I was sitting at an open air restaurant
not far from the beach, listening to a guitarist playing
and watching the palm trees
gently sway. There, the lyrics from this old Willie Nelson
song came to me as a great introduction to this first column
from the beach! Why am I at a beach so far from home at
end of January? Well, the obvious answer is to escape the
brutal cold that has a grip on most of the country, but
real answer is that this is part of the New Direction for
and WoodsEdge! By now you probably know my son has
elected to make farming his full-time profession, and to
a heritage his father and grandfather set out before him
farming in New Jersey! Brent, along with help from a great
staff, is very capable of running the farm! So after 30
years of farming, my living on the beach for several months
each year is my answer to this very perplexing question…
How do you solve the issue of BURN OUT when you love
what you do?
It is a theme I hear repeated so often by other veteran
and llama breeders that I thought it worth sharing some
my trials and tribulations with it! After wrestling with
question for years and trying several different approaches
avoiding it, what I’ve learned is to deal head on
with burn out.
PROBLEM: IGNORING THE
EARLY WARNING SIGNS OF BURN OUT!
Do not ignore your early warning feelings of burn out!
can go away temporarily, but absolutely will resurface,
in my experience, will resurface with a vengeance! Burn
feelings left unresolved lead to less productivity, resentment
of all the time you spend caring for your animals and
farm (and let’s face it, it does take time!), or falling
other important details of making your farm and breeding
program a success!
SOLUTION: IDENTIFY YOUR
BURN OUT ISSUES AND WORK TO CORRECT!
A friend just emailed me and said “ I just
can’t do the 4 to 5 hours hard physical
work required for manure management of our herd
of 80 for the 3 day weekends that my farm manager
is off. It’s minus 15 wind chill with minus
2 on the thermometer! I’m too old for this
kind of stuff!” Her solution was to get
extra and younger helpers for those weekends to
do the manure management! High school kids looking
for some extra cash are great for this type of
chore! Be sure to give them a pair of socks and
mittens made from your animals to help them stay
PROBLEM: OPERATING IN SURVIVAL
MODE DUE TO BURN OUT!
Let’s face it, a successful farming operation
requires many skill sets. Few people will be great
at the entire soup to nuts list of what you need
to do to succeed, but how many of us still try
to do it all? In many mom and pop operations,
the approach is to divide the duty roster and
each take half. But one or each of the partners
may have several items on their list which they
really are not good at, and burn out begins! Once
you’ve ignored the early warning signs of
burn out, you start to stress and I will almost
guarantee you that you go into robot-like survival
mode, moving through the chores you need to do
without energy, inspiration or enthusiasm. Once
you get into that mode it’s harder to see
how to make the changes that would make your life
easier, and your farm more successful!
MY DAD’S SOLUTION:WORK
SMARTER, NOT HARDER!
As Works Manager for a large tractor manufacturer,
Dad was constantly trying to teach me how to be
more efficient in our farming operation! We were
short on cash and I thought that translated into
having to do as much as possible by ourselves.
I would often say too him, “No one else
knows how to do what I do!” He asked me
to make believe I had a broken leg and could not
get out of the pick-up truck to do anything, so
I had to park the truck alongside the worker and
give detailed instructions. Once I started reporting
back to him that I had indeed trained some workers
to do what I was doing, he took the next step.
Now I had to imagine I was behind a brick wall,
and I could not see the workers, so I not only
had to train them without the visual ability to
access their work, I had to put measurable parameters
in to see that the work was done right! I remember
well the first time I was able to see this not
only worked, but made my life easier and my product
better. Dad said, “ Now you’re working
smarter, not harder!”
YOUR BURN OUT HAS NO OBVIOUS SOLUTIONS!
Sometimes you can get so overwhelmed with all
you have to do, you are past toasty burn out before
you even realize it. The feeling of being overwhelmed
can be like drowning and not being able to breath.
This requires immediate attention!
your head above water by doing whatever else you
love to do—go to the beach, play golf, shop,
meditate, exercise. It doesn’t matter what
you do, just give yourself an hour, a day, or
perhaps a week away. As one friend says, “
Take a mental health day!” You’ll
be amazed at your renewed energetic and enthusiastic
perspective! Many people leave successful careers
to become breeders to escape corporate burn out!
Many successful mid-life people will face burn
out in one profession or another. What I’ve
learned is that change is almost always therapeutic,
but you don’t have to throw out the animals
with the burn out, if you know what I mean, to
rediscover your passion! Do you have questions
you’d like me address in this column in
upcoming issues? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
and I’ll try to address them in our Summer
2007 issue—where I’ll be writing from
the Golden Coast of New Jersey!
©2007 WoodsEdge Wools Farm