Thoughts on remaining positive through tough times
"...For when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow." (James 1:3)
I have a list hanging above my desk that is titled: "21 Suggestions for Success." I am not sure where I ran across this gem, but it was written by H. Jackson Brown, Jr. I know, his name sounds more like that of a rhythm-and-blues performer than a philosopher. Regardless of H. Jackson's vocation, the list he compiled has always made a lot of sense to me. I have used some of the more salient points of this list with my own sons during some of those teachable moments, especially the first item on the list: "Marry the right person. This one decision will determine 90% of your happiness or misery." As I look down the list, I am struck by how many of these 21 suggestions are obviously followed by the majority of our membership. In fact, the list describes traits and behaviors that fit most veterinarians, but especially swine veterinarians. I have actually heard some of these same suggestions over the years at our annual meetings ... many times from the Dunne Lecturer. I wasn't going to share the entire list with you in this forum, but now, after this tease, it just wouldn't be right if I didn't. So here goes:
- Marry the right person. This one decision will determine 90% of your happiness or misery.
- Work at something you enjoy and that's worthy of your time and talent.
- Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully.
- Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know.
- Be forgiving of yourself and others.
- Be generous.
- Have a grateful heart.
- Persistence, persistence, persistence.
- Discipline yourself to save money on even the most modest salary.
- Treat everyone you meet like you want to be treated.
- Commit yourself to constant improvement.
- Commit yourself to quality.
- Understand that happiness is not based on possession, power, or prestige, but on relationships with people you love and respect.
- Be loyal.
- Be honest.
- Be a self-starter.
- Be decisive even if it means you'll sometimes be wrong.
- Stop blaming others. Take responsibility for every area of your life.
- Be bold and courageous. When you look back on your life, you'll regret the things you didn't do more than the ones you did.
- Take good care of the ones you love.
- Don't do anything that wouldn't make your Mom proud.
See what I mean? I can almost hear Al Leman, Ralph Vinson, Steve Henry, Larry Rueff, or David Reeves hammering out this list in front of the general session.
As I write this, the swine industry is still reeling from the unprecedented period of low prices that began in 1998. Six years later, the price of live hogs is still hovering at or below breakeven for the majority of producers. The losses of equity in the swine industry have been devastating. Economist after economist tells us that there are no positive signals in the market. It is difficult to find much positive news anywhere in swine production. I have heard and repeated all the clichés about down markets and how they just cannot last forever. The other livestock industries seem to offer solid proof that things can and will get better. How many beef producers anticipated what happened to their commodity in 2003 or how devastating one case of BSE could be? So how do we retain a positive attitude while keeping our clients, customers, co-workers, and employees positive?
In tough times such as these, it is a challenge to maintain a positive attitude and remember what is really important in our lives. Your true net worth cannot be determined by numbers on the financial statements, and the true measure of character is not where you stand in times of comfort and convenience, but where you stand at times of challenge and controversy. You must look for ways to get through these difficult and trying times and to keep everything in proper perspective, to persist and survive until the market cycle returns to profitability.
So how do you stay positive amid all the negativity? Start by taking stock of all the many blessings that He has provided us and give thanks. We must always remember that we are never in this alone. Family, friends, and God are with us always. To be sure, the equity crisis and cash drought confronting producers are gut-wrenching problems. However, you do not have to look very far to see that those problems pale in comparison to the crises that some of our fellow life travelers face every day. This crisis has provided an opportunity to become better communicators with our family, colleagues, bankers, neighbors, and producers.
A good laugh is always healthy for the soul. Finding humor may not be easy at times, but I have found that when all else fails, I can always laugh at myself! Heck, I have to remind people occasionally that I was the first AASV officer to run unopposed and almost get beaten!
Finally, do not lose faith, and never give up. Persist while others are quitting. Smile while others are frowning. Maintain a positive mental attitude no matter what the circumstances. Persistence is based on character, which is controlled by values and looks for solutions. Abraham Lincoln once said, "Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing."
Who is the most positive and enthusiastic person you know? I challenge you to become that person, but remember, as a member of the AASV, you will have some competition. And by the way, look for me in Des Moines at our annual meeting. I'll be one of those with a big smile on my face!