How does a farmer get to the top of his game?

by JP on July 1, 2011

It’s been a couple of weeks now since my last blog, the reason being I have been away volunteering on a 10 day trip to Lourdes. This wasn’t just a pilgrimage for people, but also the chance for them to have a holiday like no other and experience a trip away with the Across charity http://www.across-uk.org/.

During this journey I had some time to reflect on life, read a book and spend time with an amazing bunch of people. The book I read was about how people who get to the top of their game, spend at least 10,000 hours honing their skill. So in essence it takes them 10 years (1,000 hrs/year) to become extremely proficient in what they do.

I saw this happen with my own eyes as I witnessed first hand the care the nurses provided on our trip, especially my Aunt Helen (better known amongst us all as Auntie!). You could see how they were all accomplished, professional and proficient in their work as a carer, and also how naturally it came to them. Interestingly they all had spent more than 15 years in their profession.

So what about farmers? Does the same apply to them? Are the farmers that are at the top of their game, the ones who have spent 10,000 hrs getting better at what they do? Or is it also a case of not just doing the work and honing your skill, but also having a love and passion for it that makes all the difference? This brought me back to the nurses again who continuously showed how passionate they were by the care they showed for their patients.

How many farmers are out there who followed into the role as a farmer purely due to a natural succession rather than finding it as a passion and a way of life for them? It does not mean they aren’t as driven and put in equal or greater effort, but are they different to the ones who put 10,000 passionate hours into how they farm and how they can improve and measure their improvements?

Does this explain why there is a gap between the top 10% dairy, arable, pig, sheep and beef farmers compared to the other 90%? Do we consider that the 10% have been focused and consumed in improving every hour they have worked? Can the same be said about vets?

With this in mind, when does a farmer get to the top of his profession? Can it happen at a young age if they’ve been in farming since being a child? Or is it after they come back from college? Imagine knowing in more detail what is needed to make it as a top farmer and passing this on to the next generation as young as possible.

This has made me think about the future and what I will say to my son and daughter, especially now as my son will be starting school in September. I think my words will be to “Follow your passion, put in the hours of practice, but make sure it is focused hours…”

For those who are interested in the book it is called Bounce The myth of talent and the power of practice By Matthew Syed

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