Byron's Babbles

Do You Feel Like I Do On Christmas 2020?

Heath & His Milking Machine!

Here it is, Christmas morning on Day 288 of the Global Pandemic in 2020. It’s easy to get caught up in all that is chaotic in the world right now, but I also want to pause and reflect on this day of the celebration of birth. This is the day that many of us celebrate the birth of Jesus. This day has, and will continue to serve as a day of birth to many new interests for kids. Think about that Lego set or rocket model that spurs an interest in engineering or being an astronaut for a little girl. Or, the electric keyboard that encourages the musical aspirations of a little boy.

I realize there are more significant influences on a child’s career choice than toys or the things they play with on Christmas morning as kids. But, children need access to a healthy play diet. It’s why I believe programs that make sure children get a toy at Christmas are so important. Playing boosts a child’s belief. No child plays with Legos and learns how to build houses, but she might learn how to overlap bricks to create a stable structure. Or, her brother and her might decide how to change the design of the picture on the box as they build. It’s more about confidence and familiarity than an actual skill set.

Toys and playing can compliment attributes in our children such as having their own mind, standing up for their own beliefs, showing initiative, having goals, and finding passion and purpose. I was reminded of all this while reading Peter Frampton’s incredible book, Do You Feel Like I Do? A Memoir, this week. Early in the book he told the story of his dad playing Father Christmas. Their tradition must have been to put the presents at the foot of the bed and his dad was making noise with the wrapping paper. Peter woke up and busted his dad. Of course, no kid’s going back to sleep, so he began to play with acoustic guitar Father Christmas had brought him. I loved the last part of the story in the book when Peter Frampton said, “But I didn’t know how to tune the bottom two strings. Dad said, ‘It’s three in the morning; can’t you go back to bed?’ ‘No, no, come on!’ So he came in and tuned the two bottom strings for me. And from 3:30 in the morning on Christmas when I was eight years old, I haven’t stopped playing since” (p. 11). Was that where the career of an awesome and very talented rock star was created? Probably not completely, but it certainly played a part in his development, or Peter would not have told the story. For one thing, think of the morale boost for a kid to get a musical instrument from his parents. Wow, my mom and dad believe I have talent!

Of course, all of this from the father of the boy who got a milking machine from Santa. In my defense, that was what he asked Santa for. But, that little boy grew up, and is now studying Animal Science at Murray State University and has a respectable herd of Jersey dairy show cattle. Did it all happen because of the milking machine that we assembled on the living room floor and then carried to the barn that Christmas morning? No, but Heath has never forgotten that Santa invested in his interest of dairy cows. Thus, the intersection of purpose and passion were beginning to be defined for Heath.

Now, let’s not overthink this. The most important thing is to make sure our kids have the chance to play. If they have specific interests, great, but it doesn’t have to be a guitar or milking machine. Let’s let kids play with a wide variety of toys and give them the opportunity to discover their interests, passion, and purpose.

Precisely What Students Need

Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend the morning at Heartland Career Center with the Mark Hobbs, Director; Lori Dubois, Precision Agriculture Specialist; and, most importantly, students of the new Precision Agriculture Program at Heartland Career Center. I say I was at Heartland Career Center, but actually the bulk of our time was spent 15 minutes from the school in the field.

We were out on McKillip AgVenture land learning about seed genetics and the start to finish process of their seed corn operation. Last week the students had sorted seed corn as it was being harvested. This is just one of many partnerships that has been formed so that students can get real world and relevant content for learning.

This all took me back to my days as an Agriculture Science Teacher and our partnerships with AgReliant Genetics and our students doing real research for the company in our school greenhouse alongside geneticists. As I always say, “School work must look like real work.” I talk about that a lot in my book, The Hand In The Back Of The Room.

I am passionate about this program and have had the opportunity to be part of many of the planning meetings, served as a champion, have helped remove obstacles along the way, and helped make connections where I could. One of the many things I love most about this program is that it was developed shoulder to shoulder with business and industry. The very businesses that will be hiring students from this program, helped design the program. Novel idea I know, but you’d be surprised how often this does not happen. Students are able to leave this two year program with an Unmanned Part 107 Drone Certification, Chemical Applicator License, and a Class A Commercial Drivers License (CDL).

