I’m sure many of you can still recall the youthful exuberance and optimism you embodied when you entered the cattle business. It all seemed like one, big wonderful opportunity back then – with everything just waiting to be grasped. The key to taking advantage of those opportunities was straightforward back in those days – just use your brain and outwork everybody.
Applied knowledge and work ethic undoubtedly did play a tremendous role in our success, but with age also comes a little cynicism. What’s also needed to complement that hard work and applied intellect is timing.
As I get older, the successes seem to come more often. Part of that can be explained by more experience, but luck is a part of it, too. The difference today vs. when I was young is that I simply have more resources and perspective to take advantage of those random opportunities.
“Outliers: The Story Of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell, is one of the books that truly changed my outlook in life. It confirmed the value of practice, work, etc., but it also pointed out the importance of timing and circumstances.
Fortunes will be made and lost in the cattle industry over the next 18 months, and a lot of it has to do with Mother Nature and outside factors. In this environment, two people can make the same decisions and take similar actions, but one may be mightily rewarded, while the other will not.
At first, this realization of the importance of timing and circumstances was a great letdown to me. It somewhat destroyed my conviction that just working harder and smarter was enough. Over time, however, this realization has helped me create a new perspective.
For example, there were times when I was essentially making a decision that was akin to my hoping to become a professional basketball player. While hard work, good coaching, etc., will undoubtedly help me reach that goal, the fact that I’m middle-aged and barely stand 5 ft., 10 in. are bigger determining factors.
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Now, I’m learning that the optimism of my younger days was well-founded, but it has to be applied to the right opportunities; the key to our success is picking the right opportunities at the right time. For example, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs made the right decision to get involved in computers when they did. A couple of similarly bright, hardworking young people making a similar decision today may build themselves a good living, but they likely won’t become billionaires.
Honestly, many of us in the industry have tended to make decisions on what activities to engage in based more on what we wanted to do – and then trying our best to make it work – than really evaluating the opportunity those activities represent. Our goal now is to spend more time focusing on the right opportunities, and not just the execution. The bottom line is that execution will always be important, but we need to change our focus toward ensuring that we are executing on the right things.
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