Reliving old lessons from a new vantage point

At the Smart 50 event, keynote speaker Jack Ouellette, chairman of American Textile Co., shared some lessons — lessons from his nine years in the military, not the nearly 40 he spent at American Textile. He says he finds them to be even more relevant today than when he first learned them.

That got me thinking. What lessons hit home today, even more so than when I first learned them?

Valued lessons

I grew up on a dairy farm. My father’s full-time occupation was farmer, so my childhood was a little unusual.

I learned how to sew, make strawberry jam and applesauce from scratch, shelled peas and snapped green beans for hours — generally, I gained skills that make me useful in a post-apocalypse society or if I was living a century earlier.

But I wouldn’t trade those days for anything because I learned the value of hard work, keeping your promises and being honest. Those are certainly things that come in handy today, even though I’ve mostly traded in my work boots for heels.

Keep your cool

I also learned that in the heat of the moment when you’re a little bit panicked, it’s worth taking a few seconds to think things through.

That one hit home one day when my dad asked me to break up a nest of eggs my uncle’s goose had set up on the edge of a field. There was no chance that these eggs were going to hatch — we had no male goose around — but the goose wanted to be a mother and kept sitting on the eggs to no avail.

I walked out there, shooed her off the nest and gathered up the eggs in the front of my shirt.

She was not happy that I was taking her future children. So, she stretched her neck out and ran at me full speed, hooking at full blast. (An angry goose is scary, which is why visitors to my mom’s house sometimes won’t get out of their cars.)

I panicked, and started running across the field.

The eggs that had been sitting for weeks, clanked together in my shirt and exploded. And just like that, I was covered in rotten eggs and could have cared less about the upset goose.

If I’d taken time to think, instead of just reacting, I wouldn’t have gone from one problem to an even worse one. And I think that’s a moral we all can use today, whether we’re in business or down on the farm.