Current Progressive Cattle digital edition

Across the Fence: Defining success: Does my ranch measure up?

Marci Whitehurst for Progressive Cattleman Published on 20 April 2018
watching over cattle

Current culture focuses on success. Topics ranging from successful parenting to business success to a successful marriage fill our headlines.

What is success? Money, fame, power?

Most of us relate to success in terms of financial gain. The more successful you are, the more money you make. Or in ranching terms, the more land you own or the more cattle you run, the more successful you are.

How would you define success?

  • Warren Buffet, whose net worth is $77.4 billion, measures success by, “how many people love me.”
  • Billionaire John Paul DeJoria says, “Success isn't how much money you have. Success is not what your position is. Success is how well you do what you do when nobody else is looking.”
  • Steven Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, describes success as: “If you carefully consider what you want to be said of you in the funeral experience, you will find your definition of success.”

Success, then, is highly individual. Since it's highly individual, it is extremely personal. Thus, no one can tell you whether or not you're successful.

Somehow measuring our success against the backdrop of another's life is a common crippling.

"Well, I'm not as important as my neighbor because he runs so many more cows than I do."

"Maybe next year I'll be able to retain as many heifers as that guy."

Comparing ourselves to another ranch inevitably places us on one end of a negative pendulum: Either we don't measure up or we belittle others in our pride as an attempt to prove our worth.

Healthy goal setting and competitive marketing are necessary, but outlining our own definition of success is equally helpful.

Rancher Cody Sand says, “We can't go broke making a profit!”

The simplicity of the statement brings a measure of freedom. Staying out of the red may be a part of your definition of success.

Success is also circumstantial. As a family member battled cancer, we focused on whatever encouraged life. Success became beating cancer. (We are thankful for remission!)

Success is also age related. A 5-year-old wants to take the training wheels off their bike, but by 15, they are eager for a driver's license. Our ranches go through life cycles as well. If we are starting up, success may be defined by putting money toward the principal loan payment. If we've been operating for a couple of decades, success may be passing on knowledge and equity to the next generation.

By default, success is a variable.

You can't measure how well you've done until you know what is important to you.

At the end of my days, I hope my epitaph will read, "She loved." Not only is it my highest priority, it's a pretty short, cheap epitaph!  end mark

Marci Whitehurst ranches with her husband and three kids in southwest Montana. Her Across the Fence blog offers a unique viewpoint about life, livestock, cowgirl lingo and family bonds strengthened on the ranch.

Marci Whitehurst
  • Marci Whitehurst

  • Cattle Producer
  • Montana

PHOTO: Don’t measure yourself against the dropback of another’s life. It’s just a road to discouragement. Photo by Marci Whitehurst.