When You Are Waist-Deep in Alligators

Why do you do what you do? If you are anything like me, I bet you’ve stopped to take a deep look in the past year at how you spend your days. I know that I have had a few of those soul-searching moments where I have taken a closer look at what I do day-in and day-out. Pandemic living has definitely made me ask more questions.

One of the things I have taken to heart is that my time is limited, and that time goes by very quickly. So, how am I going to use the time given to me to make a difference? To move the needle forward just a bit?

I think that is one of the reasons why Dr. Jerome Geiger’s Howard Dunne Memorial Lecture at the American Association of Swine Veterinarians annual meeting had such an effect on me. It challenged me to look in a little more deeply.

He recalled a quote from Dr. John Deen, distinguished global professor in the Department of Veterinary Population Medicine at the University of Minnesota, who once said, “When you are waist-deep in alligators, it's hard to remember your primary job is to drain the swamp.”

Geiger said it's easy to get caught up in things happening near at hand – the everyday battles and looming challenges both real and imagined.

In agriculture, it seems those challenges never stop coming. But if we are constantly distracted by the battle in front of us, we’ll miss the opportunities down the road. 

That’s why it’s so important to step outside of ourselves from time to time and reflect on our why. What gets your heart beating faster? What wakes you up in the night? What would you do even if you wouldn’t get paid? 

For Geiger, being a swine veterinarian with PIC has been a rewarding career because it brings him joy and excitement. 

“Personally, it’s fun taking science, technology and my education, combining them with slat-level reality and homegrown common sense, and then applying the solution to the real world. Every day is a mental challenge similar to a crossword or jigsaw puzzle,” he said.

He shared that he’s motivated by the fact that his job will never be done trying to feed the world. Neither will ours. 

“If we lose sight of our why, we may accomplish but will we really succeed?” he asked. “We may achieve a goal, but will we fulfill our purpose?”

There’s no question that our industry is going to face a lot of alligators – it’s inevitable. Thankfully, being grounded in our convictions and having a deeper understanding of our why is one way we can keep focused on fulfilling our purpose.

More from Farm Journal's PORK:

Why the Pork Industry Needs to Build a Toothbrush

Stand Up For Animal Ag: Policies Loom That Could Impact Your Farm

Inspire Passion in the Next Generation of Swine Vets


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