Folksy wisdom

When I was 18, I spent my summer working on a small, local farm. At the start of the week, the farmer would list out on a piece of paper all the things he wanted me to complete that week. The list would vary, one day I would chop wood, another I would weed a small garden, and the next I would move things around the barn. He had a full time assistant, he just needed my help with some of the smaller items. I didn’t really care about the tasks, I was young and dumb, I was just looking to earn a few bucks before I went back to college.  

Come noontime on the dot, the farmer would invite me to sit with him on his little porch for lunch. It would just be the two of us and he would make tomato sandwiches, hamburgers, whatever he had around the house. (He got me to try zucchini for the first time. He liked that he got me to “broaden my horizons.”) I was quiet and reserved, but the farmer had a way to getting me to talk. Before taking over the family farm, he had worked as a teacher in a large city and liked to challenge me on what I wanted to do with my life.

Learning on the job

On one of my first days, I remember complaining to him about some worry I had. I’m sure it had to do with covering the enormous cost of college and the internal pressures I felt to get good grades, make something of myself, and make my family proud of me.

Image by Mathias Reding via Pexels

His response: 

“Most of the stuff people worry about is never gonna happen.” He joked about worrying about what was important, what I could control, and leaving the rest to the “folks rocking away on their rocking chairs.”

Another time I complained about the rich kids in my town who had nice, new cars. I complained that they were living on EZ Street and didn’t have to work for everything like I did. I remember even questioning why I didn’t have a shiny new sports car. 

His response: 

“When you wallow with pigs, you better expect to get dirty.” I remember looking a him strange. Pigs? Dirty? But, I got his message loud and clear, be grateful, don’t compare yourself with anyone else, and leave envy and jealousy to others. After a long pause, he told me that being jealous of others, was beneath me. I had a “bright future” and didn’t need to stoop to others level.

When I complained a few weeks later about having to drive my mother somewhere after work. I remember even joking that I could work late.

His response: 

“When you make a promise, keep it, hell or high water. For good measure, he added, “when your mother calls, you jump.” I told him that I was just joking, but he wouldn’t hear of it, saying, “It’s your mother, she deserves your best.”

New job, similar messages

The next summer, I worked on a roofing crew, that consisted mainly of a few skilled men and a bunch of gopher teenagers like myself. I found myself one week working with the oldest guy on the crew. He walked slow and spoke even slower, but he expected you to move when he barked.

One time I made fun of one of the other gophers, who had a reputation for being a slacker. I thought he’d like my joke. 

His response: 

“Sometimes it’s best to say nothing at all.”

When I was late one Monday morning, he didn’t yell at me, he didn’t make a fool of me. 

Image by Manfred Richter via Pixabay

His response:

“The biggest troublemaker you’ll ever have to deal with looks across at you from the mirror.”

Country farms to Wall Street

Each of those experiences left a mark on me. In my career, I’ve had a chance to work with country farmers and janitors, wearing rough bib overalls and dirty boots, and CEOs and business leaders, in fancy cufflinks and suits costing hundreds (dare I say, thousands) of dollars. The style of dress has never been a measure of the man or woman. A pair of bib overalls doesn’t make you less smart or vice versa. The person inside is what counts. I’ve met good and bad in both roles. Like most things, we’d all be better off if we got to know the person first.

What do you think? What are some of the best lessons you’ve learned from bosses and coworkers over the years?

Old Farmer Wisdom

Your fences need to be horse-high, pig-tight and bull-strong.
Keep skunks, bankers, and politicians at a distance.
Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.
A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor.
Words that soak into your ears are whispered, not yelled.
The best sermons are lived, not preached.
If you don’t take the time to do it right, you’ll find the time to do it twice.
Don’t corner something that is meaner than you.
Don’t pick a fight with an old man. If he is too old to fight, he’ll just kill you.
It don’t take a very big person to carry a grudge.
You cannot unsay a cruel word.
Every path has a few puddles.
When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.
Don’t be banging your shin on a stool that’s not in the way.
Borrowing trouble from the future doesn’t deplete the supply.
Most of the stuff people worry about ain’t never gonna happen anyway.
Don’t judge folks by their relatives.
Silence is sometimes the best answer.
Don‘t interfere with somethin’ that ain’t botherin’ you none.
Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.
If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin’.
Sometimes you get, and sometimes you get got.
The biggest troublemaker you’ll ever have to deal with watches you from the mirror every mornin’.
Always drink upstream from the herd.
Good judgment comes from experience, and most of that comes from bad judgment.
Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin’ it back in.
If you get to thinkin’ you’re a person of some influence, try orderin’ somebody else’s dog around.
Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll enjoy it a second time.
Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God.
Most times, it just gets down to common sense.

