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5 swine industry resolutions for 2023

Jobs, careers and life in general are extremely fragile; enjoy them while you can as they can disappear in an instant.

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The dawn of a new year is often accompanied by improvement goals. We often focus on tightening our waist line, reigning in our budget or spending less time staring at our smart phones. Resolutions often don't stick but the turning of the calendar from one year to the next does provide momentum to tackle the hardest and most important aspect of change, and that's to simply get started. 

In the spirit of recommending goals that will sustain past January, I'll share some timeless resolution ideas that originated from stoic philosophers thousands of years ago that still hold up extremely well today.

Resolution #1:  Focus on what you control
The dichotomy of control can make us all feel somewhat helpless, the reality is we don't control what happens to us. We don't control what happened yesterday, we don't control what will happen tomorrow and we don't have any control over the circumstances and situations life brings at us today. All we control is our response at the present moment, how we handle the circumstances and situations as they unfold in real time. 

While we know this, we tend to spend a lot of energy and resources aimed at those things that are out of our control. We spend a lot of time rehashing the past, reviewing our grievances in great detail about how unlucky or unfortunate we've been. We also spend a lot of time fretting over the future.  "We agonize in anticipation much more than in reality" is a quote I think about almost daily when talking to people about how they feel and what they're working on. 

Keep in mind you have 100% of your energy and resources available to deploy, any ounce of energy or any volume of resources you spend on something other than working through the very important situations that presently confront us leaves us with less ability to combat the challenges we all face in business and life. You control your thoughts, you control your emotions and you control your effort – put your energy into controlling those three things at all times and embrace the fact that you can't always control what happens to you or the outcomes we so dearly desire. Control how you respond to what happens, it's truly the only thing you control.

Resolution #2:  The obstacle is the way forward
Challenges often present themselves as an unseen obstacle preventing us from accomplishing something we desire. In the world of business planning we often refer to these obstacles as "threats" – those things that can derail our plans and cripple our performance. 

Disease represents a perfect example. Every healthy sow farm in the United States is planning to hit 30+ pigs per sow per year in 2023 and the most common barrier toward that success is disease. Whether your barrier is disease prevention through biosecurity, effective disease control and treatment when those disease outbreaks do hit, or the barriers that your antibiotic-free marketing program puts on access to effective treatments for sick pigs, those barriers are both an uncomfortable problem and the path forward for your farm. Failure to overcome those barriers will result in failure to accomplish your goals. 

The obstacle may be large and may feel overwhelming but it provides you with focus – to be successful the obstacle must become the way forward and you must focus your energy and resources on overcoming the obstacle.

Resolution #3:  Minimize ego
Ego is an internal force that tells you you're better than other people, that everything you do is fantastic and that you were pre-ordained to be a success. Ego is different than confidence – confidence is based on what's earned, what you've accomplished. Ego is the voice in your head that tells you deserve something without any evidence that you've worked harder than your peers to earn it. 

Ego prevents you from accepting feedback and a failure to accept feedback isolates you. It's the biggest challenge for anyone in a leadership position – whether you're the leader of a vaccination crew or the leader of a global swine business the trap we fall into as leaders is the same. We constantly have people who want something from us in our ear telling us we're great, fueling our ego in an attempt to sway our decisions as a leader in their favor. 

Be humble and understand that if you're chasing a new goal, by definition you will have temporary failures. Understand that everyone you meet knows more than you about something and ensure that you work to learn those things from everyone you come across. Cultivate friendships with people who have nothing to gain professionally from your personal relationship, then leverage that relationship to get real insights into your behaviors, how they are perceived by others and how they impact those whom we're blessed to lead. 

Failure to understand and embrace the risks of ego prevent an accurate and self-aware understanding of all your strengths and weaknesses. The famed coach Pat Riley has spoken of the "Disease of Me" and how ego becomes the impediment toward collaborative goals. Leaders must be selfless, they more than anyone on the team must be willing to sacrifice their personal goals in the spirit of ensuring team goals are achieved. 

Kill your ego every morning before you go to work, you'll find you're much more open to new ideas (particularly from those lower on the org chart) and much more quickly find solutions to those big obstacles we need you as a leader to help us overcome. 

Resolution #4:  Only work on what's essential
Keep the main thing, the main thing. Businesses in general and pig productions systems specifically have a never-ending list of opportunities yet a very finite list of resources. Chasing every opportunity that comes before you will drain your resources while preventing "compounding interest" from accruing on your resource investments. 

You've already got the goals, we just need to focus on them. Goals in pig production are fairly simple, we all want to be efficient both in terms of financial and biologic performance while simultaneously having production practices that are sustainable into the future. With well-defined and easily communicated goals we can identify obstacles to success by having real conversations with our teams and business partners.  Those obstacles are what's essential to your farms and businesses. 

Make your default response "no" when approached with new opportunities. Force yourself to evaluate each new opportunity through the lens of your basic goals and those critical obstacles you need to overcome to achieve those goals. If the new opportunity directly helps you to overcome an obstacle and there is good evidence to lend credibility that the opportunity will genuinely help then take advantage of it. If the new opportunity looks nice, but isn't a direct solution to the obstacles you face default to "no" and keep your resources focused. If the opportunity is a potential solution to the obstacle you face but lacks solid evidence grounded in good science pilot it out, but make sure to deploy some resources toward measuring the impact you're having before going "all in" on the opportunity. 

Resolution #5:  Have fun!
I know this is easier said than done, but attitude is independent of circumstance. Think you've got it bad right now? Look around, you will no doubt find others who are facing more serious challenges and circumstances. Things aren't always going to turn out the way we want them and if we make everything a life and death situation … that means we'll be dying a lot! 

You need to have balance. Just like everything can't be life and death, everything certainly can't be all fun. Celebrate wins when they occur, positive reinforcement is just as important as negative reinforcement in ensuring our teams demonstrate the behaviors needed for success. 

Most importantly, celebrate effort. You've heard me hit this theme repeatedly, we don't control every outcome, we only control our emotions, our thoughts and our effort. When you see people giving good effort, particularly in the face of overwhelming circumstances, get them on your team and keep them there. Keep in mind that jobs, careers and life in general are extremely fragile. Enjoy them while you can as they can disappear in an instant. 

Frustrated by having to explain something to an employee multiple times? Remember, we're all living on borrowed time both personally and professionally. At some point in the future you will be faced with life and death circumstances and you'd love nothing more than to go back to that moment and get to retrain that employee again, no matter how frustrating it may seem in the moment. 

Best wishes to your team and family on a prosperous 2023 – I hope you embrace the obstacles in front of your goals, focus your resources on what you can control, surround yourself with people who improve your self-awareness, enjoy saying "no" to a few nice to have opportunities and most importantly, enjoy a wonderful new year!

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