It’s Not Failure, It’s Farming

Waiting to be Milked (Watercolour)

Waiting to be Milked (Watercolour)

Last Sunday (9th June, 2013) was “Farm Sunday”.  Farm Sunday is a National initiative where a selection of farms open wide their gates, arms, and hearts to the public so that we can better understand what keeps Britain Great.  We chose “Down Barn Farm” at Tarrant Rawston, Dorset.

Now, whilst I am always excited by farms, Garden Centres, and National Trust Gardens – this Farm really captured my imagination and fired my passion.  I’d grown up with a fashion for specialised farms.  One farm would host a dairy herd, another farm would be beef cattle, there’d be a pig farm, and, of course, lots of arable farms.  Not so “Down Barn Farm” – this farm was dairy and beef and arable… and successful!

I’ve been revisiting that most wonderful of BBC series, “The Good Life” – where Tom and Barbara Good throw off their dependency on the world and pursue self-sufficiency in suburbia.  They too had to have the whole farming mix: Geraldine – the Goat, Pinky and Perky – the Pigs, the gardens and allotments full of veg, Lenin – the Cockerel, and, of course, his harem of chickens.   Effluent from the animals was even used to fuel the generator.  What I really liked about both “Down Barn Farm” and the fictional “The Good Life” was that the reality came shining through.  Yes, this is a form of near autonomy, and equally ‘yes’ – it is very tough work… but it’s worth it.

The Strange Attraction of a Tractor never fails

The Strange Attraction of a Tractor never fails

“It’s not failure, it’s farming…”

So why my title?  Well, here’s the heart of how “Down Barn Farm” and “The Good Life” inspired me.  I’m in my 50s now.  My work as a trainer has disappeared over-night.  It feels like ‘failure’ and, more to the point, I feel like a ‘failure’.   This is entirely my fault.  Why?  I relied on third parties to get sufficient work in – and now they say the work is only for a select few – not old Lexiboy.  As for me, I haven’t been sowing my seed for future business.  Only a foolish farmer would look at his or her fields day after day and complain when their crop isn’t coming up, if they hadn’t planted their seed!

But my “problem” is deeper than this.  The market has changed.  It may be that there will never be enough training work again to sustain my life.  With this in mind, I have been seeking ‘proper’ employment, going back to ‘Sir’ and asking for a job.  Well, as the excellent band, “After the Fire” said in one of my favourite songs, “Who’s gonna want you when you’re old, and fat, and ugly?”  In my 50s it looks as if it is “Game Over” for a sensible job with a sensible salary.  The cult of the young and the new is worshiped at every employment agency and by their devoted employing followers.  You and I know how foolish this is, but it is the state of the environment in which we live, and move, and have our being.

Is this the end?  No.  I am inspired again.  If the employment market doesn’t want me, they won’t have me!  But I will need to go back to a more balanced model of farming.  I will need to continue to present training programmes, but I will need also to take my programmes on-line, and onto podcasts, and vodcasts.  I will need to generate an income from my photography, but also from my video work.  I need to make greetings cards and prints and T-Shirts.  I will need to farm my imagination as a writer, but also offer my services as a ghost-writer.  I will need to publish and promote others who are younger.  I will need to have that market stall with food and flowers, plants and prints, Teas and T-Shirts.  And I’m happy about this.  It’ll probably be harder work than ever before, and that in itself is motivating.

Come to the Standard, and Rally Round the Banner

So, you post 50 year olds whom the world doesn’t want – rally round the banner of “Down Barn Farm” style farming.  The posh writers call it “portfolio careers” but I prefer “Farming”!  You’ve got plenty of seed, get sowing, and don’t rely on one source of income from now on.  This is old wisdom from Ecclesiastes and from “The Merchant of Venice” – but sometimes we forget, don’t we?  “Cast your bread on the waters: for you shall find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for you know not what evil shall be on the earth…” (Ecc 11:1-2)

Remember Margo and Jerry

Tom and Barbara, in “The Good Life”, actually got a bit arrogant about self-sufficiency.  The reality is that they couldn’t have achieved their dream without the constant support of their neighbours and friends, Margo and Jerry.  “Love thy Neighbour”!!!  Family far away is one matter, a neighbour who is near is better.  Once you begin to move in a spirit of boldness again (rather than fear), you will be pleasantly delighted by the level of support you will get from the most unusual sources.  Say “Yes” to help, don’t try to do this alone.  Farmers know they are part of a living system – not an island all alone.  I say it again, accept help.  When your harvest comes in, you can give them a lettuce!

And Action!

