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Choosing the free hat, or the free education

We as humans often fail as we “fall for the free stuff”. There are free goods around every corner and some search out those free goods. If you have gone to college in the last 25 years, you have likely been told you could get a free t-shirt if you “just fill out this credit card application”. And I fell for it! In return, I got a credit card, which for virtually all college-aged kids and epic fail decision. The card brings no value or upside potential to your life. Regardless, we as humans continue to look and ask for the free goods.

As I go to feed yards every day and interact with crews, some crews continually ask for free hats or whatever free I can give them. And it is often the same crews, cause that becomes or is the culture of the crew. And a couple of weeks ago, we were in our cowboy meeting in which they are always ended with some horsemanship or stockmanship, then 2-3 points of self-improvement and leadership. For this meeting, I was particularly challenging the crew hard, as they had made progress given some persistent and present leadership of the feed yard. And it was time to ask them to “take their game to another level. The yard had been through a management transition, and we were discussing the conflict that transitions in business bring to the people of the business. Defining conflict, the causes, the casualties, and ways to handle conflict. And it was in the discussion, that the same team member who always has a rebuttal spoke up. He always had a rebuttal but never any solutions. So it was at that time, that I decided it was time to talk to him about lifelong learning, and the intangible value of the information we were bringing him and his teammates that day. Because this same person, who always had a rebuttal to self-improvement opportunity, always is asking for free hats, free food, free tack, and more from the yard.

Some people want tangible free goods. But the fact is, they often miss the ever so important learning opportunity to grow themselves. In feed yards, we bring some of the best educators in the business to help “grow them”, “grow our caregivers”, yet some still want a donut or a hat. And I asked and challenged this caregiver, is the value in the hat or is the value in the lifelong learning moments we bring to them each month. The donut gets digested and is gone. The hat gets worn, brings no real change to one’s life, and is often gone in a couple of years. But committed feed yards, committed businesses, all us to come in to educate and grow their teams. They allow us to help grow their people, “raise their lid”, knowing that those team members, could take that knowledge and go apply it in another job while getting a pay raise given the knowledge they have been given. This is the concept I was trying to help this guy learn at that moment. I said, “Listen, do you just always want the free hat, or do you want the free knowledge of life and leadership self-improvement discussions we have that can bring life-changing value to your repertoire and resume?”

We can reach some folks, and we can’t reach others. I reached a few in the room that day, but haven’t him yet. The good news is I only need to reach one to help change his or her life that day. The point is, the free hat or free lunch may bring you tangible immediate value, but does those things create any long term value. It is lifelong learning that “raises our lid” and brings the potential for us to take action that can increase our income. My #1 recommendation for anyone, is to not take the free hat or free donut. My #2 recommendation is to invest in yourself first and foremost. Invest in yourself beyond formal education, and invest in growing yourself through self-improvement beyond any classroom. For this young man, he has the greatest opportunity to grow himself, raise his lid, any day he would like to learn more and create intangible value in himself, in turn increasing his potential to increase his income. But instead, for now, he chooses the tangible value. Someday I’ll convince him to choose the intangible, and in turn hopefully, change his life and change his family tree. Someday. I will!

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