Author Unknown

44 thoughts on “Folksy wisdom

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    1. Aww, that stinks LA. I’ve had a few bad bosses too. They are the worst. I think they’ve shaped me much more than the good ones. I’m much more servant-leadership focused because of a bad boss who couldn’t find his way out of a paper bag. They are all around us, but when you get a great one, oh my goodness, they make it fun. Thanks for sharing.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Such a post! Thank you, Brian. I think your generous spirit must originate from these early lessons and your nimble ability to “be Brian” with folks of all sorts suggests to me that you are one good human. 🤍 Love the farmer wisdom — both the list and the nuggets from the farmer you worked for – but I think my favorite is this: “Words that soak into your ears are whispered, not yelled.” The best lessons I ever learned were the ones that I could marinate with over time…between the ears. One of my early mentors was that kind of person…quietly leading and guiding me, especially about fears and inadequacies. He’d say, when I was nervous or unsure about spotlight events – times when I’d need to speak to huge groups, “Do it anyhow – fear can be a healthy motivator.” He was right, so now when that voice rises up, saying “I can’t” – I hear him. And he says, “Do it anyhow.” xo and Happy Monday, Brian! 😉😉😉

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh I have you fooled Vicki. “Good human,” that made me chuckle. I think I loved working with the farmer because he challenged you intellectually and physically. I loved that he had lived a life outside the small area where we lived. He was like the mentor you mentioned too, very kind, soft spoken, and incredibly calm. I found that leadership extremely interesting! I only worked with him one summer (wish longer), but his voice was in the back of my head for much longer.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. These are fantastic, Brian! I can understand why they stayed with you over the years. The owner of a company I once worked for always said, “Money doesn’t solve all problems, but it solves all of mine.” I contemplated that endlessly. While I don’t think it’s 100% true (though he did throw money at any issue), I interpreted it as the value of financial security… have enough money that you can walk away from a bad situation, pay off an unexpected fee, etc.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve been thinking about the owner’s advice. It’s really a puzzling question. Money solves a lot of problems. I love your interpretation about having enough money or opptys to walk away if a situation or a job goes bad. I think that is great advice in a boss-worker relationship. I hesitate though saying it solves everything. Maybe he was thinking of money as a tool and it fixed his problems. Sounds like you might have a future blog topic there? Ha, ha, you’ve got me interested. Thanks for sharing. 😎😎😎🤣

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post, Brian, full of lots food for thought. You were certainly blessed to have some very wise teachers throughout your youth—clearly they taught you well with lessons you have learned well and carried through into your adult years. What a gift!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I think I had some great teachers. I never had that one teacher or mentor who I connected with at a young age, but looking back they were offering me jewels for the taking. Thank goodness I somehow was smart enough to pick up what I was offered. Thanks Julia!

      Liked by 3 people

  4. When I received a promotion to a retail manager position in a large department store, I asked the store manger for his counsel on handling my new position. He had been in management for many years and I was hoping for some sage advice. He said, “Never handle a piece of paper twice.” File it. throw it in the trash, or act on it.” At first I was disappointed. I had hoped for something more profound. In the end it turned out to be not only good work advice, but good life advice. Face what is in front of you and deal with it now.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I love your story. I would have had the same reaction as you. But, it is so spot on, great advice. Face problems head on, don’t avoid them. And then when you make a decision, move ahead, don’t look back or regret. Lots of folks could use this advice today. Thank you for sharing.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. As the others have already said, Brian, this is a wonderful post. I hope many people read it, really read it. Of course, ityyoung peyeho need to hear this most, and they’re not ready to listen yet, just as you weren’t always at the time. We are blessed when we work with people (not necessarily even FOR them) who are able to share their wisdom, and even luckier when we are smart enough to listen. Thanks for choosing this topic.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. “Don’t be banging your shin on a stool that’s not in the way!” My absolute favorite folksy piece of advice. Down home humor to live your life by. Love it, thanks Brian…