If you had seven or eight ventures, what would they be?  How could you make a step forward in each one – perhaps focusing on one per day for the next week (didn’t you know, farmers work all week?  Some work an eight day week!)  And if you are younger than 50, wake-up, your time is coming, and ‘they’ won’t want you either – so prepare; don’t be stupid like I have been.

As for me?  Now I need to go and dust off my ‘Combine Harvester’ of a Recording Studio that’s been sitting idle for months!  Harvest is coming, and I need to reap 30, 60, and 100 fold all those ‘free’ seeds that I’ve sown over the years!

Sensible Credibility is Sensory Credibility

I woke up this morning with one thought: “faith comes from hearing”… My customers need to hear about me and hear from me if they are to ‘believe’ in what I do.  My customers are amazing but they are not, on the whole, mind-readers.  As soon as I am out-of-sight, I am, unfortunately, out-of-mind.

Which leads me to the flip-side of the coin of credibility: “Seeing is believing”.  If “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” is a truth, then this also might be a truth: “in-sight, in-mind”.  Where does this lead me?  It leads me to two decisions this morning that I believe will serve you well too, if you are in business.  The decisions are to place more relevant content on 1) SoundCloud, and 2) YouTube.

I am not sure how well MySpace is doing nowadays, but I know that SoundCloud and YouTube are the ‘go-to’ sites for audio and visual content respectively.  Unlike Facebook’s really confusing setup, both SoundCloud and YouTube are relatively easy to use and then to embed in your own sites.  They are also often the first places people search for content, inspiration, and entertainment.

My idea this morning then is that people will develop far more belief in your and my credibility if they can ‘sense’ how credible we are.  And by ‘sense’ I specifically mean if they can sample how our offerings ‘sound’ and take a ‘look’ for themselves.  Faith comes from hearing, and seeing is believing!!

I’m pretty sure you’re the same as me – we get bombarded with a thousand emails and links to websites that make wonderful claims.  I would far prefer to ‘hear’ what an organisation or an individual has to ‘say’ for themselves… and, even better, to ‘see and hear’ through the medium of video before I commit.

Opportunity Knocks… did you ‘hear’ that?

A good example has happened to me twice in the area of online NLP and Hypnosis Courses.  Both companies’ marketing material was wonderfully seductive.  When I received their CDs, however, the audio was astonishingly bad.  Thus we have an amazing opportunity knocking at our door because much of the YouTube and Audio content out there representing companies is very, very  poorly made.  I had enormous Buyer’s Remorse once I actually got to hear the content.  The result is that I am very unlikely to ever again buy any audio based training until I hear a sample.   In fact, I shouldn’t buy again until I hear, simply because of the Chinese Proverb, “if someone strikes you once, shame on them; if they strike you twice, shame on you!!”

So, here is where we can turn the situation around.  There will always be elements of what your organisation does that you can give away without compromising your revenue stream.  If your potential clients can hear or see this in advance of any purchase, you and I will be ahead of the mainstream – and our quality will make us stand out from the crowd.  Our clients will see us as credible – that our offering literally ‘makes sense’ – and will begin to trust us.

And, “Action!”

And so to action.  I’d encourage you to look into setting up a SoundCloud account, if you haven’t already got one, and then get down to recording some Podcasts that give potential clients good and practical advice.  I’d also encourage you to do something special for existing clients as a ‘thank you’.  This will keep you in-sight, in-mind, remembering that they’ve already acted upon their faith in you.

Secondly, check out the new YouTube format.  There are so many ways you can link SoundCloud and YouTube to your other Social Media channels such as Twitter and Facebook.  Video content takes much more care and attention, but there is an excellent short-cut: Camtasia Studio from Techsmith.  Camtasia is a video screen-capture programme for both Mac and PC, and is a super way to add Keynote or PowerPoint slides to an audio presentation.  If you then provide a link for potential clients and existing customers to download a PDF of your presentation, you’ve got the best of all worlds.  SlideShare can help with this last point.

[Of course, like most of these professional companies, Techsmith will let you download full working trial versions of their software.  So if you were to prepare three slideshows and record the audio in advance, and then activate a trial, you’d really make the most of this grace period… and you, yourself, could see and hear if it works for you!  And, no, I’m not on commission!]

Here’s my own action plan for the next three months:

The cost?  Your time and ideas if you are comfortable with recording your own audio and video.  No expensive agencies!  And if you’d like any free advice – I’ve been recording and making videos for a while… and I’ve made lots of expensive mistakes that I could help you avoid!!!

Thank you for your time and your attention – I am nothing without an audience!

Oh, and by the way, I’ve just passed the cat sprawled out on the bed. I stroked the cat and made the noises the cat likes, and what did I get?  Purring!  I didn’t need further convincing – the cat was a happy customer…