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  • Tara Smith

Win Or Learn

"I never lose. I either win or I learn." Nelson Mandela

We have taken on a big endeavor here at the ranch. A completely new enterprise. It's bold. Go big or go home kind of bold. We brought in yearlings, a lot of yearlings (or at least a lot for us), which required a big water and fencing infrastructure development. Our ranch has been a closed herd for my lifetime, so bringing in outside cattle is way out of my comfort zone. The decisions we made to do this did not come quickly or without significant scrutiny, analysis, figuring, and using some excellent resources. We ran the gross margins, we analyzed the risks, we used weighted decision grids, we designed a water plan, we designed a fencing plan, we made a grazing chart, we created a drought plan, we planned and prepared in every way we could possibly think of. Ultimately, we decided to proceed forth.

This endeavor is something different than what we've done in 115 years of ranching on this chunk of land. I think that fact alone is what makes me the most nervous. I trust what my dad, grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather did before me. It's the foundation on which I stand. Their decisions and actions are the reason I have the autonomy to continue ranching today, and I greatly respect that.

However, I know that growing means stepping out of my comfort zone and will not come without scrutiny from the outside. There are family, friends, and neighbors who have criticized our ideas and choices. They will roll their eyes at our successes and laugh at our failures. They aren’t bad people, it’s just the way it is, call it the human condition, and I’ve accepted that. I've probably done the same to them at one point or another. I don’t hold it against them, but I also don’t allow their opinions to affect my decisions or control me out of fear of making mistakes. Mistakes will be made. That is simply part of the learning process. But as Mandela said, “I never lose. I either win or I learn,” and that is my mantra with this undertaking. As long as we are constantly working to mitigate those mistakes, we have nothing to be ashamed of. We also have a wonderful support group of family, friends, and neighbors who are cheering us on and celebrating our successes with us. Their insights and perspectives have been invaluable.

I tell you this, because I want to encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone. It doesn’t have to be the same way we have done it. Find your own unique way. But find ways to better yourself. This picture is of my five-year-old niece wrestling calves at our branding. She was very scared at first. She didn’t really want to do it, actually. But with some coaxing, she gave it a try. She didn’t do it perfectly, but she kept learning, and by the end of the day was doing a great job. Imagine if we criticized all young kids who try something new and make mistakes. I want to teach kids that it’s okay to step out of your comfort zone, even if it ruffles the feathers of the group and makes you less popular. I want kids to say they learned from the example we set.

Side note: Look at those arms on that girl!!! She is a BOSS.

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