When the going gets tough, the tough get going
Over the years I have often been asked to list the key features of the top 10 per cent of farm business couples.
These are the people who are humming in their businesses and at the height of their sector year in and year out.
Obviously, everyone is different and they have their own many special financial, production, management and thinking characteristics. But there is often common ground in the way they operate their farms, their thinking, their attitude, their discipline and their patience.
I want to try to provide you with a helicopter view and to this end I would suggest you might find the following comments true.
If they are going through hell they keep going. They tough out the tough times. They believe that things do not happen, they believe that things have to be made to happen. They believe that either you run the day or the day runs you. They expect problems and try to eat them for breakfast.
They feel the most effective way to do it - is to do it. They feel that life is simple, but not that easy. They feel that life is a shipwreck, but that we must all sing in the lifeboats. They feel that if you are at the end of the rope, you must tie a knot in it and hang on. They feel that sometimes they are in the gutter, but they are looking at the stars. They feel if they find a path with no obstacles it probably doesn't lead anywhere. They feel that the best way to predict the future is to create it. They feel their life begins at the end of their comfort zone.
They feel that sometimes if they are on thin ice then they may as well dance. They feel that opportunities are missed by many people because many opportunities are dressed in overalls and look like work. They find they can't turn the clock back, but they can wind it up again. They find that their minds are like a parachute. That is, it doesn't work if it's not open. They find that whenever they fall they will always pick something up.
They have long found that the darkest hour has still only 60 minutes. They find that when their dreams turn to dust, they vacuum. They find that every thought is a seed you plant and if you plant crab apples you cannot expect to harvest golden delicious.
They have long found that no problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking. They have found that when they have a problem the best way out is to drive through it.
They have found that nothing cleanses the soul like getting the hell kicked out of you. Equally, if at first you don't succeed then you need to find out if the loser gets anything.
They have found that like chess once the game is over, in many cases, the king goes back into the same box as the pawns. They have found that a dose of adversity is often as needed as a dose of medicine. They have learnt that scar tissue is stronger than regular tissue. They realise its strength and move on.
They have learnt that if things go wrong, not to go with them. They have learnt that life isn't fair, it's just fairer than death, that's all. They have learnt that clothes maketh the man and naked men have little to no influence on society.
Don't give me any credit for most of these comments. Many have been around for years and some come from well known people in different businesses and from different life experiences.
Their point? The farming cycle is very much just that. When the weather, the markets or some other obstacle conspires against farming, the next season might very well deliver the mother lode. The smart operators know this, work with it and make things happen through the good and bad.
* Pita Alexander is a specialist farm accountant at Alexanders.