In farming, or in any profession, it's easy to get caught up with comparing yourself to your neighbors. But the most successful farmers that I've worked with have a different mindset. They're not concerned with what the neighbors are doing. They compete against themselves and work to take their own achievements to a higher level. They work on their thinking. Thinking is their work.
Seeking incremental moves in each area of business is the focus of this thinking. "Just because Dad did it this way, does that really mean that's how we should always do it?" would be given thought even if what Dad did worked well. Those looking to improve are always seeking new ideas. They are adopting ideas sooner. They are taking chances. They're risking.
Agriculture has a challenge. We're in a zero sum game that affects our mindset. Let me explain. There is a limited amount of land available and no option for making more land. It's the raw material that we need to grow crops, and that makes it a zero sum game. That means the guy down the road is my competitor. So the first thought of many is, if I want to become more profitable, if I want to grow, I need to add more land.
What if we simply thought differently? What if we said, "I need to maximize my profitability on my existing land. I need to earn the right to grow by extracting as much profit out of each acre as possible?"
That's a mindset change, holding constant improvement as the focus.
You've heard the story about the bear. It's an old story about two guys who were out in the woods and they come across this big grizzly bear. Grizzlies are pretty fast. Let's cut to the chase. The moral of the story is: You don't have to outrun the bear. You only have to outrun the other guy.
I have observed that the best farmers are not outrunning the bear or the other farmers. They spend their energy thinking, figuring out how they can be faster than they were yesterday. That's their focus.
So what can you do to begin thinking differently? Think about your farm and what it is that impacts your success. Determine how you can take that business, or that niche, or that competitive advantage to the next level. You don't have to make radical changes. Just invest the energy there to make it just a little bit better. That will put you on the road to constant improvement.