An experiment was conducted in 1992 at Stanford University, in which four-year-old children were given a choice. A marshmallow was put in front of them; they could either eat the marshmallow now, or wait 15 minutes, after which they would be given two marshmallows. Researchers met the kids again as teenagers. What do you think happened? Those who waited turned out to be better in various ways: they got better marks, “were less prone to impulsive behaviour” and, according to tests, were “more likely” to be well adjusted. After the marshmallow test came a deluge of other, similar tests, with similar results. Patient children don’t often become impulsive teen-agers. Which means they don’t often turn into fat teenagers, or drug-addicted teenagers. (William Leith, Telegraph article July 2012.)
This famous study was crafted into a book by Joachim dePosada Don’t Eat the Marshmallow which has sold millions of copies around the world. (Google his Ted.com video.) I had the delightful experience of meeting Joachim at a speakers’ conference a few years ago, and he was brought to mind recently during two tough coaching situations.
My concern is this. The next generation is hard wired to have things happen instantly via texting, emails, microwaves, drive-throughs etc. Frank Partnoy, the author of Wait agrees with me.
How does this impact farm families?
1. We wait for a harvest, because we know that the seed, soil and weather conditions all need to be aligned to produce a great crop. Younger farmers are stressed about the price of the land that crop is on. They don’t know if they should jump into more risk and debt, or be patient renting most of their land.
2. We wait for land prices to rise, so we can cash in when we are old. Well, what does greed have to do with this? Do you have more than enough already? The latest October 2012 issue of Country Guide has lots to say about buying land. Why are you making the next generation wait to have their own equity when you as a founder or wealthy landlord have more than enough for your own coffers? Would it not be a wonderful thing to help get the next generation started on building its own equity?
3. We wait for people to grow up. Due to the “instant” and self-indulged nature of youth, I am concerned that some successors are not showing up as adult business partners to the farm vision table. “When is he ever going to grow up and act like a calm, rational adult rather than exploding and leaving the conversation?” I’ve mentioned before that one of the weaknesses of young farmers is their inability to do conflict resolution well, because they have never had to win their own battles. Mom and Dad have covered for them. It’s time for everyone on your farm team to show up as an adult, with collaborative skills to find win-win solutions for all. Check out “How to Have Better Family Fights” on the home page of www.elainefroese.com.
4. We wait for disposable income to buy the “fun stuff.” My l981 story of being a new bride with wooden Coke box end tables in my home gets old pretty fast with the next generations whose homes from the start look as good as their parents’ homes. I am not criticizing the need or want for beauty and nice things. But I am curious about the mechanical toys that are in the shop, when the next generation is stressed about paying down long-term debts. Those who can wait, don’t expect to “have it all at once.” I know farmers need to have more fun in their lives, just at what expense?
5. We wait for the founders to make a decision to sign us on as shareholders. This waiting creates huge stress and anxiety when the future is uncertain. I just spoke to a 56-year-old who owns nothing while his 80-something father hangs on tight to land, and threatens to join his titles to a non-farming child. That stinks. Sometimes folks wait too long to take action of a situation that is hopeless. How do you know?
Past performance is a pretty good indication of future behaviour. This is the reason why another young couple I coached has decided to leave the farm and invest in a different career. They were tired of waiting for the choices of the founders to change to accept them as the successors. They moved on, and decided to preserve some family relationship.
6. We wait for the “experts” to tell us what to do. Really? Coaching is about helping farm families discover what kind of farm they want, and the way they relate as business partners, and happy family team members. Paul Hammerton, of MNP’s Swift Current office and his colleague Janet Moen showed me the value of their software called “FarmHand.” This is an amazing program to help farmers make better-informed financial decisions using all the farmer’s own data to reflect back to the farmer what his costs of production are for each crop, and ratios like debt to equity and a host of others. Paul and Janet often have to wait for all the data to be collected properly, so that the best decisions can be evoked from the software.
The expertise that advisers can provide is sometimes frustrated by the inability of folks to wait for all the data to be processed. Good decisions require good input and thought. Thinking takes time when you are assessing different scenarios and outcomes.
Do good things come to those who wait? Yes, I think so. I was the kid who could leave the marshmallow on the table. As a coach, I am saddened by the grief of the family with successors who do not understand the value of being able to wait.
What can you do this fall to make your waiting time more productive, and less stressful? Visit www.elainefroese.com/contact and tell me your story. Let me know if you would like to join my group coaching teleseminars in 2013. We can all learn from each other.
Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary. (NASV). (One of my favourite Bible verses to encourage you.) †