I blog about some of those ideas in a series titled Lessons from the Farm. So let’s kick off our 4th Annual Lessons from the Farm!

When I was growing up my dad had a work pickup we affectionately called “the red pickup”. I know, you’re thinking there must be a story, but there’s not. It was red, so we named it accordingly.

But in the red pickup, we had an air compressor. This was a self sustaining compressor, which meant it did not require electricity, but instead ran on gas. The reason for this is when you have a flat tire in the field, it’s easier to crank the air compressor and air up the tire.

In fact, every day spent on the tractor started this way. We would crank the tractor and while it warmed up, we would check the tires on the plow. Sometimes you could tell as soon as you pulled up, but other times it was kind of tricky. Then, once we found the low tires (if there were any), we would air them up.

During my second stint at Henson Farms, my dad told me about a local farmer who didn’t use an air compressor. His reasoning? Because if you have a tire that’s going flat, you need to address the problem and get the flat fixed.

Seems kind of obvious, right?

Why would we continue to do the same thing, knowing that our actions would cause us to have to do the same thing again the next time? A tire doesn’t magically lose air over night. If a tire is flat, or low, that means there’s a leak. And guess what? More air won’t fix the leak. It will only delay the damage. Why not try to fix it?

Because it’s easier in the moment. The ease of the air compressor is you can be finished in minutes, whereas removing the tire and taking it to town to get fixed required time. But which action cost more time in the long run?

The same is true in our leadership. We perpetually have low or flat tires that we simply address as quickly and painlessly as possible, only working to ensure we will have to meet the need again and again.

That’s why we have to learn to address the real issue, not the one staring us in the face.

What tire are you simply airing up this week? What steps can you take to address the real issue and see if you can’t make progress along the way.

Lessons from the Farm: Learn the Hacks

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I was very fortunate growing up working on the farm. Our tractors always had air conditioners. The A/C may not have always functioned perfectly, but the tractors were equipped.

They also had cabs. They may not sound like an important distinction, but it is. That means our tractors were relatively new. Emphasis on relatively.

But we had one tractor that would transition between what we called the farm and the ranch. It was a John Deere 4020, and it was a bear to start.

Until one day someone gave my dad a tip: as you try to start, turn the steering wheel. Guess what? It worked.

In fact, it worked on all of our John Deere tractors. As you turn the key, put your hand on the steering wheel, turn it left to right repeatedly, and it will crank a lot easier.

Hacks make life easier. But here’s the thing: hacks are never written into the original owner’s manual. Why? Because hacks develop out of necessity and frustration. Sometimes you develop it on your own (adapt and innovate), and sometimes an old farmer shares a tip.

That’s what the 3 Questions have become for me. They are a hack to help move student leaders (and adults) into an attitude of leadership.

Chances are you have a leadership hack or two in your arsenal as well. Or if you don’t, you know people around you who do. And that’s the beauty of what we do: we don’t have to do things alone.

My challenge to you today is to think about the thing that frustrates you on a regular basis, then think of someone in your life who might just have a hack for that situation. And ask.

You never know what information is out that there that might make things easier, until you ask.

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