It’s a favourite quote from Tom Rath, among my favourite business writers. “You cannot be anything you want to be — but you can be a whole lot more of who you already are.”
I still think of Rath for his Strengths Finder 2.0, which became Amazon’s global best-seller in 2014 — not bad for a business book.
He’s gone on to write more New York Times best-sellers, including 2015’s Are You Fully Charged? (a better book than its title and its marketing might suggest).
Yet I keep coming back to Strengths Finder, and its simple assertion that, despite the feel-good pablum we sometimes feed our young, you can’t actually be good at anything you want as long as you try hard enough.
You can get better at it, of course. So let’s say you’re a genius in the field and you instantly understand how to take advantage of every new implement or genetics innovation, but you struggle with the idea of holding a family meeting. Or, as another example, you’re great with a financial spreadsheet but you know you aren’t the one to come up with new ideas for business opportunities. In either case, yes, you can buckle down and get better at what you’re currently middling at.
The problem is, you can get better. If you’re a B now, maybe you can become a B+ or even an A-. But it’s unlikely you’ll become an A+. And as we head into the 2020s is B+ good enough?
Probably not. Today’s farms already need to fire on all cylinders, and the demands on tomorrow’s farms will only get greater.
Besides, while you’ve spent all this time cultivating new aptitudes, you’ll have missed opportunities to use your inborn skills to full advantage.
I’ve been thinking about this all through this winter, and again in the past few weeks while we’ve been putting together this current issue of Country Guide.
That’s not because I’ve run into more situations where farms are suffering because farmers are relying on themselves instead of hiring in the experts.
In point of fact, most farms that intend to be here for the long-term are already better than they’ve ever been at knowing when to get outside input.
Instead, it’s because of something Rath also talks about. It turns out that when you really excel at something, you can find applications for it in all sorts of unexpected places.
I hope you’ll keep this in mind as you read “All for One,” which shows how an innovative group of beef producers who individually excel at decision-making are driving their farms even higher and faster through a peer-group system that brings more facts into their decision-making wheelhouse.
Something similar is true of the Verwey family, as you’ll read in “Help Wanted,” where the focus has been on giving the next generation a full, gender-neutral range of opportunities in which to channel their strengths.
Indeed, you’ll find it in every recent issue of Guide, and with the approach of spring, it fills me with incredible optimism.
Are we getting it right? Let me know at [email protected].