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to experience drone flying first hand. In fact this was the very first time I had ever flown a drone. We’re not talking some toy drone, but a commercial drone like would be used in precision agriculture businesses. I was shocked at how quickly I was able to learn to fly the drone. The students did an incredible job of teaching me. Here are two videos of me piloting the drone:

This two year program of study prepares students for careers that bridge the gaps between agronomy, agriculture, machinery management, and data analytic sciences caused by the rapid evolution of high-speed sensor agricultural technology. This is all stuff that fascinated me. We even got into a discussion about artificial intelligence, which is an area I have been exploring with some of the work I have been doing with SMART Factory League, globally.

This program is truly making school work look like real work! Well done!

More Smithsonian Exploration

As a former Smithsonian Teacher Ambassador, I am very excited to be partnering with the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC) to provide a webinar in our series of Noble Education Initiative opportunities for learning. Back in April we partnered with the Smithsonian Learning Lab and had two fantastic webinars and were able to provide outstanding resources to educators. I blogged about these webinars in Bringing The Smithsonian To You. Since then, we have continued to be asked for more from the Smithsonian Institution.

Tomorrow, May 20th, we will do just that with More Smithsonian Exploration: A Journey To The Smithsonian Science Education Center. We want educators and caregivers to join us to learn to use the resources that provide tremendous opportunities to learn with their students. The SSEC offers curriculum and digital resources that support educators and caregivers in providing authentic STEM experiences. EVERYONE is welcome and can still register here: https://m.signupgenius.com/#!/showSignUp/60b0b44a5a92ca7fe3-more.

I am really proud of this partnership to bring make this free webinar possible because of the aim of the SSEC to transform and improve the learning of science for K-12 students. Click here to view the SSEC fact sheet to learn how the world’s largest museum, education and research complex is bringing an interdisciplinary approach to education using science, history, art, and culture.

The SSEC is also providing tremendous resources and support to teachers who work with newcomers from all over the globe and English Language Learners (ELLs). Our webinar will be engaging and inquiry-based to model the strategies that are effective for effective learning with our ELL students. We will also get a first hand experience with the SSEC’s real world and relevant featured curriculum dealing with COVID-19: COVID-19! How Can I Protect Myself and Others.

Join us tomorrow and see how the Smithsonian Science Education Center is transforming science education.

Experiencing, Not Attending For Learning

As I travel home this evening from what was an incredible journey to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, I am reflecting on all that my family and I saw and experienced, all that I learned at the 2019 International Research Conference, and can’t help but reflect on yesterday’s 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. A week ago yesterday we began this excursion and a week ago today attended the Calgary Stampede. What we found is that one does not attend the Stampede, one experiences the Stampede. Through this experience I learned about invented traditions. These Invented traditions are activities that are actually recent but are accepted by the public as having a particularly long and resonant history and as representing something essential about a nation’s character, values, and identity–arose from a widespread effort to justify the nation state, royal dynasties, and national boundaries by linking them, often tenuously and sometimes even falsely, with the past. These invented traditions spring from the need to reconcile constant change in the modern world with the desire for stability and traditional understandings about society.

We found that the Calgary Stampede has evolved over the decades in response to economic and political dynamics and the perceived need to maintain a vibrant balance between nostalgia for the past and celebration of the economic and ideological promise of the future. Successful cities have managed to brand themselves through identification with their annual festivals. We found that the brand lived up to the hype. One of the things I learned from experiencing and studying the Calgary Stampede is Americans cherish individualism and individuality above community. Canadians have exactly the reverse set of political priorities. This is not to say one is right and one is wrong; it is just to say that I learned some cultural differences along the way. We made some great friends while at the Stampede.

I can’t help but also reflect on all the great scenery, nature, and natural beauty we had the opportunity to see and experience as well. The Canadian Rockies are awesome, and we had the opportunity to experience them from as far south as Waterton Lakes National Park and as far north as Lake Louise in Banff National Park. This all reminded us, as a family, of how important sustainable development is to making sure future generations will be able to enjoy and learn from these natural beauties like we did. We must work hard to meet the needs of our present generation without compromising future generations ability to meet their own needs.

