I was asked recently to share something I’ve learned from the farming life that I commenced after retiring from my first career. Here is an expanded version of what I submitted for publication:
Know what you’re passionate about and engage in it daily. Farming by its nature has its cycles and ups and downs. One of my mentors reminded me recently that along with livestock, for instance, there’s deadstock. Not easy to deal with, but part of the territory.
Most of us get involved in farming because it’s something we’re interested in but also for other, more deep-seated, reasons. My particular interest is in sustainable agriculture and the role that rare breeds can play in sustainable systems. In particular, my passion is working ponies. I have found that I can weather the ups and downs of farming better if I interact with a pony in some way every day.
Sometimes we don’t take time to identify exactly what what we’re passionate about. I am married to a man who has been clear about his passion since he was a teenager and has figured out how to live it ever since. I tell him he’s unusual; that most people can’t see their own passion as clearly as he does. He finds that hard to believe. I’m living proof of taking the long road, of course, as I’m now on my third ‘career’. This one has lasted longer than the other two because I finally found what feeds my soul. I’ve watched other people bounce around in life from one thing to another, clearly searching for their passion. They’ve helped me understand that it’s worth the time to figure out what moves us and to hang on once we find it, if for no other reason than to avoid wasting precious life energy bouncing around.
Several years ago I cut a saying out of an advertisement. It reads, “If no one else shares your level of passion, you are where you belong.” When the going gets rough, I re-read this saying. Because my passion is my unique contribution to the world, staying focused on it reduces stress, minimizes tension in relationships, and renews my determination. I would have quit long before now if I weren’t passionate about what I’m doing.
Another quote I’ve found helpful about passion is from E.O. Wilson, the renowned biologist. It too suggests that following your unique calling in life can be a lonely road but is nevertheless an important one. ”You are capable of more than you know. Choose a goal that seems right for you and strive to be the best, however hard the path. Aim high. Behave honorably. Prepare to be alone at times and to endure failure. Persist! The world needs all you can give.” Enough said.