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“You might have already won.” Lessons from 2021 – Part 4 of 4

Our year end blog journey looked like this:

Part 1: I was completely right, for once.
Pricing ahead of inflation due to value creation realized by your audience. You simply must charge what the experience you create is worth! Those who did, and ignored the few, loud critics, profited well this season.

Part 2: The un-timely (timely) death of novelty.
The public is a desperately hungry, novelty-seeking beast that will stop at nothing to find something new and then brag about their finding thereof. Feed ‘NEW’ to them.

Part 3: Intensify the experience.
More might not be the answer if you can give more intense experiences with intensity coming in many formats….which leads us to today’s installment and my final thoughts from this season:

Part 4: You might have already won.
I have a sneaking suspicion that we’re very much alike. You, like me, probably want more.
Ambition is a very base human motivation. We want more. Since the dawn of time, we’ve wanted more food, more shelter, more power, more influence. Humans are wired to seek more.

We all know people who are decidedly not ambitious, don’t we? They waste their time, talk about meaningless things, and wait for the world to come to them, which the world never does.

This ambitious drive for more fuels our creativity and our businesses and yields societal progress. It is also the kindling for envy, jealously, spite, and frustration.

It is the knife’s edge we walk as ambitious people. To burn the ambition as fuel without setting our house on fire. To work crazy hours in season, but break for family Christmas. To be both ambitious and content; the most delicate balance.

Honestly, rather than balance on the fence, I tended to leap back and forth from workaholism to a complete abdication of responsibility. Back and forth, and back and forth, my balance only in the long term, seldom in the short.
I was struck by a different concept while listening to a podcast from Chuck Obremski about “How to find lasting satisfaction.” Hear the messages here.
His premise was that all our ambition is motivated by some feeling of dissatisfaction. Try as we might, we can’t find anything to fill the hole, to ‘satisfy ourselves.’

His exercise is a useful one: Imagine the next big thing you know will satisfy you. Go ahead and ponder that for a moment:
Is it X in revenue?
Is it the perfect spouse?
Is it that big house on the hill?
Is it that new Cybertruck from Elon?

Think about it and how amazing it would feel to achieve it! You would FINALLY be satisfied… wouldn’t you?

Remember the last time you promised yourself you’d be satisfied?
Remember how long that incredible feeling lasted?
Remember what happened next?

You had to fill all those orders, and that was kind of a pain.

You realized that that beautiful, perfect spouse had a few quirks that were ‘unadvertised’ during the dating time.

The house needed new gutters, sprung a leak in the basement, and it takes an hour to mow the lawn every week.

Searching for a Supercharging station on your road trip is less fun than stopping at any old gas station.
…and slowly, dissatisfaction crept in again.

Chuck teaches that nothing but the infinite love of Christ can fill that empty hole in a person’s spirit, which I believe is true, THOUGH that belief still leaves a lot of time and space here on Earth in which we must live and interact and make good decisions.

We’re wired for dissatisfaction to generate ambition to deploy in competition and create progress, yet contentment, love, and peace yield the most significant rewards!

So what are we to do?

The tension between ambition and contentment will always live inside us. All I can find (and please send me your ideas too!) are some strategies to encourage me into better patterns, better balance.

These strategies coalesced around a concept that hit me on a busy Fall day as the Fun Park was packed and the rain started to roll in.

I was working myself up into quite a frustrated state. We had guests stranded in the pumpkin patch as the sprinkles turned into a steady rain. I jumped into the backup wagon and roared off towards the patch.

“Why was this happening!”
“Why today and not on a stupid old Tuesday!”
“Why on us in October! We’re doing the right things and being gosh darn nice to people!”
“Why can’t it rain on those drought-stricken states? They would love this!”

I arrived in the patch as it really started to pour. Guests were delighted to see an unexpected spare tractor and particularly happy the wagon had a canopy under which they could huddle.

I plastered on a ‘customer service’ smile as I loaded guests onto my wagon, making a joke or two, making the best of it as only agritourism operators like you and me know how; then I shut the gate and headed back towards the pumpkin checkout and the parking lot.

I rounded the shed earnestly wishing this stupid day would just be over. As I pulled towards the lot, it hit me.

Cars. A sea of parked cars. Guests gathered under the barn porch. People huddled under the pavilion. Two wagons in front of me unloading damp pumpkin pickers. Parents showed kids how to ‘tough it out’ as children happily splashed in mud puddles.

I had been so incredibly ungrateful.

All this time, I’d been lamenting over ‘how many people weren’t going to be coming to the farm,’ and had overlooked the people here, right now, spending their precious family time with us. We had already won.

You might have already won. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be ambitious. I’m simply saying that you should calibrate your ambition from the right starting point.

Did you sleep in a house? Eat today? Hug your kids? Have employees come back to work again today? Have fuel for the tractor? Do you own a farm? Does the heat work?

You might realize that you start every single day as a total winner and that ANYTHING good you grow, do, build, create, market, sell, plant, plan, or harvest is a bonus, a step forward, an achievement.

Two things happened at the end of that wagon ride.
First, as I unlocked the gate of the wagon loaded with soaking wet pumpkin pickers, I announced that “Today, your pumpkins are FREE, because we are so thankful you came despite the weather forecast.” The response was a wild cheer from even the most dampened spirit

Second, I started getting regular and granular with my gratitude. Anytime I’d feel that dissatisfaction creeping into my psyche, I’d start saying, ‘Thank you’ under my breath – Thank you for trash to pick-up, for people parking wrong – at least they’re here!, for people we had to save from the maze, for employees, for iPads, for finding some donut boxes for the week, –Gratitude for ANYTHING and EVERYTHING.

I’m sure more than one employee thought, ‘Farmer Hugh has lost it,’ but I learned that it is pretty challenging to be incredibly grateful and miserable at the same time.

As Christmas time rolls around, I hope you spend time with your family, and I hope you spend some time with yourself, alone. Solitary reflection is an underrated tool to keep hard-driving, ambitious people not only sane but creative.
Next year will be filled with its own triumphs and challenges. I hope you enter 2022 boldly, knowing that…

You might have already won.

All the best,

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