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Fodder for Thought

Changing Your Mind Can Be Good and Traumatic

Challenging and sometimes changing our viewpoints is the key to improving our lives and businesses.


Writing about the cattle business and my past involvement in cattle industry organizations has allowed me to meet a lot of people in the business. Among this crowd, however, I have always noticed the most successful and profitable people have one key defining factor which sets them apart from the rest of the herd.

Would you be interested to know what that superiority is?

It is a shift in paradigms. Each one of these individuals had at one point or another opened his or her mind, shed an old paradigm, and embraced a new one.

On this topic the author Bob Proctor wrote, "Paradigms are nothing more than a multitude of habits that are lodged in our subconscious mind." Proctor is a successful entrepreneur and wealth coach.

Paradigms affect every aspect of your life, from the foods you prefer, to how you walk and talk, to where you live and work. We're not born with paradigms. They aren't instinct. We pick them up along the way, like souvenirs on vacation, collecting and stowing them away in our subconscious mind.

Paradigms are useful because they give us a mental framework from which to work; we don't have to analyze every decision from square one.

Yet the older we get and the more we are exposed to our own habits, the more ingrained our paradigms become in us until at some point they may even become dogma in our minds. At this point, it's hard to realize any other way of doing things.

The individuals I spoke of earlier had freed themselves from such a burden. Unlike their peers, they were able to see the value in a new idea or skill and, in turn, take action to change their paradigm on the subject at hand.

One example of such an individual is Steve Oswald of Oswald Cattle Company in Cotopaxi, Colorado, whom I wrote about previously on my blog back in early May of this year. Oswald's old paradigms were sending him and his ranch broke. He recognized this and sought out new paradigms. He found the answers he needed at a Ranching for Profit school in the winter of 1996.

"It was a big paradigm shift for me," Oswald says. "They have a unique way of looking at economics. It was a life-changing experience for me."

The production-versus-profit mindset is a hard one to overcome. Yet Oswald was able to do so and ensure the future success and profitability of his ranch by doing so.

In a more recent interview with rancher Scott Sims of Sims Cattle Co., LLC, in McFadden, Wyoming, Sims shared with me the difficulty of shifting paradigms when making changes in the grazing management of his cowherd. In 1989, in an effort to find ways to make his family's operation more sustainable and take better care of the land, Sims attended a holistic management workshop in Bozeman, Montana.

Here Sims learned about high-intensity, short-duration grazing. In addition he learned of other ranches having success using windrow or swath grazing with their cowherds during winter. Sims' open-mindedness and enthusiasm allowed him to embrace these new ideas and implement them into his ranch-management strategy. After 20 years of implementing the practice on his family's ranch he has set forth a new, improved paradigm on grazing management for his own son, Scott, who now co-manages the ranch with his father.

The important thing to take away from this is we all have the power to change the way we do something. If you're feeling stuck, if you feel like you're never going to get ahead financially, if your current paradigms are sending your ranch broke, you can do something about it.

However, it requires looking inward and understanding why it is you do the things you do.

Once you come to the realization of what drives your actions -- in this case management decisions -- you'll be able to change them. If you are willing.

Personal awareness of what drives us to make the decisions we do, open-mindedness to new ideas, and a continual drive to improve and ultimately profit are the recipe for success in the cattle business.

Albert Einstein was right when he said doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results truly is insanity. In the ranching business it certainly can be disastrous to your bottom line.

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