Bonding with the grain cart operator

High expectations aren't necessarily bad, but sometimes they can add pressure that isn't necessary.

Erin Ehnle Brown / Grand Vale Creative LLC

Over the years on our farm, the one fall constant is that I’ve been the combine operator. After that, the grain cart operators have been a revolving door ranging from family members to hired hands to anyone willing and breathing. From the combine I find myself directing traffic or on the phone with clients or getting articles or videos ready.

However, somewhere along the way I need a little break and I have some interesting conversations with the grain cart driver. This year, my wife is the full-time grain cart driver. She has not driven the grain cart for a while so at the beginning there were times I needed to say less than I was thinking! Usually in-depth conversations are limited because something else interrupts us. However, one day I asked her if she had any ideas for future magazine articles and she said two things: "Lower expectations, and enjoy the journey."

At that moment, I was reminded again of the differences between people and even between spouses. Without saying a word, my thought was, "I can’t believe she would think that way." My response would’ve been "higher expectations, and hammer down." I still waited to respond because I wanted to think of why she said what she said and also be clear on the justifications for my different thoughts.

So let’s take one at a time, starting with lower expectations. I think the opposite. I have high expectations for my machinery because I have paid a lot for it. I have high expectations for my corn yields because we have good ground and fertilize and manage it well. I have high expectations for my children because that is how we raised them. I have high expectations for my employees because we train them and pay them well. I have the highest expectations for myself because I think I need to lead well.

So I kept thinking, "How could she possibly say lower expectations?" I want perfection. But let’s be real: How often do things go perfectly? Sometimes my expectations are so high that disappointment and frustration is inevitable and it shows. I think I am starting to understand why she said that.


What about enjoying the journey? I understand that sounds nice, but today repairing that simple little combine part was $1,000. A flat tire on the semi was $400. The belts burned off the discharge auger and slowed our harvest for an hour, and she had sensed my frustration. I was not enjoying that part of the journey. Then she commented, “But we did get 120 acres of corn combined today, the sunset was pretty and it was 70 degrees.”

Oh no. Could I admit my wife was right? Yes, but could we both be right? I’ll never apologize for having high expectations, but I do understand what she’s saying. In a world that says go, go, go, more, more, more, we forget to appreciate what we have even when things don’t go perfectly. Alabama sings the song, “I’m in a hurry to get things done. I rush and rush until life’s no fun.” For some, there can be a lot of truth to that, but hopefully you and your family can truly enjoy the journey and arrive at the right blend of expectations.

Parents who model a farm life journey that is enjoyed with healthy expectations can even translate that behavior into realistic transition planning. The transition plan may not seem perfect to some but, with proper expectations, everyone can enjoy their own journey.

Myron Friesen is the co-owner of Farm Financial Strategies Inc. in Osage, Iowa. He can be contacted at 866-524-3636 or

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