We know success can be measured by several criteria. It is a relative and subjective concept. The most obvious definition of success is profitability or financial growth. Although financial success over time is necessary to maintain a business, if we solely measure success by our level of profitability, then those of us in agriculture would surely become discouraged in a hurry.
Performance, progress and preparation
Another way to measure success is to evaluate our level of performance. Did we make the most of the situations that we were dealt? Were the correct decisions made regarding the management of our crops? I always find it useful to meet with my team to look back at the growing season and evaluate whether situations could have been handled more effectively while everything is still fresh in our memories. Each team member will have a different insight into the challenges of the year and how they could be solved the next time around. This exercise is a great way to identify ways to streamline and improve the processes you use to get work done. Saving just 10 minutes per day adds up to an hour per week. We would all welcome a few extra hours per week to spend as we see fit.
Progress can be a proxy for success. Did you improve soil health or increase nitrogen use efficiency on farms that you manage? Have you found ways to advocate for agriculture? Have you spent time making your clients more aware of their roles in being part of the solution to agriculture’s challenges? Collectively, we need to show progress on solving the issues that face agriculture. If we do not engage in solving challenges such nitrogen and phosphorus movement into surface and groundwater, and someone else’s perception of the solution will be mandated to us. Each small step that we take contributes to a solution. Each small step is a success.
One bottom-line measurement of success just might be: “At the end of the year, are you better prepared to thrive in the face of unknown challenges that will surely come along in the future?” If we think about success in this manner, then we quickly realize how important it is to make the most of the off-season to prepare for next year. Trade shows, seminars and conferences are a great way to interact with peers and industry experts. The NAICC Annual Meeting is always the premier event for me because it offers high-quality interaction with my peers, industry experts and university specialists. I always come away from that conference knowing I am better prepared for the future.
The off-season is also a good time to catch up on reading trade magazines and journals. I am impressed at the amount of pertinent information found in each trade magazine that I read. There is also a lot of great information available to us in the form of recorded webcasts cached on the internet. The information we glean during these learning opportunities is, in fact, one of the most critical factors in determining our future success.
Finally, the ultimate measure of success is the fulfillment, contentment and happiness that you feel about your life and your job. Working in agriculture affords us some wonderful benefits. How many times did you find yourself admiring the beauty of the living canvas spread before you? Could you identify the scent of a soybean field on a dewy morning or the sound of a mature wheat field blowing in the breeze? It’s also hard to imagine an industry that is more familial than agriculture. You can bet that most people outside of the agriculture community admire the universal bond that those of us in agriculture share. That sounds like success to me.
I wish you continued success in all of its forms.