Don’t take a ‘summer break’ from learning

The best farmers keep being students – long after they graduate.

It’s summer – and we all know that kids have been out of school for a little while now. They were likely looking forward to a much-anticipated break from everything related to school and learning.

That gets me thinking: for years we go to school, and then we graduate at a ‘commencement’ ceremony – our education isn’t over, it’s just beginning! Some of the most successful people – and the best farmers – understand this. They know that we don’t learn all we need to know upon graduating from high school or college. We need to continue learning throughout our lives and careers.

Lifelong learners approach whatever they are doing with the mindset that they can always learn something new or try a new approach. As a result, they’ll probably grow more as a person, be more adaptable and find more success as they improve things.

These learners tend to get ahead and stay ahead of others because of their openness to learning. They approach life with the stance that they don’t know everything – and never will, but they want to keep learning as much as they can. They intentionally seek out new ideas because they believe they can always improve their approach.

Learning as a leader

On the farm, being a lifelong learner can make a big difference. A farm leader in one operation had always approached his farm – and his life – this way. A few years ago, he started feeling like he could do things even better than he was. He wanted his farm to be in a good position because he had two kids who were thinking about coming back to the farm.

From what he observed in his own operation and from talking to others, he decided that the biggest priority for the future was to improve his business management skills. His goal was to make his operation able to better weather the ups and downs of the ag economy through better management skills and tools.

He wanted to take his game to the next level and learn new ways of doing things. He decided to seek out a team of advisors at our consulting firm who specialize in helping farmers improve the business side of their farms.

He started working with an ag finance advisor who helped him understand where his farm’s finances were really at – through an accrual-based, forward-looking financial projection. He later began working with a market advisor and a legacy advisor at our firm, as well.

The suggestions and ideas the advisors shared were new to the farmer, but he was excited about what he was learning and what he could start to implement. Best of all, he could tell he was achieving his goal to improve his management skills – and to set his farm up for success in the future.

Questions for you

-Would you consider yourself a lifelong learner? Why or why not?

-Do you think you and your operation could benefit from taking that approach to learning?

-In what area of your operation could being exposed to new or different ways of doing things make a big difference?

Read the new issue of the Smart Series publication, bringing business ideas for today’s farm leader. This issue features a pre-harvest legacy checklist, how to build your farm’s team, and ideas on planning for your farm’s future. Get your free online issue here.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.

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