This was also discussed during the 2019 International Research Conference. Dr. Gerald Farthing, Former Deputy Minister Of Education Manitoba Department Of Education reminded us to act locally, while knowing what’s going on globally. I was honored to speak at the conference on discovering, developing, and distributing great leadership. It was awesome to visit from individuals from around the world to discuss current education issues and the innovative solutions to opportunities. We must find ways to end our preoccupation with the industrial and factory models of just “doing school”. The gap between what we call education in schools and learning that happens from being a part of society is widening. We must redesign our learning environments if we want to engage our students in the learning process. Learning needs to be 24/7, and not confined to a physical space we call school.

Yesterday, as I reflected throughout the day on the 50th Anniversary of the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon, and those first steps, I was struck by all the ways we could relive the history. For example, Neil Armstrong’s Spacesuit was at the Smithsonian Castle yesterday and I was in Canada, but I took an in-depth 3D tour of the suit using Smithsonian’s new 3D Digitization site for doing interactive tours. You can also take an up close and in-depth 3D look at the 1903 Wright Flyer. It is such a great thing that the Smithsonian is doing. Every person can learn from and take part in Smithsonian exhibits without physically being on site. Think of the possibilities of this. I can remember saying, “Wow, everyone should experience the great learning that goes on at the Smithsonian’s many museums.” They can! Opportunities like this begin to take away the effects of zip code or socioeconomic status. Every child really can experience the Smithsonian. By leveraging the technology the Smithsonian is able to let their researchers tell their stories to the world and allow students to take a quest of discovery.

For me, I am going home with a renewed commitment that we must quit just having students attend and “doing school”. We must enable them to experience learning and go on a quest of discovery.

Deep Learning In Alberta, Canada 🇨🇦

Yes! I took this picture. I did not want to leave.

This week my family and I have been in southern Alberta Canada working out of Calgary. It has been awesome. Read Calgary Stampede: Invented Tradition & Cultural Tradition and From Yahoo To Hoodoo. From the beautiful mountains, forests, prairies, canyons, Canadian Badlands and foothills, it has been awesome with all this in one place.

Three of Alberta’s five UNESCO World Heritage sites are in Southern Alberta: Dinosaur Provincial Park, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump and Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. We have now seen them all. What a couple of days of deep learning. This was some of the most spectacular scenery we have ever seen. We followed the Canadian Rockies all the way south to Waterton Park.

On the way south we stopped at Eau Claire Distillery in Turner Valley, Alberta, Canada, for a tour and to learn about their “farm to glass” process. Tania hosted us while we were there. They have tours to learn the processes for making their products, videos showing the raising and harvesting of the grain, and just a lot of this awesome Canadian hospitality we’ve been talking about. Everyone we encounter becomes our new best friend.

We learned that Eau Claire Distillery raises its own Barley on 35 acres and does all the planting and harvesting using horses. They also raise all their own rye on the distillery’s owners ground. Tania also explained that friends come out to help with the harvest. I’m in! Now that I am a friend, I want to come back and help harvest. As an agriculturalist, I am such a believer in “farm to table” and “farm to glass” opportunities. We must use every available opportunity to educate the consumers of our products about the origins and processes it takes to get food and drink to the table. From what I have now experienced at the Calgary Stampede and Eau Claire Distillery, I must say that our Canadian friends are doing a great job of this.

Everyone, however, has a responsibility to educate themselves and expose themselves to all the different things that are out there in our world. We are certainly enjoying making new friends, learning from them, and learning more about our friend-nation Canada.

Calgary Stampede: Invented Tradition & Cultural Phenomenon

IMG_6251One of the events I have wanted to attend for a long time is the Calgary Stampede. Yesterday that dream came true for my family and I. I had to come to Calgary, Alberta, Canada and speak at a research conference this week; so we decided we would make this our family vacation and get here in time to experience the Calgary Stampede. What an experience it was!

