Lessons from the Farm: 3 Ways My Upbringing Helps Me as an Entrepreneur
Feb 17, 2017
I have often questioned how I came to become an entrepreneur, and the driving forces that moved me in this direction. I believe that my journey has been greatly influenced by my upbringing on my family’s farm. With self-employment on the rise in Alberta, it’s worth looking at how our background helps us find success in entrepreneurship.
It’s no secret that our upbringing and surroundings have influence over our traits and habits. However, I don’t believe we take enough time to develop clarity around how our upbringing influences our choices, and it’s valuable to give that some thought.
I grew up 20 miles east of Ponoka on a feedlot where we fed 2000 head of cattle and farmed about 2000 acres of land, which at the time was quite large. My Dad, a passionate entrepreneur, also had a corral cleaning business and trucking company, as well as a custom farming business; he was into a lot of things. Rarely did I ever see him back away from an opportunity or challenge.
Here are 3 traits that I learned as a result of my early life on the farm:
1. In order to earn an income, I have to be moving forward.
On the farm, you eat what you harvest. What you harvest is a result of how well you use the resources available to you. This is also the case for an entrepreneur. I thrive in this environment, because I grew up in it.
The result of planting, nourishing, and nurturing your resources usually results in your shelves being stocked. Therefore, you learn to be accountable, because if you aren’t, you might not eat.
I remember gathering enough eggs to sell at the farmer’s market that we could buy groceries for the week. Not only did we have plenty of eggs for ourselves, we also had enough to trade for the other essentials we needed. We took pretty good care of those laying hens, and we didn’t complain about the chore of gathering eggs, because we saw how it directly resulted in food on our table. (And sometimes a bit of candy too.)
My motivation came from understanding the end objective, which was a greater objective than just earning money. It’s a mindset that helps me every day running a business.
2. I function well without a road map.
I believe there is always a path to the objective, and I have always been able to find one. This is an essential skill when you’re working for yourself, bringing your own ideas to life. This is backed up by experts. According to the American Psychological Association, taking decisive action is a key skill for success and resilience.
This thinking became innate to me because so many of the tasks required on the farm did not come with a manual. I learned a lot of things on the fly.
The old saying “we fixed it bailer twine and hay wire” is true. We learned to improvise and get things done with limitations and unknowns. In the end we got where we needed to be.
Today I know many challenges as an entrepreneur do not have a road map that directs me how to solve them, but I have confidence I can somehow find success if I keep moving forward.
3. I value independence and freedom.
On the farm we worked the time required to achieve our objective, which meant working through the night, through the weekend, and through the holidays. We didn’t work based on the clock, we worked to achieve the objective. In other words, until the job was done.
As much as we worked ridiculous hours, we also had times of great freedom in certain seasons to stop and hit the lake for a water ski, or the pond for some ice hockey.
This changed the way I view my time working. With independence comes accountability, and over time this became my habit. You don’t need to be told to get working, because you’re so vested in the outcome. Oddly enough, all these things created a sense of freedom for me, and I suppose that’s why I refuse to follow anyone else’s routine but my own.
Make Your Background Work for You
My journey into entrepreneurship was not one I consciously chose, however when I look at my upbringing on the farm, I understand why I enjoy this lifestyle so much. This clarity helps me live more congruently with my values, filter my opportunities, and helps me to say yes or no to the right things.
I encourage you to take a look at your own upbringing. What opportunities does it push you toward, or away from? What qualities did your background provide you, that you can leverage in your work life? From resilience to independence, the lessons we’ve learned even as kids can help us find success and fulfillment in our work today.