Passion + Grit + PYOT

At the risk of receiving negative comments, I’m going to lay my cards on the table. I hate it when people say farming is a lifestyle. 

Hate. It.

To me, farming is not a lifestyle, it’s a business. No one is born a farmer — though you can have the advantage of being born into a family with an agricultural heritage. Just the same, no one is born a leader, or a salesman, or an artist or any other fill-in-the-blank skill that is acquired with time and energy. 

Each of us is gifted with certain talents and inclinations, that is true. But it takes time and energy to develop those possibilities into strengths and put them to good use. 

I believe that the formula to success is this:

Passion + Grit + PYOT = Success

Success can mean many different things. In business, success can be boiled down to profitability. I am not the kind of person who wants to say that we do what we do for money because I believe there are greater things in life than making money. However, at the basic level, everyone needs to be able to support themselves and the lifestyle — there’s that word again — that they choose to live. For some people, that’s a huge house on the beach with weeks and weeks of vacations and dinners out every night. For others, it’s more modest. Regardless, we work to achieve our own definition of success. 

Most of the farm owners that I work with simply want to be able to sustain their business and support their family. Simple. That’s the success I mean when I talk about success. 

So how do you get there? 

Let’s start at the top: Passion.

The reason why so many people say farming is a lifestyle is because they’re passionate about it. The “Collins English Dictionary” defines "lifestyle" as a set of attitudes, habits or possessions associated with a particular person or group. Farmers are clearly a group of people and they have specific attitudes and habits that render themselves as a particular style of living. Most farmers I know don’t take many days off, rarely get vacations and don’t have the opportunity to "leave their work behind” on any given day. So, I get it. Farming in that sense is a lifestyle, a chosen way to make a living. 

If you don’t have a passion for that kind of living, you’ll never make it. So at minimum, you’ve got to have passion to be successful. 

But it takes more than that. 

You also need grit.

Grit is determination and the ability to stick with something despite the odds and outcome. Angela Lee Duckworth wrote a book on Grit and she defines it as, “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.”

It’s all well and good to be passionate about something. But if you lack the resolve to put in the hard work to turn that passion into productivity, you're not going to get very far. 

Eighty percent of small businesses fail in the first 18 months. 

Let me repeat, 80%!

I’m sure there are lots of reasons why…poor planning, poor market conditions, etc. etc. etc. What makes gritty people successful is that they move on from failure and try something else. One of my favorite quotes is from Theodore Roosevelt: 

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strived valiantly; who errs, who comes again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.

Successful farmers aren’t just passionate about what they do, they have lots of grit. They choose to work 24/7 in a job that is dangerous and unpredictable. Because they love it.

Passion and grit are just two of the three pieces though. The biggest reason why I think businesses fail and people get burned out is because they don’t have the third piece: PYOT.

PYOT stands for Put Yourself Out There

See, you can have the greatest product, service, or idea in the world. But if you’re not willing to Put Yourself Out There and try to convince other people that they need or want what you have to sell, your business isn’t going to do very well. All Ag Media is an agricultural marketing and communications company. Our job is to help farmers and agricultural organizations connect and engage with their audiences. 

We can’t help with the passion and grit part. You have to have that first. But we can help with the PYOT part. 

Where many business owners fail, especially farmers, I’m sad to say, is that they hesitate to ask for the business. Farmers are generally pretty humble people and I get that. But you can be humble and still have a successful business.

Long before I started All Ag Media, I was a gemologist and I co-managed a small, family owned jewelry store. During my career, I sold thousands of dollars worth of jewelry. If there’s something that people don’t need, it’s jewelry. And yet, people spend money on it because it holds some special meaning to them. 

Now, I am a very fiscally conservative person. Spending money on jewelry is not something I do. But helping other people live better lives is. And I learned quickly how powerful the exchange of a gift can be. Jewelry is something we use to mark special occasions. There is a tremendous amount of joy and sentimentality that goes along with a ring or a necklace or pair of earrings. 

To win in jewelry sales, you had to convince the shopper that the jewelry was going to meet whatever emotional need they had. 

Food is different. Everyone has to eat food. But people have a choice in where they buy their food. And while it may be true that only 2% of Americans are farmers, they produce a heck of a lot of food and as a result, consumers have a lot of options to choose from.

If you want people to buy whatever it is you’re raising: meat, produce, fiber, etc, you have to tell people about it and give them a reason to buy it from you.

This doesn’t just apply to farms that are direct marketing and to not make this post any longer than it already is, I’ll get into that later. But especially farms who are direct marketing, you have to connect your passion to your customer’s needs and wants. But more than that, you have to Put Yourself Out There and ask for the sale. 

If you want to live an enjoyable farming lifestyle, you’re going to have to start treating your farm as a business. 

Happy September, everyone. Remember, be amazing and check back soon for Putting Yourself Out There, part two.


Jamie Tiralla