Saturday, April 26, 2008

Watermelons or Potatoes??

Farmers are a risk taking bunch. Elements out of their control affect their success or failure. They are at the mercy of the scorching sun, drenching rains, and driving winds. I propose that the most successful farmers don’t pay much attention to the circumstances out of their control however, but are obsessive about the factors within their realm of influence.

The farmer prepares the field each season by ridding it of unwanted weeds, fertilizing the soil and providing adequate irrigation. He gathers the right tools and equipment and labor. In a word, he is “ready” to succeed.

But….do you suppose that a farmer ever meticulously prepares the land then plants potatoes at planting time and at harvest time is surprised that watermelons have not grown? Of course not, farmers are smarter than that. They know you reap what you sow. Planting potatoes yield potatoes not watermelons….this is a well known farming fact. Why would we plant one crop and expect another? We should not, and for this very reason I have developed a saying, a rule of sorts…it goes like this… “Don’t plant potatoes if you want watermelons.” Brilliant!

This past spring a family of raccoons (just coons, if you are from Southwest Mississippi) took up residence in my attic. It may sound funny to you, but to my wife and daughters this was no laughing matter. I was charged with ridding the house of these unwanted visitors. So…I secured a “capture alive” trap from my local animal control office and set about trapping the intruders. I was informed by the animal control officers that Baton Rouge raccoons love cat food. Now the only coons I knew about (the Southwest Mississippi version) loved corn out of Mr. Bill Trask’s fields or odorous leftovers out of unattended garbage cans. But what did I know; I am a country boy now in the city. I baited the trap with cat food.

It was only after I let the extremely irritated cat out of the trap at 3:30 am, while dressed only in my tightie whities that I realized I had broken my own rule. When you bait with cat food you catch cats, not coons. Watermelons or potatoes, coons or cats….interesting. I eventually caught all the raccoons and released them near some of my best friends’ homes…just kidding….and all is well on the home front. But somehow I could not let go of the reap what you sow thoughts.

If we treat our kids disrespectfully, why do we expect them to treat us respectfully? If we practice our chosen sport lackadaisically, why do we expect to play well during the game? If we do not prepare for business meetings or learn all about our products, how can we expect to help our customers to the extent they will become repeat purchasers? Expecting watermelons when potatoes are planted is akin to insanity.

Like the farmer, however, only so much is within our control. Treating children with respect will not guarantee they will always be respectful. Practicing extremely hard will not guarantee a sporting victory. Knowing your stuff in business situations will not guarantee delighted customers.

But there is one guarantee….not preparing as we should will guarantee failure. Oh sure, a blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and then, but is that how you want to live your life? Hoping you are lucky?

By doing what we need to do to put ourselves in the place of most potential to succeed we will certainly increase our “batting average” in our quest for successful life experiences and business ventures. But what happens when we do all we can do? We have worked with our children regarding respectfulness, practiced until we could play the sport in our sleep, prepared for the meetings until every answer is automatic… yet the sun scorches, the rain drenches, and the winds shred our crops? Should we crawl in the proverbial hole and wait for the next natural disaster? Of course not. Man up! Hold your head high and set your sights on trying again. Persevere!

Life is actually a series of risks. And the successful mitigate those risks as much as possible by putting themselves in the place of most potential. Without risks there would be no reward. And not only no reward but no excitement either. Teddy Roosevelt put it very succinctly when he said:

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

Are you half heartedly stumbling through life, dejected because you planted potatoes and expected watermelons? If not I bet your are excited about today and even more so about tomorrow, if not there is great news…yesterday ended last night and today watermelons seeds are on sale! All you have to do is sow them!

1 comment:

Michelle said...

Great story Tim! Thanks for letting me know you're blogging. You're a natural!
Michelle