    Liked by 3 people

  7. My daddy conveyed many of the farmer’s ideas to me when I was a child, too.
    One of my favorites is like one of yours: “half the problems of the world are imagined.”
    That’s helped me through some tough times.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is my new favorite Brian post!! Love, love, love it! It’s hard to pick a favorite part, but if I had to, I’d say this is it, “The style of dress has never been a measure of the man or woman. A pair of bib overalls doesn’t make you less smart or vice versa. The person inside is what counts.” Oh – and also not banging your shin on a stool that’s not in your way. That’s some sage advice right there! Truly all of it was wonderful!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Kendra. It’s less me and definitely the farmer I worked with. He was great, I learned so much from him and it was just one summer. I wish I could have worked with him longer. I’m just glad I was smart enough to keep my mouth shut and just listen and take it all in. I’m really glad that the piece touched you. I’m never sure what to expect with my blogs. My guesses are usually off the mark so I try not to predict hits/popularity. Thanks so much for letting me know you liked it!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Great post and wonderful wisdom. Love how these responses are short. Amazing how the wisdom that we hear and sticks tends to be those one-liners that really pack a punch. And clearly you were very bright — and listened. Thanks for passing along this great wisdom, Brian!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. A lot of wisdom here! One thing I learned from observing two managers is that efficiency may look good, but isn’t always the best policy. One manager tried to have her ducks in a row, to look on top of things. The other flapped around trying to catch hers — and since she obviously needed help, we all pitched in.
    Which is the goal of a good manager: getting others to pitch in and help, making them feel they need to be involved. Efficient people may look good, but are apt to intimidate hesitant folks.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. This is great! Being young and working with older wise people is the best thing for a teenager. They are calm and so damn wise. The older men told you right!
    The best advice came from my firsts drill sergeant that I feared but learned to fear/love him like a father. He told me to pick my own friends and don’t allow them to pick me!
    If you only knew!!!!! Now I’m over here with the Holy Ghost! LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Brian, I was just getting to the end of one of my usual lengthy comments when my Wifi crashed, and the computer went offline, taking my comment with it! It’s infuriating when that happens. So, what I’d said, in a nutshell, was that this is a wonderful post and that you were very fortunate to have picked up such wisdom from your bosses at a relatively young age. My favourite line from the Old Farmer Wisdom list is, ‘Every path has a few puddles.’ That certainly applies in my case, but I’ve learned a lot from those puddles along the way.

    I had one boss (she was elderly and is no longer with us) who was very strict and extremely particular and expected me to live up to her standards, which I had to do to keep the job. She was married to the Chief Superintendent of our county town’s police force. She had a bark like a sergeant major, but she was so full of wisdom and sound advice I just got used to it. Despite her being so firm and fairly harsh, I still have a soft spot for her. She taught me a lot that I’ll never forget, and I’ll always be grateful to her for that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sounds like her bark was worse than her bite. I’ve had a few managers like that. It’s always taken me back. I tend to be a people pleaser. While that’s good, you have to have confidence in yourself and not get crushed by any loud barks. Thanks for the feedback Ellie. It was a fun piece to write. I learned so much from that farmer, I suspect you’ll be hearing from him again sometime in the future. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Amazing lessons. Sounds like a great experience for you. I used to be resentful that I didn’t have a car as a young adult too. But now I see that everything comes in due time, and that we all have our own lives to live, so we shouldn’t look at other people’s timelines.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I like all the advice you’ve received. It rings true– and obvious once you absorb it. One of the best things I was ever told is: not everyone you meet will be your friend. It is/was especially useful advice in the workplace.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is such great advice. And so easy to forget. A few years ago, I had to remind myself of that all the time. I worked in a crazy environment competitive environment and I had to watch. When I moved into another department, where everyone still wanted to do a great job, but weren’t so competitive with each other, it was like a ray of sun had come out and the whole experience got better. Yes, not everyone will be your friend. Thanks for sharing Ally!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. My favorite boss was demanding and would let you know in no uncertain terms if you screwed up badly, but he also was passionate about having everyone’s back in his department, and stood up for us every time a criticism was levied against one of us. Loyal to the very end with all his employees.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. What an interesting post and inspiring comments, Brian. I dont remember any specific nuggets of information/guidance from previous bosses but I can see how they have shaped who I am professionally today – the good and the bad, they all teach us something. I hope in turn, we are passing something to others. Bruce’s comment above, though has me wondering how well prepared the current school leavers/college leavers are … I think I might explore this in a post 🤔

    Liked by 1 person

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