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Wise words, in nugget form

From farming to parenting, sometimes the best advice arrives tucked in a story.

My oldest and I were gathered around the kitchen counter last week talking about the CEO program she’s in, where she and a bunch of high school friends learn to be entrepreneurs by maximizing resources in the community. And like any good project where you’re working with people, the working-with-people part gets hard.

So I whipped out a story I’d written with Bob Easter, where he posed a question that boiled down everything I’ve ever observed about leadership into one succinct sentence: “How do you get people to do things they really don’t want to do?” Then he talked about army crawling in the mud, and transactional vs. transformational leadership.

Good stuff.

Dr. Easter’s story was part of a series in Prairie Farmer we call Prairie Profiles, asking deep questions of an ag leader about their life and legacy. His weren’t the first wise words from that series that have hung with me.

More often than not, these words have changed the way I parent — like when John Sullivans parents told him and his arguing siblings: “Figure it out. Just get along.”

They’ve changed the way we volunteer, like when Ron Moore said, “You can get more things done in the hallways or at dinner.”

How we manage life, like when Wayne Rosenthal said, “Worry about what you can do with what you have. You can always do more than you think you can.”

How Ted Mottaz spots young people going places: “They stay on task. They build good relationships. They’re willing to take evaluation.”

Or Ed McMillan on careers: “Focus on doing the best job you can at the job you’re in. Quit worrying about where you’re going next.”

Colleen Callahan on your calling: “Life isn’t fair, but that doesn’t exempt you from trying to make it that way.”

And especially Rod Weinzierl on people: “It’s all about relationships. Cultivate them.”

We’re going to start talking about our failures around the dinner table, thanks to Kim Kidwell and her description of what parents do right to raise resilient kids.

And I pay more attention to young people around me, thanks to Lynn Rohrscheib and her neighbors: “Always know that potentially, there’s somebody looking up to you.”

See? I told you they were wise.

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