Friday, January 30, 2015

Hurrying to Work

Yesterday, after I got off work from my "day job," I headed out to the ranch to try and accomplish something before the sun went down.  I changed clothes in the middle of the pasture and spent about an hour dragging and piling brush before it became so dark that I couldn't see anymore. 

That might seem a little strange to some folks.  It in fact would have seemed strange to me once upon a time.  I recall times in my career when I couldn't wait for the workday to end so that I could go home and "do nothing" for a little while.  It wasn't a lack of ambition, it was more a lack of understanding.

We had corral panels and a chute delivered this past weekend.  A young man doing some "moonlighting" delivered them on Sunday afternoon.  He made it to our place around 5:15 p.m.  If you think about it, that's just nearly dark.  He had made other deliveries earlier in the day.  By the time we pulled out of the gate it was 7:15 -- well after dark.  It was the first time I'd driven through the pasture by headlight.  The mud holes aren't quite as easy to spot!

That young man will be successful.  He puts in a 40-hour week working as a welder for a factory and then has started his own welding business on the side.  He also does deliveries for folks like me.  He understands that it takes hard work and putting in the extra time in order to get ahead. 

Most people at my age are thinking of retirement.  I guess that I am too, but I see retirement as just a new phase of my career.  It doesn't mean sitting in front of a television and becoming a vegetable, it means doing what I have always wanted to do. 

I'm not at the point that I can rely solely upon it for a living right now, but I'm working that direction. 

It reminds me of a time many years ago when I got into Amway.  One of the things they recommend you do is to make a list of the most successful people you know.  Then, you contact them and attempt to schedule a time to show them the business plan.  I remember doing that. 

Number one on my list was a very successful farmer/cattleman who had numerous business interests.  I called him.  He said come on over, I'd like to look.  I did.  He listened, asked questions and then said, "I don't think this is for me, but I'd like you to show this to a couple of my kids."  I did and one of them got in the business.

The most important thing that occurred in that meeting though was something he said to me while still sitting at the bar in his kitchen.  He told me that whatever I ultimately chose to do with my life, I would be successful.  I asked why he would say that.  He said, "Look around you.  Do you see anyone else sitting in my kitchen talking to me about a business plan at 9:00 in the evening?  Keep doing what you are doing -- putting in the hours -- and you will be successful.  It isn't about luck or anything else.  You will get out of life what you put into it."

So, after work today, if it is still daylight, I plan to put in a little more time on our place.  We are trying to get it ready to receive cattle.  Lots of labor involved, but well worth it. 

Whatever your dream, don't give up on it.  Work for it.  Stay focused.  With hard work and perseverance you just might see it realized some day.....


Thursday, January 29, 2015


Yesterday I attended a Cattlemen's Conference along with the President of our bank.  We were a sponsor and had a booth.  Since leaving my last job I have missed doing that sort of thing.  I always enjoyed Trade Shows and Conferences. 

Our purpose was to hopefully make a few contacts that could be developed into new business.  We came away with several.  It is now my job to follow up and follow through to turn those contacts into customers.

It was gratifying.  When we returned to the bank late yesterday, the President commented that I was a "pro" at it.  I guess I should be after doing Trade Shows and events for the past 20+ years.  It felt like I was home......


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Plumbing Problems

Sometimes wisdom is knowing the difference between when to attempt the repair yourself and when to call in the expert. 

On the surface it looked like a simple clog.  So, I unclogged it.  The problems began when I discovered a crack in the pipe.  I quickly realized it was old a friable and prone to break with little pressure.  It was no place for an amateur.

We called a plumber.  I'm glad we did.  It ended up costing less and taking much less time that it likely would have if I had continued to "know what to do"......

Yep, been there, done that kind of wisdom is the kind that sticks with you.


Monday, January 26, 2015


We recently purchased a piece of property that had been somewhat neglected for many years.  Much of the pasture has been allowed to be overtaken by trees and brush.  The fences are in extreme disrepair and grown up with trees and small shrubs.  The corral is still in decent shape because it was made of steel pipe, but it is poorly designed and appears to have been built in the 1960's.  The attached loafing shed is falling down and the tin is ripped and coming off of it.  In short, there is much work to be done to get the place back the way it should be to become productive again.

It takes time, money and lots of hard work to rehabilitate land.  Some of it we are hiring done but, much of the labor will be supplied by us.  The last couple of weekends have been spent tearing out old fence.  The wire is rusted and tangled with briar.  In places the trees have grown through the fence.  Some of the trees are 6 - 8 inches in diameter and the wire goes through the center of the tree.  Upon counting the rings after cutting some similar sized trees, it appears some are about 30 years old.  That means the fence hasn't been cared for since the mid-80's.

It is a slow process by manual labor.  I could hire a bulldozer to come in and push it all up in a big pile and burn, then bury the mess.  I don't really want to do that if I can avoid it.  Instead, we are cutting the wire out of the tangle so that it can be hauled to the scrap yard.  Some of the bigger trees will become firewood.  The T-posts are too rusted to re-use so they also will go to the scrap yard.  The smaller brush will be piled and burned.

Needless to say, I don't have to worry about going to the gym for exercise.  I am getting it in abundance clearing fence lines.  The physical labor is good for me.  After all, I am like most of us in that I have probably neglected my own physical condition, much like the fence has been neglected.  I wonder if I can get back to the shape I was in 30 years ago!  I doubt it, but I am certain I can be better than I am. 

