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Welcome to the home of the Modern Farm Business® podcast, hosted weekly by Dean Heffta. Modern Farm Business translates proven methods and best practices from the business arena to today's modern farm leadership environment. We'll be learning from forward-thinking experts and discovering how to apply time-tested techniques to make real improvements on the farm.

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Aug 30, 2018

There is a fear in many of us when it comes to trying new things: people don’t like to look foolish or as though they don’t know what they’re doing. In fact, that’s what trial-and-error is all about. Sometimes the only way to perfect a procedure or a new skill is to face a few (or many) failed attempts.

1. The behavior of the majority or the “norm” is a driving influence. When we’re toddlers and cannot yet walk, we see others walking and become determined to learn for ourselves. What everyone else is doing becomes a huge influence on what we want to do. That influence is a positive. As we age, that same influence tends to turn into a negative: as adults we want to do what everyone else is doing, and we become afraid to venture out and try something new or unorthodox. That fear of being an outlier goes back to the tribal mindset, when we had to rely on a group for food, safety and what passed then for longevity—if you went against the grain, you became an outcast, and the odds of survival drastically dropped.
2. We lack an of awareness of our own limitations. When we’re young and experiencing things for the first time, there is no history of our own capabilities in relation to those experiences—there’s no sense of what me might succeed or fail at. As we grow, we begin comparing ourselves with others, thinking, “I’m not as good at [X] as that person is,” and we create perceived limits that become an invisible barrier to venturing out of our comfort zone.

THE ELEPHANT ANALOGY (No animals were harmed in the recording of this podcast)
If you want to train an elephant to stay in one place, grab them while they’re young, use a heavy chain around one leg, and give them very little room to move. As they grow, you can eventually replace that heavy chain with a thin rope. The elephant’s belief that it cannot leave is so strong that it keeps it from challenging the strength of that rope (which is no match for that of an elephant).

One of the most important parts of being a leader is understanding oneself—knowing what talents we bring to the group and realizing what we are not particularly good at. However, we also need to be aware of the impact our personal beliefs and experiences have on how we perceive and act on the world. Our experiences build perceptions of what’s possible as well as what we believe is impossible, which influences our decision-making. Having that perspective on what’s informing our decisions can help keep us from remaining in a “safe,” stagnant, unremarkable future. If we know it’s all in our head, it becomes easier to risk a little uncertainty and looking “foolish” to take a chance on something new.

1. For the sake of learning: Learning to ride a bike is not an easy process. There are a lot of falls and mis-starts as we gather feedback on balance, pedaling and steering. Things are done slowly, with poor quality at first, and at great mental effort. We know we aren’t going to do well, but it’s OK.
2. We already know how, but don’t care about doing it well: This should be unacceptable, whether from oneself or from a team we are leading. There must be a clarified expectation of quality from someone with experience and skill.

Show others by being willing to do new things—and do them poorly before we can do it better.

Q: What’s the last thing you did poorly because you wanted to learn something new? What’s something that could benefit your operation if you were willing to step up and risk not being good at it? I hope you have the chance to do something new poorly very soon.

Thanks for listening! Do you have any questions or comments on this or any of our other episodes? I’d love to hear them. Send me an email at and I will respond as soon as possible. I really appreciate hearing from our listeners. Keep those comments and suggestions coming in. Until next week...