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Celebrating success when you’re a go-it-alone farmer

Front and centre in almost every “how to succeed in business” book is the recommendation to take time to celebrate success. As the authors point out, celebrating is a great way to mark progress, foster team spirit, build staff loyalty, push a business to greater heights — and ultimately trigger more success.

But does that advice still apply if you’re an independent, self-employed farmer whose “team members” might be more likely to have four legs and tails? You betcha!

Gina Zepick.
photo: Supplied

“Pretty much everyone needs to do more celebrating,” says Gina Zepick, a mentor and life coach with Soul on Fire Mentoring, who has spent the past 18 years helping individuals, businesses and organizations to grow and to navigate change.

Before you pass Zepick off as an urbanites’ coach who can’t possibly understand the priorities and complexities of agriculture, know this: Zepick was not only born and raised on a cow-calf operation (at 72, her dad is still going strong at the family ranch), she completed an ag degree at the University of Saskatchewan and then spent the start of her career with Saskatchewan’s Department of Agriculture.

Plus, she has significant experience coaching and mentoring both individual farmers and ag-related organizations, including the Saskatchewan Alfalfa Seed Growers Association and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

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So, when Zepick says celebrate, she means you, too.

“When you celebrate and intentionally feel gratefulness and joy, it sends out positive energy vibrations that actually change you physically, mentally, socially, spiritually,” says Zepick. “I’m not talking about drinking beer and having a party (though that can be one option). Celebrating is about making time to appreciate success, and it’s something we should all be putting more effort into.”

1. Why?

Aside from the fun, what does celebrating success actually achieve?

Success brings success. Need convincing? Just consider the opposite. Have you ever had one of those really bad days, where it seems as though everyone and everything is conspiring to make sure nothing goes right? In fact, the cause of all the “wrong” is not everyone or everything: science proves it’s actually you. Yikes!

“You can choose to be right about absolutely anything. Choose something to believe and you will keep collecting evidence that reinforces that belief. If you focus on having a bad day, you’re going to keep finding and focusing on things that reinforce that it’s a bad day. By intention alone, you’re going to create negativity around you,” says Zepick. “So, the question we all have to ask ourselves is: what do I want to be right about.”

In other words, your reality is shaped by whatever you practise. Practise gratitude: you’ll be more grateful. Actively look for joy: you’ll feel more joy. Truly and intentionally experience the feeling of success: you will be more successful.

Celebrating success releases endorphins in your brain that make you feel strong, powerful and joyful. Someone who regularly experiences these positive feelings about self and the surrounding world is better able to tackle challenges with confidence, energy and positivity. Since success is hugely dependent on attitude, a person’s future success is heavily influenced by the intentional acknowledgement of past successes.

As Peter Drucker, commonly called the father of management consulting, said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

2. What?

What does it take for a success to be worth celebrating?

Everyone’s definition of success is unique. So the first requirement for meaningful celebration is to identify what success means to you. Zepick recommends dividing milestones into three categories.

First, look at the big picture, i.e. the overall reason you’re doing what you’re doing. Let’s be honest. There are lots of much easier ways to make a living that don’t require the all-in commitment, the 24-7 lifestyle or the risk that farming demands. Keeping in mind why you decided to farm is a key component of deciding what constitutes a success worth celebrating.

Outline (ideally, on paper) major career and life goals. Maybe they include expanding your business, purchasing land or other major assets, paying off a mortgage or other debt, and/or passing on your farm to a younger generation. Successfully completing any of these milestones deserves real celebration.

Then, consider the season, especially the goals that get you out of bed each day. Outline seasonal goals such as completing significant tasks or projects, or purchasing mid-value assets like a new vehicle.

Also look back to your big-picture goals and figure out smaller steps that will move you towards those major achievements. These smaller steps often fall into seasonal goals. Successfully completing any of these milestones deserves acknowledgement.

Finally, consider the day. The marker of a success for any given day may be different than for any other day.

“Farmers often think: I got task ‘x’ done but I still have 27 more things to do. Actually, it’s important to take a moment to appreciate what is complete rather than what is still to come,” says Zepick.

