Some of my best ideas come to me when I am driving a tractor on SK Herefords ranch near Medina, New York. The ranch is owned by my friend Phil Keppler and his partner David Schubel.
SK Herefords grazes 400 head of cattle on 800 acres of land, and it’s where I go when I need “farm therapy.”
For me, farm therapy is spending at least one day working on a farm.
I know when I need farm therapy. My writing starts to get a little stale. I find myself beginning to be frustrated by the everyday things that running a creativity business and teaching at a university entail.
Here is why farm therapy at SK Herefords ranch works for me.
It is a change of pace. Walking around in muck boots in six inches of soupy cow manure sure is a change of pace from giving a talk to 200 people in a well-appointed training room.
So is driving a tractor, bush-hogging 30 acres of fields to prepare the land for the cattle to graze. Tractor time gives me time to think.
Although I do need to pay attention when I am bush-hogging, it isn’t the same as writing a book, teaching a class, or giving a speech. (If you are not familiar with a bush-hog, think of a 20 foot wide lawn mower with blades that turn over 900 revolutions per minute.)
Farm therapy provides me with a clearly visible sense of accomplishment. There is a certain satisfaction that I feel when I look back over an evenly mowed field that just hours earlier was dotted by clumps of tall weeds and uneven growth.
In my work, I don’t get the luxury of seeing that immediate and visible accomplishment. Students may begin to think differently after they have been in one of my seminars, but I can’t see that change visually.
Finally, when I’m on the farm, the choices are up to someone else. In my daily life I have to make countless decisions, just like you. When I go to the farm, Phil makes the decisions for me. Phil tells me what to do, and I make it happen.
“Let’s move those hay bales off the north 40.” We go do it.
“We need to feed cattle at David’s place.” We load up the feed truck and off we go.
It’s that simple. I don’t have to make the decisions. I just go, and I do the job. I’m amazed by how refreshing it is for me.
After farm therapy, I can almost guarantee that I will gain a new insight into a problem I am working on. A great idea crystalizes for an ending to a chapter in a book I am writing. Or a new insight for a program design presents itself.
To nurture your creativity, find your own form of farm therapy.
Whatever your farm therapy is, make sure that it has these three attributes:
- It is a change of pace from your usual activities.
- You can see a tangible result from your actions, so you can feel a sense of accomplishment.
- You don’t have to make decisions as to what to do next.
That’s it. Find an activity that fits those criteria, and note the impact on your clarity and your creative muscles when you break from your routine. Truth be told, I have taken a few falls into soupy cow manure when my muck boots have gotten stuck. Now that’s a change of pace!