A Sad Story, But A Good Lesson

Posted on Apr 02 2009 by in Small Business Life 

I recently lost my two ewes. For those of you who need a reminder, ewes are female sheep. The story starts two years ago when my friend and neighbor – horse breeding expert and I decided to invest in and share a small flock of sheep. The sheep would provide a source of wool for me to knit with and lamb for both of our tables. Seemed like a sweet idea.

Although neither of us had experience with sheep, I had plenty of passion and energy and was excited about the project. I had a pasture for the warm seasons and he had a barn for winter. We started with two beautiful all white females who we named Carmen and Cora. When they were old enough for breeding we bought two rams, selected carefully for their rich, brown fleece so we could introduce color into the next generation.

Everything was going as planned and by the end of last fall we had two pregnant ewes – lambs on the way for spring. As the ewe’s approached their time I was eager to dust off my old midwifery experience for the pending births. I researched on the internet and watched lamb births on YouTube – but mostly I counted on my friend’s horse breeding experience to get us through lambing season. Above all, I was confident that nature would take its course, after all, livestock generally fare well without human intervention.

In this case, I was wrong. To make a long story short, our sheep didn’t fare well. After some unusual complications both sheep as well as their lambs died. It was very sad. I was attached to those girls yet at the same time was painfully reminded of a life lesson: acceptance of the circle of life on a farm is necessary if you’re going to be a farmer.

As I’ve been processing and integrating what’s still difficult for me from this experience I am reminded of another powerful life lesson: The need to find balance between trusting and truly taking responsibility. While I’m not blaming myself or my friend for what happened – the circumstances forced me to ask myself, “what might have I done differently if this were to happen
again?”

After some honest, self reflection, I could see how I had erred on the side of trust – I banked on things working out too easily and I deferred some responsibility. In truth, I didn’t step up enough and educate myself about the care and breeding of sheep. I relied on my friend – rather than go through the hoops necessary to be in full integrity with myself and learn what I needed to know in order to care for the lives in my hands.

This reminds me of how a similar pattern can thrive in many small business owners. Yes, the stakes may not be as high as the loss of life, but it often can mean the death of a dream – the dream of having your business (and, even, your livelihood!) What ever business essentials you resist learning – or what ever responsibility you defer taking – you are jeopardizing the success of your business. Yes, it was easier to stay focused on the aspects of having sheep that I enjoyed, just like it’s easier for you to make candles, or fix computers rather than learn how to interpret financial data.

Lesson learned for me at least. As I continue to sort through the aftermath of this sad but important life lesson I’m still unsure about my future as a sheep owner – I’m not quite ready to make that decision but I do know that whatever I do, I will do it fully and learn what I have to know to be successful. Will you?

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