The Most Important Thing I Ever Learned, I Learned from Farming

When I was 11 years old, my mom remarried and we moved to a town called Lela, Oklahoma, a town so small that there is no census information to find online. Perhaps the biggest thing in Lela, to me at least, was a feedlot that was owned by my then-step dad’s brother, and it’s at this feedlot where I first learned how to work.

My biggest responsibility at such a young age was washing out cattle trailers, AFTER they had been on week-long runs from Oklahoma to Kansas to Missouri to Texas and back, hauling a hundred or so head of cattle in each “run.”

These cattle weren’t very well behaved either. I don’t think a single one took into consideration that they were going on a long trip, and that they might need to use the restroom before they arrived at their destination. They just each decided to take the biggest crap that they could muster right there in that trailer, and then proceeded to stomp around in it for a couple hundred miles until they reached their destination, where there would be a 4th grade kid waiting to clean up after them. (I never understood how it could get on the ceiling, either.)

Yes, that was my first job. I would put on my swim trunks and some rubber boots and climb right into that trailer and wash all of that, uh, “stuff” right out. And there was a small fleet of trucks to clean.

By the time I was in 5th grade, though, I graduated to a much better job: driving a tractor. I’ll never forget that moment. The tractor was a John Deere 4320, and it would be my summer vehicle of choice for the next 3 summers. I’d even drive that thing to football practice sometimes. In my memory, it was huge. In reality it probably wasn’t, but it was awesome.

My first job on that tractor was “discing.” Basically, that’s a contraption with lots of rows of “discs” that was attached to the tractor, and you just pull it around the field, in lawn mowing fashion, breaking up the ground so that we could plant wheat for the cattle. It was actually a rather satisfying job, and success was easily measured. I would get on that tractor at about 6 a.m. in the summer and pull that disc around until around 6 p.m. at night. No, there weren’t child labor laws in effect at the time, at least not in Lela.Once the field was in the proper shape, after a few times discing it, we would then get the “drill” (it didn’t look anything like a drill) and we would fill it full of seeds and drive it round and round the field, “drilling” the seeds into the ground so that they could grow into the wheat we would use to feed the cattle. T

That wheat would eventually turn into the stuff that I washed out of trailers. Circle of life I guess!

During this time of my life, I learned so much, perhaps most importantly, I learned what it meant to really work. When I think about planting and harvesting, this time in my life comes to mind.

I think faith must come easier for farmers. Not faith in God, necessarily, although every farmer I know believes in God, but faith in the law of sowing and reaping. I don’t think a single farmer that I ever knew doubted that if the conditions were right, the law would work. This is the basic law; plant the seed, get the conditions as optimal as possible for that seed to grow, wait the appropriate amount of time, then harvest the crop. If all those things happened, then the result would be thousands of times the amount of seeds that were planted. Maybe hundreds of thousands of times. It’s really fascinating when you think about it.

I don’t know of a single farmer that ever thought as he’s planting the seeds, “man, I sure hope it works this time! I sure hope these seeds grow!”

What they do worry about is the climate that they will experience while those seeds are underground. They worry about too much rain, or too little. Too much heat, or a frost, or insects or a number of other environmental concerns. That’s the only thing they can’t control in the whole process. What they DON’T worry about though, is whether the law of planting and reaping will work. That’s the given.

So here’s the whole point of why I am telling this story: we have it better than farmers! The law of sowing and reaping isn’t just true about wheat seeds, it’s true of anything that’s planted. 

Whatever we plant will grow.

It’s just as simple as that. We just have to make sure we take care of a few things, but unlike the farmer, we have COMPLETE CONTROL OF THE ENTIRE PROCESS. We control what we plant. We control how much of it we plant. And we control the climate. And just like the farmer, the climate is the most important part to growth. The “climate” that we control is our attitude during the process. Our faith that the process is working. Our self-talk and our positivity. Our mindset during the process. Our persistence in doing the thing that our heart tells us to keep doing.

How many times have we had an imagination, a dream, or a desire to do something great in life, or a belief in something that we know deep down is really great for us and for our family, or our future, and half way through the process we lose hope, or listen to some negative person’s take, or just simply give up on the process? How many times have we started something with a great attitude and an incredible amount of positive energy, only to change our mind half way through, or encounter some challenge, and all of the sudden we change that positive mindset to a negative one? Well, that’s the equivalent of turning off the water to the field, or increasing the heat to intolerable levels, or letting weeds take over. Our mindset is the most crucial thing to the whole process. 

We self-sabotage our own futures by the thoughts and attitudes that we allow into our minds.

The only thing we have 100% control of is our minds, our attitudes. I’m convinced that the reason this is true is because it’s the ABSOLUTE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN OUR LIVES. We have been given complete control of the most important thing! That way, there is never any legitimate excuse. If we couldn’t control our minds, then we would have all the excuse in the world for never getting what we dream of getting. Since we do have that control, the law of sowing and reaping, planting and harvesting is most true in our lives. Nature simply shows us what’s true about ourselves.

Our mind is the soil in which we plant every day. It’s a shame that most days we take no consideration to what we are planting. We will simply allow anything in the world in there, into the most sacred place we possess. Without thought to the repercussions, we will allow the most negative, destructive and hope-robbing things and people into our minds. We will go to sleep thinking about those things, not realizing that EVERYTHING that goes into the soil of our mind will start growing. It has to. It doesn’t have a choice not to grow. Just like that seed that’s planted into the ground doesn’t have a choice, but rather is controlled by a law of nature, the thoughts we choose to think take root as well, and immediately start the process of growing.

So let’s do this. As we move forward from today, let’s make the choice to allow only those things in our minds that are the things we want to take root and grow. Let’s commit together to take those things we imagine and plant them deep into our minds and not give up on them. Water them with positive attitudes and optimism and faith. Let’s take control of every thought and whip it into shape. Let’s take ownership of the fertile ground that resides between our ears. In the right time, we will get the result we want.

So now it’s up to us. And we are back to the hardest part: what do we really want to see grow?