I am certain that at one time or another we have all asked and doubted ourselves about whether we are successful. We all WANT to be successful. But what does success really look like? Unfortunately, it’s much too easy to focus on what we haven’t accomplished and compare ourselves to the achievements of others. I turned 30 last month and this was the first year I wasn’t excited to turn yet another year older, to pass another milestone in my life. I was worried about whether I had really been successful to date, and whether I had actually been able to accomplish my goals (both the realistic and unrealistic ones). I have always been motivated and determined to reach my goals. My 20 year old self had big plans, and big goals to conquer.
I recently started listening to pod casts, and I got into the TED Radio Hour episode about success, and how it has become synonymous with financial wealth, influence and status. Even in this hour long episode, experts on success have differing opinions on success, and what determines whether someone will be successful. One of the interview’s in the episode was with Mike Rowe who was the host of Dirty Jobs. He challenged the meaning of success we are all used to believing and seeing by travelling the country learning about individuals who work hard for a living at their dirty jobs. He speaks about how these individuals with dirty jobs who are successful don’t measure up to how society is used to evaluating it. His view was intriguing. He said “you don’t follow your passion, you take it with you. If you are following your passion and you are happy, great! But, if you aren’t happy, and you’re just doing it because of inertia, someone needs to give you a little slap.” Every individual’s career and life has different characters and chapters, and you shouldn’t discredit your own experiences because it doesn’t match someone else’s story or view of success.
It doesn’t matter what area of agriculture you are working in whether it’s getting dirty working on a farm, or in an office, success is what you want to make of it. I grew up on a cash cropping farm and I didn’t have a professional wardrobe until I was 25. I moved from working in crop research to working in an office and I sure as heck wasn’t going to be spending money on good clothes to wear them in the field where they were likely to get ruined. I worked with a great team and it really was a sense of accomplishment coming home after a day in the field covered in a thick layer of dirt. It did take me awhile to get used to being at a desk all day but this month marks five years working at AAC. I love being able to learn about the industry and their initiatives to keep agriculture competitive. These are two very different jobs, but as I reflect on my past and present experiences, I do consider them both very significant contributors to my overall success. Admittedly, between these two jobs I was unemployed for five months, but I kept myself busy applying to jobs and helping on the farm. I was also able to push myself outside of my comfort zone and complete the Advanced Agricultural Leadership Program (AALP), travel (various states in the U.S., other provinces, and South America) and purchase my first home in my 20’s. All of these experiences have helped me round out my skill set, and develop long lasting friendships and networks.
Perceptions of success will change over time, both for individuals and for an industry overall. Just like my idea of success at 20 was different from now, the agriculture industry has evolved and changed over the last decade. Mike Rowe’s final comment that really resonated with me was about the business owners he visited for the show Dirty Jobs. He said that they looked at the way everyone else was going and went in the opposite direction. Achieving success doesn’t mean you have to follow what society has defined as successful. If you are following your passion and are happy, then keep doing what you’re doing. If you aren’t happy with where you’re headed, there’s always time to pick up your passion and take it with you to your next adventure. Through discussions, networking and information sharing, the members of the AWN will influence the agriculture industry’s view of success in the future. These influences may mean norms will be having more women on boards, more women in leadership roles, and also empowering others to continue meet and achieve their goals. I can’t wait for what will become of the next decade!
PS – for anyone who is approaching 30, like all my friends who were already wiser than me said: it really isn’t that bad!
– Carolyn Kozak
You can follow Carolyn on twitter @carokozy