Man In The Arena

Last weekend, I had an exciting opportunity to be a seminar speaker leading up to a production sale with a live auction. Of the hundreds of agricultural events I’ve presented at over the years, this was my first ever time speaking at a cattle sale, and I must say it was both exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time.

Exciting because these are “my people.” These are the folks who have dedicated their lives as stewards of the land and livestock. These folks love the risks and rewards of the beef cattle business. These folks are in the constant pursuit of raising the perfect animal, carefully selecting innovative, progressive genetics to move the breed forward.

It was also nerve-wracking because these are folks I highly respect and greatly value their opinions. These are folks who are leading the industry, who have accomplished a great deal, and who inspire me as a fellow beef producer. And it was largely nerve-wracking because I knew whatever I said on stage that day, I was setting the tone for the sale and determining if folks felt fired up and optimistic about the beef industry or if they would have hesitations, worries, or fears setting in as I laid out the challenges that face us in this industry we love.

Add to the nerves is the fact that this production sale was being hosted by a young man and his family, and it was his first time putting on an auction sale at his farm. If you’ve ever been on that end of things, you know the level of time, work, and pressure that comes with hosting an event of this ilk and making it run smoothly, without a hitch.

The evening before the sale, a group of us was visiting in the barn, discussing the ups and downs of the business and our shared excitement for the sale day ahead. Our sale day host executed the weekend with such grace and professionalism that you would have never guessed it was his first time putting on an auction sale.

However, he shared with me that the neighbors doubted he could make it in the seedstock cattle business. Critics were everywhere, and the naysayers were vocal.

Isn’t that how it goes though, in agriculture, and in small towns? If you push the envelope, try something new, work to expand, diversify or add value to what the farm has always done, you’ll get push-back from folks who can’t perceive it themselves, so they don’t imagine there’s any pathway for you to achieve it.

As I listened to his stories, I reminded this young cattleman hosting this sale that right now, he was the “man in the arena.”

In 1910, President Theodore Roosevelt gave a prolific speech titled, “Man in the Arena.” In that speech, he talked about daring greatly, and no matter how many times I hear it, I’m still deeply moved by his words.

Roosevelt said, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

For anyone reading this column today, I hope you will dare greatly. There many be challenges we must face and overcome in production agriculture, and there are many who don’t want to work that hard, who aren’t up for the task. But for the survivors who can withstand the external pressures, who can keep a steady head, and who can continue to the daily grind to get the job done — it’s those who will know victory. It’s those who will feel triumph of high achievement. And if we fail, well, at least we gave it our all.

It’s ingrained in us as farmers and ranchers. This life we lead takes great courage. And I don’t know about you, but I’m going to keep daring greatly, to do things in this industry and for my family that maybe dad and grandpa and great-grandpa could have never even envisioned possible. Go be great, my friends. I’m cheering you on!

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Amanda Radke