 

I also had the unexpected surprise of having a Smithbilt hat box at the hotel waiting on me when I got the hotel. I had been presented with the iconic Smithbilt Hats, Inc. White Hat representing friendship. This tradition was started in 1950 by Calgary Mayor Don MacKay. I wore it proudly all day at the Calgary Stampede, and will wear my White Hat of friendship proudly all week. Actually, I wear a cowboy hat every day back home on the farm.

To start off with we were able to walk out of our hotel, step across the street and get right on the Calgary Transit System’s, CTrain. Fifteen minutes, and Ten stops later we were exiting the CTrain and walking across the street to Stampede Park. This was just about as easy as it gets. I am a huge believer it public transit transportation and this experience to and from Stampede Park validated this. The CTrain cars were super clean and comfortable. We are looking forward to making use of this system throughout the week. Calgary had one of the earliest transit systems in North American and it is evident they have done it right.

IMG_6272Now, back to the Stampede! We were immediately greeted and made to feel welcome by the Calgary Stampede International Agriculture and Agri-Food Committee. We discussed the agriculture industries in our countries and we were given access to the hospitality area that we visited during the day and met many new friends from around the world. The Stampede is an ideal vehicle through which respect for a locally-grounded tradition can be integrated with the active promotion of the values it embodies. Specifically, these include western hospitality, commitment to community, pride of place, and integrity. This committee of the Calgary Stampede is getting it right for agriculture.

IMG_6270Then it was off to Elbow River River Camp to take part in the morning flag raising ritual. This was an incredible experience of learning cultures of the Siksika, Piikani, Kainai, Tsuut′ina, and Stoney Nakoda First Nations. It was great to connect with Indigenous culture and experience First Nations culture through stories, art, tipi life and culture, and other events. This was an incredible learning experience for my family and I. While some outsiders have claimed that native culture as being commercialized, the Calgary Stampede has actually proved to be an important factor in preserving it. IMG_6244IMG_6277It was then off to see the sites; go to the Junior Steer Classic, check out all the exhibits, walk the Midway, and check out all the food options for some lunch. It was all pretty overwhelming. The Stampede is truly an invented tradition – an activity that is accepted by the public as having a particularly long and resonant history and as representing something essential about a nation’s character, values, and identity. The Stampede symbolizes the ideals of rural collective purpose, sociability, and community. These invented traditions develop from the need to reconcile the constantly changing nature of our world with our desire for stability. The Stampede presents new values or shows us how old values apply to new situations.

 

One of my favorites was the Blacksmith Showcase. This was a great way to experience and learn what blacksmithing is all about. This was found in the Country Trail of the Agriculture Zone. We learned so much and even got to watch as a blacksmith made the hat pictured here for us.

 

Then came the signature event: The Calgary Stampede Rodeo. Little did I know we were going to be part of the richest rodeo and see the championship culmination of the week. One million dollars in prizes with $100,000 to the winners in each of the six events: calf roping, bare back bronc riding, steer wrestling, barrel racing, saddle bronc riding, and bull riding. Additionally, it was awesome to hear the Calgary Stampede Show Band perform at the rodeo. This is an incredible youth program that gives these young adults great experiences throughout the year to perform and gain leadership experience.

 

The day ended with the awesome GMC Rangeland Derby Chuckwagon Races, more looking around, visiting with our new international friends, and an awesome fireworks show. Needless to say, we did not want to leave. My family and I rated the Calgary Stampede as one of the best events we have ever been to. It might be the first multi-day event (10 days) event I have ever been to where you would not have known it was the last day, unless you were told. I have always said that a person going to the last day of an event should get the same great experience as the person who attended on the first day. I would argue that the Stampede has evolved into a cultural phenomenon. As my family and I found out, the stampede is not simply attended; it is experienced. It is clear when going through the city of Calgary that the Stampede is by and of the citizens of Calgary. It is also for the world. Starting with the parade, then the fireworks display, midway, stage shows, rodeo, agricultural exhibits that “edutain”, and Elbow River Camp, the Calgary Stampede is the best visual cornucopia I have ever experienced. Well done, my new friends!