“One of the things I love to tell people most is how normal they are. There is real comfort in being normal. Most of the population, when they have 10 things on their to-do list and get nine done, will beat themselves up about the one thing they didn’t do. Celebrating the success of what you have accomplished will make you more energetic to complete that 10th item.”

Once you’ve outlined your goals, don’t simply close your notebook and forget them. Strategic planning and goal setting only work if they become part of your ongoing management method.

3. How?

How do you choose the right ways to celebrate your success?

So long as you make time to acknowledge, honour or applaud milestones and achievements in some form, there is no right or wrong way to celebrate success. The key to a quality celebration is that it be authentic and comfortable to you. Depending on who you are and how your farm operates, celebrate.

… by yourself

Is it possible to celebrate all alone? Absolutely! Though we usually think of celebrations as being social and communal, simply taking time to feel joy in an achievement or gratitude in a success is an important way to reinforce positivity.

“We joke about doing the happy dance or patting yourself on the back, but recognizing success really is a visceral thing, a good energy in your body,” says Zepick. “If you aren’t celebrating, no one else will do it for you. You need to create that positive energy loop for yourself.”

What does a solo celebration look like in an actionable context? The answer depends entirely on who you are. For some farmers, simply standing in a just-harvested field and intentionally pausing to soak in the pride of completion is enough. For others, taking a day off, buying that fancy bottle of Scotch, or tying an intended purchase (maybe that truck you’ve been eyeing, or a trip you’re considering) to a specific business success will magnify the joy of the success.

… with those who are closest

Invite others to share in celebrating success. Whether that person is your spouse, extended family, a close neighbour or a trusted friend, intentionally sharing the pleasure of a success or a milestone gives weight to the achievement or event.

“Don’t confuse sharing a success with showing off. This isn’t about showing off. It’s about sharing something positive with trusted people who want the best for you. Part of a relationship agreement between people who trust each other is that they celebrate together. So literally pick up that phone and make a point of telling those you trust,” says Zepick.

… with those who understand your business

Sometimes, the people with whom you share the closest relationships don’t have the background, experience or knowledge to really understand the importance of a specific success. In that case, being able to share your achievements and milestones with a group of like-minded professional peers can be incredibly satisfying.

“It might be your neighbours, maybe it’s other entrepreneurs, or maybe it’s a gathering of other farmers. The point is, it’s a group that gets together to strategize and connect about business, brainstorm around challenges, and CELEBRATE!” says Zepick.

Your business or farm can only grow to the extent that you do, she points out.

“If you’re never open to getting outside input, you can’t grow beyond a certain level. We all need to surround ourselves with people, for inspiration, for challenge, to push ourselves, and to celebrate when we make those milestones. Those relationships are critical if you want to grow your business.”

… with a coach, mentor, pastor or other on-your-side professional

If you happen to be a more private person, the concept of sharing success with a roundtable of peers may be far outside your comfort level. In that case, seek out a professional adviser of some kind who can fill the role of an unbiased confidant.

“My job as a mentor or coach is to boost your energy to get you moving in a more positive direction, and to get you creating things in your life that you want,” says Zepick. “Imagine looking out a window. All you can see is what’s outside that one window. My job is to give you more windows and help you see that maybe things can be different.”

Building an authentic, trust-based, open and professional relationship with an adviser depends on finding the right person. Look for someone with significant experience, preferably specific to agriculture. Interview until you find someone with whom you feel natural and comfortable. Then, says Zepick, “Jump in. You have to make the decision to trust that person with your concerns, your struggles, your questions and your successes and joys.”

If you’re a go-it-alone farmer, the usual business celebrations like team lunches, corporate parties, formalized recognition programs, promotions, bonuses, etc., might not suit you. However, the basic rule of celebration holds true in any business: those who celebrate success will have more success to celebrate.

So, raise that glass, do that dance, tweet that success, take that trip, buy those clothes… however you celebrate best, just get out there and do it. You owe it to your business.

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