The Dairy Farmer’s Path to Success
I grew up milking cows in Central Maine. It was a great life for a kid, but I prefer getting my milk in the dairy section today.
The dairy farmer’s path to success:
#1. Short naps:
Dairy farmers fall asleep when they sit down.
Take power-naps if you’re tired.
Naps improve performance. (NYTimes)
Long naps make you sluggish. Power-naps (15 to 20 minutes) re-energize.
#2. Unalterable certainties:
Cows are milked twice a day. That never changes!
Build your day around unalterable certainties.
I didn’t enjoy milking cows, but it had to be done and it governed our schedule. When you complete a daily task – like milking the cows – it sets you free to attack other projects.
An unalterable certainty in the afternoon guides the way you plan your day.
#3. Steady on:
I asked a farmer how he was doing and he said, “Steady on.”
You never see a farmer running around like a chicken with its head cut off. (Apologies to chickens.)
Days are long on the farm, so you pace yourself. Medium speed allows you to work all day.
Frantic work is never your best work.
#4. Schedule fun:
Fun means more when there’s always too much work to do.
A dairy farmer’s vacation happens between 10 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
Plan fun or it won’t get done.
Plan fun or you end up working all the time.
#5. Preventative measures:
My grandfather meticulously serviced equipment after he finished using it. Preventative measures are preparation for future work.
Strong relationships are preventative measures.
If you wait until you need a relationship to build it, it’s too late.
Service your relationships. What preventative measures might make your relationships stronger?
Strong relationships enable future results.
Which of the dairy farmer’s path to success seems most relevant to you today?
What principles or practices from farm life might enhance organizational success?
I grew up in a family of loggers and miners. Work was just part of life. Had a friend from town come over. My dad told him to help carry in the wood. My friend looked at him in shock. He said “but I don’t live here”. My dad looked at him and smiled “do you plan to eat here”. If you don’t work you don’t eat. We have lost that in our world. Play time was that short time between task it was not two weeks a year. I think we were the better for it.
Love the story, Walt. It was easier to teach responsibility and a work ethic from farm life… or logging or mining. 🙂
Today, taking out the garbage doesn’t have the same impact as taking care of living creatures and contributing to the families livelihood.
Steady on works for me the most, as a former long distance runner steady was the pace till the end. The same speaks in every day life, whether working on not, steady gets you there.
Granted some people prefer the speed burst to get things done and coast afterwards.
Do what fits you the best!
Udderly fantastic post, Dan!
Thanks Tim. I admire the “steady on” spirit in you. I thought about the “sprint and rest” method. You’re right it does suit some. It also suits the situation where the boss shows up and says, “I need this right now.” 🙂
Dan, love this peek into your past, and the lessons you draw from it.
Thanks Glen. I’m still a farm boy, even though I haven’t been there for years. And, I don’t want to go back.
Wow, just reread this, love the preventative maintenance of building relationships. When you have a habit of helping people when you don’t need anything in return, it seems like it usually works out that there’s someone around to help you when you need help.
Yes, that area is one of my weaknesses. I’m too focused on tasks.
I can still see my grandfather servicing the baler after a day of baling hay. It was ready to go the next day.
Love this! I grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. This is spot on and we worked hard and played hard. Wonderful way to grow up and while the family farm is long gone, it’s lessons remain with me always.
Thank you for your continued inspiration! All the best,
Thanks Sherry. Yes, in some ways I still live the life of a farmer. Up early. Do your work first. Then play.
I don’t think I liked those days while they were happening — as much as I do now… 🙂
I also appreciate the maintaining of relationships as too often we let other distractions get in the way. My only experience on a farm was being sent to one while recuperating from pneumonia as a child. Still recall the work ethic, hearty meals and consistent bed times – both up from and to bed. As always appreciating your practical advice and this time even more so as it relates to your own life lessons from growing up on a farm. Positively, Pauline D
Thanks Pauline. Sent to a farm to recuperate from pneumonia. That sounds more like punishment. 🙂
Thanks for the good word. Stay healthy.
I work for a farmer owned cooperative and it’s always funny to hear the farmers tell us (office workers) that they could never do our work and we tell them that we could never do theirs 🙂 My husband grew up on a dairy farm and has always said work hard play harder and we do our best to live that everyday!
Great article Dan!
Thanks Jamie. I wish you well as we move through this disruption.
I grew up on a Beef and Dairy farm in East Central North Dakota. I agree with everything you stated and just wanted to add a few more.
Creativity….. Dairy farmers need to be critical thinkers and use what they have to solve problems. MacGyver has nothing on Dairy Farmers.
Time Management….. With the inevitable chores that need to be done, the rest of the workday needs to planned and calculated. And options A, B, and C had better already be figured into the equation.
Task work….. Every job has tasks that are not enjoyable but are necessary. I call this “Cleaning calf pens” My Dad had the best explanation…”Stop thinking about it, that will just make it worse.” Just get it done so you DON`T have to think about it.
There are countless other examples, and I`m sure that anyone who grew up working in a “family business” has similar experiences.
I am currently a dairy farmer and have a full time off the farm working as a consultant to other dairy farmers, and I agree with all of your principles except there are times (usually weather induced) when farmers are working frantically, and that’s usually when bad things happen. Your principles are spot on – farmers do fall asleep when they sit down and preventative measures are a must. Fun will never happen if you don’t plan it, though most are good at turning work into fun. Thanks for the great reminders!
Short Naps I wish I could. But our Farmers get up much earlier than I do. God Bless you all. And all you do for us! Thank You!
Thanks for your post Dan. To me the most relevant path to me is probably the preventative measures. I had a similar but somewhat different experience growing up. Similar to Walt, my father owns a timber business and I remember working with him to service the equipment at the end of each day. He rarely had equipment failures while many others in his industry did. This certainly ties in well with servicing relationships. It is so easy to go about day to day life without spending the time on relationships that keep us from having break downs later. One thing that has served me well as a preventative measure has been to take a few minutes here and there to call or text friends/colleagues to stay in touch when I think of them. Taking a few minutes to chat and just check in without an agenda has helped to keep the lines of communication open, even if we haven’t seen each other in a while.
I think that a principle or practice from farm life that can significantly enhance organizational success would be for people to be “steady on.” I appreciate this quote a lot. I have been in many situations where workload seemed overwhelming and this can breed chaos. The idea of remaining steady and organized and to pacing yourself would certainly lead to increased organizational success.