3 Lessons From the ‘Great Mycotoxin Fiasco of 2015’

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Going into winter and spring 2015 our farm was in high expansion gear, and then our piglet crop was devastated by mycotoxin feed contamination. We lost a lot of piglets, liquidated over half of our breeding herd and, in the middle of the financial and emotional battle, did some serious questioning of what we wanted to do next. These are a few of the lessons we brought along when we crawled out the other side:

Real life is not zero sum. We humans seem to have a hard time with this. We want everything to be zero sum – bravery and courage, fault and blame, even love. But most of the time the messy, mostly-intangible real world does not work that way. This is not a football game. We can both win at the same time, and we can both lose, too. More than one person can be at fault for a mistake. More than one person can also be due credit for fixing it. This is as true in business as it is anywhere. Don’t waste time trying to make everything balance out, black-and-white.

There is no best time. Only good times. There are times when the markets are favorable, and times when the markets are not-so-favorable for whatever business move you might be planning. These times may or may not align with your personal timetable — when your own circumstances are right or wrong for action. While that sounds kind of daunting at first — how in the world do you know when to take the plunge if you can never hope to find the best time? — I actually find it comforting. It means there are many more opportunities to act. Find a favorable time for you and go for it, whatever “it” is. You don’t have to wait for favorable to become optimal. There is no such thing.

Hit pause. While I’m aware that it may come across as trite, when I write about life lessons learned from farming I’m not deliberately hurling platitudes at you, and I hope you know that. This is one of those cases. It applies as well to the farm as anything, but, in regards to life, is one of those hindsight revelations that leaves you feeling like a complete moron for not having seen it sooner. I won’t bore you with a laundry list of events and situations in which I should have paused throughout my life. There were, I only now realize, many. Some were these sort of radical, weighty moments that defined me and my trajectory in enormous ways. Others were tiny, minute and every bit mundane, but the thread that unites them all is that they warranted — perhaps even would have benefitted from — hitting life’s unseen pause button. It’s not even a matter of rushing. It’s just a matter of going on without having settled in that spot on the path for a moment. There was a time when I would have hit this speed bump, grabbed another gear and kept going. I would not have stayed in that uncomfortable spot and taken in everything it had for me before moving on, but I’m glad I did. My business is better for it, and so am I. Settle down in your discomfort for a minute. Wait. Pause. Then go.

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