The one thing not clear in this photo is that everything -- and I mean everything -- has thorns.  Most of the trees are black locust.  Google it.  The thorns are big as nails.  Tangled through everything is a plant called green briar.  Mixed in with those are dewberry vines and primrose -- all with thorns.  And there are other trees and shrubs that I have yet to identify -- also covered with thorns. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Full Circle

It would be appropriate to say that my career has come full circle.  Although it was not my first job out of college, my first career choice was banking. 

When I was at A&M, a very wise individual asked me the question, "If you could do anything for a career, what would it be?"  I answered, "Rancher."

He then proceeded to ask me about resources that I might have at my disposal.  "Does your family own a ranch?" -- No.  "Do you have lots of money?" -- No.  "Do you have someone with lots of money to help you get started?" -- No.  "Will you inherit a bunch of money?" -- No.  "Then, the best advice I can give you is that there is 'more than one way to skin a cat.'"

He told me that I should hold onto that dream, but I would have to find some indirect means of achieving it.  I chose agricultural lending.

When I graduated, I wasn't clear on how to start my career.  I just wanted a job.  Fortunately, that same wise individual (who by the way was my advisor) helped me to get a job.  He warned me that it wouldn't be a high paying job, but that it might open some doors.  It certainly didn't pay much, but it gave me a practical education in how the world works.  I worked for a politician.

My second job was in agricultural lending.  I must confess however, I soon found out I didn't love it.  It was another education.  My supervisor was lazy and used me more as a gopher than a loan officer.  I didn't learn as much as I should have at the time.  It took little more than a year though, to be recruited by another financial institution with whom I stayed for about 7 years.

It was a tough time to be in the lending business.  Interest rates were high, the economy in turmoil and I spent a good deal of time collecting my predecessor's bad decisions.  I again learned much.

I left lending with the idea that I wanted to be on the other side of the loan desk.  I wanted to focus on making an idea/dream come to life rather than searching for why and how it might fall flat.  I wanted to build businesses. 

I spent the next 23 years doing just that; growing businesses.  Most were for someone else, but in recent years I have had ownership interest.

Now, I am back in the financial industry in the role of agricultural loan officer.  But, the world looks different today than it did back in the 80's.  Yes, there is plenty of turmoil in the economy, but now I look at loans with the knowledge that comes from "been there, done that" and it puts things into an entirely new perspective. 

I am looking forward to this next phase of my career.  I see it as my role to help people to achieve their dreams by giving them sound financial advice.  God has an interesting way of growing us to where we need to be.


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Another Year -- And It's Going to be a Good One!

Another year is past.  Welcome to 2015!  When I wrote those words a few minutes after Midnight in a Facebook post, I followed them with, "Sounds like the title of a science fiction movie...."  If you are my age or older, you will understand.

I can recall as a much younger person wondering if I would see the new century.  In 1978, I would have been 20 years old.  The new century was farther away than the number of years I had already lived at that time.  I think when I was that age I expected to go out in a "fiery crash" before I was 39.

As we age, we become wiser.  Most of it is by default -- "the fault" of mistakes made and lived through such as touching a hot stove and realizing you didn't want to do that again! 

As I think about this past year I don't see many of those mistakes.  Other than the first couple of months, it was almost a Sabbatical Year for me.  I left my job in March and since that time I have been self-employed.  Perhaps semi-self-employed is a better description.  I have spent some time writing and taught myself to paint with watercolor.  I have done some consulting work (and actually got paid for it!).  I spent a lot of time in our cow/calf operation and in November we sold it along with the land.  In December we bought another small "ranch" and I have started spending some time getting it ready to receive cattle.

The pace was reasonably slow and I had a break from the seemingly constant travel of many years.  Now, I am going back into the world of the fully employed -- maybe even over-employed!  We are in the process of starting up a stocker calf operation on our land and I just took a full-time job at the bank which I start on Monday.  I also have agreed to do a regular magazine article for a trade publication -- CALF News.  (Click here to see the last article I wrote for them on pages 26-27.)

In many ways, this has been the pattern of my life through the years.  It seems that God has built a few "breaks" into my career that were perfectly timed which prepared me for the next phase of His plan for me.  I am grateful.  I don't do well with too much idle time on my hands, but I also tend to push pretty hard when I have plenty to do.  So, I wear myself out and then need a break. 

The world seems to work that way.  I believe it was Designed that way.  Spring is a time of growing and blooming which quickly turns to Summer when the fruits of our labor begin to ripen in preparation for Fall harvest which fades to a Winter of rest.  The Bible tells us to do our labor in six days and rest on the seventh -- just as God did in the Creation.  Our lives are lived in much the same way.  I have been fortunate in being able to do much the same through several different careers.

Now, I am coming full circle.  Other than spending a little over a year "extending my education" through my first job working for a politician, I have returned to my first true career -- banking.  I am going to be a loan officer again.  I spent almost 7 years lending money many years ago.  That was before I had any real business experience.  Now, I will look at the ideas and dreams that people bring to me through the eyes of someone who has been there.  I am looking forward to helping them realize those dreams.

I think 2015 is going to be a very good year.  I'm not too excited with what is going on in Washington these days, but people will figure out a way to overcome the barriers that the political leeches seek to place in the way of their success.  I still believe, after all these years, in the American Dream and the can-do spirit that permeates rural America.  I am looking forward to using what I have learned through the years in a new way.  Yep, it's going to be a good year.  I have decided.