Thoughts From The Barn On The Opioid Crisis

Posted in Agriculture, Agriculture Science, Community, Convening, Culture, Dopesick, Leadership, Opioid Crisis by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on January 5, 2019

This morning I had a moment of reflection while caring for our dairy show heifers. We had some heifers dehorned this week and we then give them a pain/antibiotic bolus (what you would know as a pill) for five days. Just to be clear, removing horns while the calf is young and horns are small is important for the safety of the animal itself, the other animals, and those of us caring for them. After giving the boluses I thought about whether the pain pill was addictive like opioids. Then I thought, well this is irrelevant because our heifers won’t get addicted because they won’t get more than the prescribed dosage of our veterinarian. Then, I couldn’t help but think about the opioid crisis that is a very real and relevant problem in my own state of Indiana and the nation.

This caused me to go back and study the work of Beth Macy and author of the great book, Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America. I blogged about this book in Why Everyone Should Read Dopesick. The supply-side of the opioid issue is one that Macy has chronicled in detail. The supply-side narrative is much more complex for humans, however, than our show cattle, but the analogy helped me understand the messiness of the supply-side argument.

I learned from Macy that there are several parts to the opioid crisis. There is no doubt that companies like Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, profited from understating the addictive risks and forced high sales quotas on their salespeople. But, government regulations to limit supplies haven’t been successful solving the crisis. In the case of my cattle, I can control the supply and do what’s best for them. With people, however, it is much more complex. We cannot just stop the supply completely. One challenge with supply-side regulations has been people not being able to get the pain medications necessary. Targeting supply is very important, but we must still address the needs of people with real pain. I read about those that by battling the opioid epidemic that some patients who need opioids are being abandoned by their patients.

We really need to make sure our policies are not too draconian and that we really get to the root causes of addiction. Our country has become flooded with opioids and it has made for lots of literary works, but we need to make sure and learn who is most at risk of addiction and why. The other thing that has resonated in my studying of this issue is the disconnect between science and policy. Or, what I often describe as policy not meeting reality.

Additionally, another big obstacle to solving the crisis is that many local, state, and federal agencies and governments are more concerned about protecting turf and budgets than solving the problem and helping people. I’m not sure that technocracy can solve this issue. It is going to take intersectional thinking that includes mental health, physical health, housing, peer support, community, workforce development, education, and harm reduction.

While I believe in individualism and personal responsibility, we need to find ways help our addicted, limit supply to those who need the drugs and in the proper doses, and really get to the root causes of the crisis. Policy, knowledge, science, and reality need to come together.

Leadership Traits Of A Farmer

Screen Shot 2018-07-30 at 8.39.13 PMLast week was one of my favorite times of the year. It was the week of our county fair, Besides loving helping my son prepare his dairy show cows for the 4H and open shows, I love visiting with community members. My favorite visits, though, are with former students. It is like a big reunion. All of my former students are special, but I have one former student that always schedules some time to sit and have a very quality visit. I end up blogging about our visit every year. I value this time because I learn so much. He always wants to know about what is going on in my life. This year, like every year, he had advice, words of wisdom, and encouragement that I will use in my professional life. Click here to read last year’s post entitled I Have Paid For An Education With My Mistakes about Andy Clark. Andy easily makes it to the top of my list of most respected students. He has truly become an outstanding agricultural leader.

IMG_3330During our visit this year I became even more proud of Andy than I already was. He has done an outstanding job of improving, expanding, and innovating his family farming operation. As we visited I realized what a great leader Andy had developed into. The impressive part to me is that he continues to develop himself and grow professionally. He does not settle for status quo. We had the chance to visit for about five hours sitting at our cattle stalls and I picked up on six leadership traits that Andy has really developed and honed that would make many CEOs jealous. I’d like to share these traits with you here:

  1. Innovating – Innovation is a very important leadership trait. Andy has created different paths for producing for markets with specific needs. These specific needs offer a better chance at evening out the peaks and valleys of commodity marketing. Amazingly, once he has innovated in one area, he is already looking for the next.
  2. Resourcefulness/Adaptation – Andy clearly has a handle on looking for ways to improve efficiency, make use of byproducts, and reformulating to keep the farming operation on a progressive track.
  3. Managing Time and Leading People – I was so impressed when Andy was describing his plans he had recently put in place to retain and develop his employees. His wage/compensation plan has made it possible for him to retain and attract employees and have them where they need to be, at the time they are needed. A large part of his operation is in forage making for dairies. Anyone who has ever made hay or chopped silage knows you must harvest when the crop is right. Andy has developed his leadership skills for maximum employee efficiency. He understands that the achievements of our workforce are crucial to the successful delivery of strategy.
  4. Financial Management – Every dollar saved in expenses is a dollar that directly benefits the bottom line. While expense control is time consuming and tedious, great farmers spend the time to reap the benefit. Living expenses, equipment and machinery purchases, decisions related to using contracted services (like custom chopping of silage), spending habits, areas where can you cut back, and investments that aren’t the best ideas today. These can be the differences between breaking even, losing money or just eking out a profit. Andy knows to the exact penny what it costs to produce a bushel of grain or ton of forage.
  5. Attention To Detail – During our visit, Andy pulled out his cell phone and began to give me a tutorial lesson on JDLink™. This allows Andy to see critical and timely information about his machines, online, and better yet, on his cell phone. By using the MyMaintenance™ app, he is able to move data to and from his machines – easily, securely, and wirelessly. This enables Andy to support his machines and employees, thus keeping the operation running smoothly and efficiently. We talk a lot about SMART Manufacturing and Industry 4.0, but this is truly Agriculture 4.0. Andy is on the pioneering side of using it.maxresdefault
  6. Growing Professionally – I don’t think I know anyone who is constantly learning to the extent that Andy Clark does. He was like that in high school – always studying something and thinking about the next thing he might want to do. He’s like the farmer version of Curious George®. Andy stays connected to knowledgeable sources of the latest information and innovations. He is very interested right now in robotics and wants to be a pioneer in the use of robotic equipment. The bottom line is that Andy is motivated to learn – a characteristic of a great leader.

As you can see, Andy Clark has developed into quite farmer and leader. Every year when I visit with him I become prouder of him and more impressed with him. We are planning to get together before another year passes and I hope we do because I learn and grow every time I have the opportunity and sit and visit with Andy. Do you have leadership traits that you need to develop and hone?

Leading Like Yeast

During my personal growth time this morning I was reading more in the great book, Leading Like Madiba: Leadership Lessons From Nelson Mandela by Martin Kalungu Banda. In the passages I was reading this morning Kalungu-Banda used the metaphor of leaders being like yeast saying, “Inspirational leaders are like yeast that permeates ordinary flour and water, making them rise into a good dough. This is a lot of what leadership is about: imperceptibly raising others to realise their own greatness and the esteem they deserve. A lot of the effect is gained simply by listening to people with respect.” Is that not awesome and so true!

“Inspirational leaders are like yeast that permeates ordinary flour and water, making them rise into a good dough. This is a lot of what leadership is about: imperceptibly raising others to realise their own greatness and the esteem they deserve. A lot of the effect is gained simply by listening to people with respect.” ~ Martin Kalungu Banda

This got me to thinking about the yeast we feed in our dairy herd. Yeast is a simple single-cell fungus. That is why I love Kalungu-Banda’s metaphor. As leaders, we are all pretty simple human beings but by creating the right environment we can do great things. The yeast that we usually mean in the context of food and livestock feed is the species named Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Saccharomyces cerevisiae has been used by man for millennia to produce alcoholic beverages, including beer and most spirits, and to enable bread to rise during the baking process.

