Over the course of my life, I haven’t had very many people I could rightly call a “mentor”. I’ve had teachers in the past of course, and I enjoyed speaking with many of them as well, but there was never a time that I believe I could call them something like a full-blown mentor. That being said, I have had people that I’ve looked up to and saw as inspirations and individuals to be learned from and there are very few people that I have as much respect for as my father Chad. Born just outside of the town we live near to this day, my father has lived in Nebraska all his life. He grew up here, attended elementary through high school here, and eventually followed the course to attending the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as well. When I asked him why he decided to attend at UNL rather than somewhere out of state, he said that he couldn’t imagine living in a place where his family and the place he grew up would be farther than a few hours away, so he just decided that the natural follow-up to that would be to attend a nearby college.
As for his profession, my father is a farmer by trade. He’s owned, plowed, and harvested his own fields for years now, just as his father Chuck, my grandfather, did before him. He was raised around a farm, tending cattle before they expanded their corn and bean harvesting operations, and as he puts it, “just fell into it”. That isn’t to say that my father went into UNL looking for an agricultural degree. He actually majored in Business with minors in Communications and Foreign Language. After he graduated, he left to work for Union Pacific for a time, but he claims he could never get used to working in a cubicle. He worked there for a time, made connections through the business and when time passed and he returned to farming, he used those connections and business degree to expand on the already existing farming operations, slowly phasing out the cattle work before eventually becoming a dedicated bean/corn producer.
When I asked him just what sort of academic experiences had a lasting impact on him, he claims that the one that has had the most effect would have to be attaining his Business degree. He gained so much experience both from the work it took to gain that degree as well as with the administrative work that came after, that he was able to utilize that into his eventual farming career. It had proven its worth time and time again and has only helped him throughout his life, both before and after he became his own boss. Though to go along with this, he said that much of his experience also came from working with his own father, Chuck. Working on the cattle with his father at a young age may not have given much in the way of academic experience, but it gave him the work ethic to see things through to the end, not shy away from things that need to be done, and to always remember that you have to love what you do or there’s just no point.
When I asked him what sort of reading he would suggest to a student that was trying to find their way in life, he did’t have an idea off the top of his head. What he did say was to not be afraid of trying different things once your’e out in the world and more importantly not to be afraid of failing in those things. Life isn’t always about success, despite what many people would claim these days. It isn’t our success that show who we are and help us grow. We learn more from out failures than we ever could from our successes. So, as he said, go out there and find something you love doing. It may take a while to find that thing, but it’ll be worth it in the end and you’ll have learned a lot along the way.
His current position, as I stated earlier, is that of a self-employed farmer. He owns his own land, equipment, and other such things. His time with the Union Pacific helped him learn and experience a number of situations that helped teach him what he would need to know for what is essentially him running his own business. His work at earning a Business degree was certainly no small factor to that either. His time with his father Chuck as a hired hand helped him learn just what a real days work was and the satisfaction that could come along with that. His time tending cattle as a child may not have been glamorous, but it gave him more life lessons than any self-help book or research document ever could.
And as we were closing out, I asked him of there was any other bits of advice he had for college students like me and many others. He thought about it, and simply gave the simplified version of what he had said previously. “Don’t be afraid to fail.” In a time were the push to succeed, come hell or high water, rain or shine, seems at an all time high and people can become so petrified at the thought of failing that they freeze up and fail because of that fear, these sorts of words are the kind that people need to hear more often. Do your best and give it your all, but if things still don’t work out, then to heck with it. Try again or maybe consider moving on to something else. Failure does not equal defeat. You’re only defeated when you don’t learn from your failures.
I appreciate the time you’ve taken to reading this article and remember, don’t ever stop looking for that thing that makes you happy and always learn from the times you don’t succeed.