A person can learn a lot of things in college, some of them learned intentionally and some unintentionally.
I learned my favorite classes were taught by the agronomy department. I didn’t know how interesting agronomy was until I had sat through several classes and looked forward to more.
After graduation, one of the textbooks I kept for myself was from an agronomy class.
The agronomy department also had first rate professors and I learned to respect and admire these men for how they taught and who they were as people.
One of the best lessons I learned in agronomy class had nothing to do with agronomy.
During a class lecture a professor told the class that graduate students would present the subject of their research to him before starting and their purpose was to prove their hypothesis.
Then after conducting their research, they learn that their hypothesis did not prove what they hoped to prove.
The professor told us the graduate students would be so disappointed with that unexpected outcome that did not prove what they were trying to achieve.
Then the professor said one of the greatest lessons I have ever learned.
“I tell them even negative results are still results.”
After almost 50 years I can still hear the professor talking to us and the tone of his voice at that moment. I even remember his name Dr. Joe Stritzel.
I was struck by the simplicity of those few words that were so full of insight.
It told me that failure is part of life, but it doesn’t mean failure if we learn from it. It becomes failure if we do not learn.
Since then I have made many decisions that did not turn out as I had hoped. Those ended with me saying that I was not going to do that again.
I bet you are waiting for an example. Okay, here’s one.
In 1982 I went deeply into debt to buy a new car I wanted. It was a Corvette. I even borrowed the down payment and took on a second job to pay for it.
By the second year, the honeymoon was over and I still had several years of payments to go. I got it paid for eventually and told myself that if I am going to go that far into debt again, it will be for a productive asset, not a luxury item.
I still have the Corvette and I keep it as a reminder of a decision that I made that was based more on emotion, than considering the long term.
No regrets years later, but the next time I went into debt for the long term was for farm land and I knew I could pay for it.
I have made decisions that turned out better than I hoped for.
I left a secure job in 1975 working for the owner of the company to join my uncle on his farm. I had a good job, but a dead end job since I was not married to one of the boss’ daughters.
Besides, I wanted a day when I would work for myself as the owner and that came true in 1998 when I signed the mortgage.
It was a risk, but a calculated risk that I felt comfortable about making.
More than 40 years later, moving to the farm was one of the best decisions of my life.
I also learned that my instinct to leave retail where I worked with the public every day for a job where I worked mainly alone was correct.
I wonder if Dr. Joe Stritzel ever learned that day in class he was teaching more than agronomy.
Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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