Good is the enemy of great. I had never heard this expression until my daughter’s Cross Country coach made it the mantra of this year’s season. We all strive to be good at what we do—do we sometimes settle for good when we can be great?
How do we protect ourselves from falling into complacency just because we are good?
I am always amazed at the “life lessons” that I learn from parenting and mentoring my girls. I encourage them to dream big and set goals to help those dreams become reality. Possibly even more important than establishing and reaching goals is the commitment to create new goals once the old ones have been accomplished.
Moving the bar higher with each successful accomplishment protects us against
good becoming the enemy of great.
As I reminded my favorite 7thgrader this weekend to set new goals for the remainder of the Cross Country season (she has reached all of the ones that she set at the beginning of the season), I found myself thinking that I might need to take my own advice.
More than a decade ago, I made the commitment to change the management philosophy at my cattle feed yard. I promised myself that a renewed focus on quality—quality animals, quality care, and quality beef—would permeate both my business plan and the everyday actions on my farm.
To accomplish this, I made the following goals:
- To become my own cattle buyer (http://feedyardfoodie.wordpress.com/2011/10/13/the-cattle-buyer/)…
- To work with my rancher partners to improve the care that we offer to our animals and the quality of the beef that those animals produce…
- To follow animal performance all of the way through the packing plant to ensure that I am producing high quality beef…
- To reconfigure the way that we offer care at the feed yard with the focus on “what is right for the calf”…This required developing a solid understanding of bovine psychology and implementing what I call holistic care.
Today, I am the cattle buyer and work directly with the ranchers who provide more than 85% of my cattle. I also follow those animals all of the way through the packing plant to understand the quality of the beef that they make. Finally, our focus at the feed yard is to provide consistent and appropriate care to our animals with our days revolving around their needs.
I believe that I am good at what I do. We benchmark cattle performance (health, pounds of weight gained each day, the amount of feed required to get that weight gain, and carcass quality at the packing plant) to ensure that I am good at what I do. The bottom line is that when I offer good care, my cattle thrive and make good beef.
What I realized last weekend was that although I am good, I need to work to be better. A reader recently asked why I wean any calves at the feed yard when I know (and scientific studies show) that the animals would get along better if they were weaned on the farm of origin.
The answer to that question is that sometimes my ranchers ask me to wean their calves at the feed yard when it would be logistically difficult for them to wean them on the ranch (this year we are weaning about 15% of our cattle at the feed yard instead of the home ranch). While our decisions are mostly based on the availability of natural resources (feed for the cattle), perhaps I need to work harder to encourage all of my ranchers to look for ways to more consistently wean their calves on the home ranch.
Perhaps if I placed more of a priority on this, I could shift my cattle care from good to great…I think that after I get finished weaning calves in a few weeks that I need to take the time to make a new set of goals for myself to ensure that good is not the enemy of great on my farm.