During the early 1980’s when I went to Purdue University and was getting my Animal Science Degree, we were just beginning to research the use of yeast in ruminant (cattle are a ruminant – meaning four compartment stomach) feeds. The research being done was on the effect of yeast culture on ruminant production and rumen microbial metabolism. Effects on production were always small, which led to many questioning their statistical validity. The reported effects on rumen metabolism often seemed unrelated: Stabling pH, improved fibre digestion, lower lactate concentrations, altered fermentation product proportions in favour of propionic acid, lower methane emission, increased concentrations of cellulolytic bacteria, increased concentrations of cellulolytic bacteria, lower soluble sugar concentrations, decreased ammonia concentrations, all by the supplementation of a few grams of yeast to a cow with a rumen volume of 100-150 liters. Thus, if yeast could maintain a more stable, neutral pH, ruminal micro-organisms would be healthier: healthier ruminal micro-organisms lead to a more productive animal. Remember, this is all with only a few grams of yeast.

Therefore, I would add to Kalungu-Banda’s use of yeast as a metaphor and say that by just doing the right small things can create an environment where people can grow and flourish. When studying the effectiveness of yeast culture we needed to understand yeast’s mode of action at the molecular and cellular level. Sound like leadership?

Leaders develop their team members. They serve as the yeast by helping the team members gain new skills to help the team increase its ability to reach the organization’s goals. One important skill the leader teaches the team is leadership. Just like yeast, we need to be doing the little things that might seem like much, but will have big effects on those we serve and our organization. Are you leading yeast?

Lifelong Learning: The Farm Way

IMG_1470Many times leaders wonder what they can do to become well-rounded and competitive while increasing both their success and significance. An often overlooked yet simple way to improve is to increase our knowledge by being a lifelong learner. Structured education and professional growth opportunities are very important, but much success is derived from highly motivated individuals that have dedicated their lives to the concept of lifelong learning. Many times this learning is unstructured and just involves us paying attention and recognizing opportunities to learn. We all need look for these opportunities and prioritize the creation of time in our busy lives each day to educate ourselves on new concepts and ideas.

IMG_1471Last week I had an opportunity to learn just by observing the technique of someone else. We had two of our show heifers dehorned and we always get pain medicine (comparable to Tylenol® or Ibuprofen) in the form of boluses (big pills) to give for seven days. These are given orally with a bolus gun (pictured here). Growing up as a farm kid I have done this hundreds of times. It always seems, however, I end up fighting with the animal before I get the pill given. This time, though, I watched as the veterinary technician gave the first round while still at the vet’s office. She had an interesting technique and I took note of the way she held the calf’s mouth open. The calf did not fight and the pill went right down. The next day I used her technique and voila′ it worked perfectly. Let me tell you, I gave the seventh and last bolus tonight and all went perfectly with no fights every night. I am very excited to have learned a new technique.

This experience reminded me just how important it is to take advantage of every opportunity to learn. I try to learn something in everything I do. In fact there is a direct correlation between individuals who strive for growth in their personal lives and those who thrive in their professional lives. I really believe that the learning I do in my farm life does help me grow as a leader in my professional life. In an ever-changing world, it is more important than ever to stay current, competitive, and up to date – both in our personal and professional lives. We must rid ourselves of assumptions and convictions so that we can be open and receptive to new information and learning. The uncomfortable part is that at times the things we are observing or learning may contradict what we believe to be true. If we truly open our minds to lifelong learning we will come across information that challenges your worldview. We need to strive to jump out of our comfort zone, use this time to stop, reflect and shed light on these ideas in a way that can develop and expand our knowledge and vision. Just like my learning a new way to give calf boluses by watching someone who does it many times per day.

Now, I realize that my story from the vet’s office is a simple one, but the concept is important. We need to always be on the lookout for ways to improve and learn. Again, these do not need to be structured, and I would argue many times the best learning comes from paying attention and observing. Think about it, I could have just said, “That’s not the way I do that.” All that would have got me is the same old inefficient way of giving boluses and continuing to wrestle with calves every time I do it. Amazing what an open mind can bring us.

Hopefully this reflection will give us all a renewed commitment to learn new ways to expand and to sharpen our personal and professional skills. Reading great books, consuming excellent electronic media, and participating in engaging continuing education programs, from varied sources, will keep us informed, in touch with, and energized by new ideas – but only if we commit to our own learning. And, pay attention to lessons happening around us. Will you commit with me to being a dedicated lifelong learner?