It was another cold morning on April 10. We should have been planting corn, as April 10 is the first planting date allowed with crop insurance. Instead, it was a day that changed our family forever.
First, my oldest child texted me in the morning: “I’m going to Morningside to play baseball,” he said. After months of weighing all the options, he had finally made a college decision. I was ecstatic. I’m pretty sure my wife was on the other end of the emotion spectrum: sad, just because it was official that kid No. 1 would be leaving the house in the fall.
That evening, my dad Ron passed away. He was 77 years old, which I used to consider “old” — make that “really old” — but now I look at that as “young,” since my goal is to live to be 100.
I experienced great joy and terrible sadness all in one day. I recently read a quote from Roy H. Williams: “The defeated person sees life as a series of difficulties, disappointments and dilemmas. The victorious person sees life as an adventure consisting of puzzles to be solved, battles to be fought and problems to be overcome. Which of those two people do you think is happiest?”
One of the things my dad told me growing up was to stay busy, because when you have idle time, that’s when you start to question yourself and everything happening in your life. Unfortunately, rather than thinking positively, most people get down on themselves, he said, and that’s not good. Rather than sitting around, spend time working and helping others. Personally, I have found that is the best thing I can do when times are tough, sad or just not what I want. The best part about being a farmer, in my opinion, is that by simply doing the job every day, there is great benefit created in the world.
Growing up, I thought my dad was really tough on us kids (my brother, my sister and me). He was old-school, a disciplinarian and really, really loud, at least whenever we weren’t doing exactly what we were supposed to. He was not the perfect dad, but who is?
Ten years ago, I wrote a book called “$100 an Hour Jobs: Lessons from Dad.” Over the previous five to 10 years, I jotted down some notes about all the different things he had told me over the years, and I’m first of all glad that I got the book done so he could see that during his lifetime. I’m also happy I put all those things on paper (or electronic, if you read books that way) for my kids to read, passing on the lessons their grandpa taught.
Every day, each one of us gets to choose how we want to look at things, and what we will spend our time doing. Rather than focus on the sadness of April 10, I choose to be thankful, which brings me back to farming. Even though it is easy as a farmer to focus on adverse weather, poor commodity prices, negative farm news, etc., the No. 1 key to thriving in extremes, in my opinion, is to stay positive.
Think about when our grandparents and great-grandparents started farming and how tough they had it. Think about today with all the people in third-world countries and how challenging that must be. Always be thankful that we get to live and work and farm here in the greatest country in the world.