College Is Good But Mentors May Be Better

Fodder for Thought

Find people who are the best at what they do and learn from them.

Published on: November 1, 2012

As I explained in my last post, I did not discover my passion for the cattle business until a few years ago. At the time, when this realization came to me, I began to consume information in any form I could access, from books to online articles, which would help me to learn more about my newfound obsession.

At the time, I thought places like industry organizations or land-grant universities were the only places I would be able to learn the information I craved so much. I was not fortunate enough to grow up in a ranching family and at the time had limited knowledge of those individuals who were truly worth learning from in the business. Many other young producers may be or have been in similar positions, especially those who come from non-traditional backgrounds.

I can say from experience, that I wish I had known then the many amazing people I have discovered since my quest for learning the ins and outs of the cattle business began. The least I can do is to give you my perspective on what I have learned along the way.

First, let us get one thing straight. You need to realize you will never learn everything. You can never “know it all.” Thinking that you do “know it all,” will seriously limit both your opportunities and the amount of individuals willing to help you along the way. Recognize life is a journey, filled with a never-ending need to keep learning. The sooner you realize this, the better off you will be.

Second, remember what I said before about industry organizations and land-grant universities? While they may be good sources of certain kinds of information (such as legislative issues, scientific research, earning a college degrees), realize they are not the only or the best option for everyone.

By far the best way I have found to learn is by actually gaining firsthand experience at what it is I want to do.  If I could have a do-over, knowing the individuals that I do now, I would instead choose to spend more time learning from these individuals than attending classes and industry conferences. In the end, I feel I would have come out farther ahead because of it. Nothing can replace the valuable lessons learned from working firsthand with people who are the best at what they do, whether that is stockmanship or cattle marketing.

So while I recommend reading books and taking classes on these and other subjects related to the cattle industry. I want to emphasize more the importance of seeking out good mentors.

Find those people in your interest area who are the best at what they do. Develop a relationship with them. Learn from them. And always respect them.

At one time they were in the same position as you and I. It is up to us to listen and learn from their knowledge and experiences and, in turn, use these lessons to help us reach the goals we have set for ourselves along the way.