Focus on What We Can Control

by Dallas Mount


When the US Air Force Thunderbirds perform a formation roll maneuver the slot pilot is surrounded on all sides in close formation by other aircraft. He maintains his position by intense focus on a point of the aircraft next to him. He can’t be distracted by watching the aircraft behind him. The pilot focuses only on the area they directly control and trusts the fellow pilots to do the same. 

It is tempting to let ourselves get distracted with things that concern us, but that we can’t control. Stephen Covey, author of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People describes your circle of concern as being a large circle that encompasses all the things you worry about. Inside of this large circle is a smaller inner circle that Covey calls the circle of influence, which contains things that you have some control over. Covey makes the point that effective people spend their time on their circle of influence and resist the temptation to be sucked into wasted time in the circle of concern.

Today we are constantly inundated with information and noise that are mostly about things outside of our influence. It can consume us and take our most productive and thoughtful time away from us, if we are not deliberate in managing ourselves.

I’m spoiled because I get to spend most of my time with ranchers and farmers who are not normal, and  I mean that as a compliment. But sometimes I still interact with other groups of ranchers that tie themselves into knots over weather and market conditions. For these traditional-thinking ranchers, weather and markets are all they want to discuss. I constantly hear how they don’t have any time to work on the business (WOTB) because they are too busy working IN the business (WITB). These ranchers are wasting their limited management time in WATB (worrying about the business) or even worse, worrying about things you can’t control (I don’t have a clever acronym for that one). Time spent worrying and reading garbage that is only meant to feed your worry about this stuff, is wasted time. In fact, it might be worse than wasted time. It takes away your energy towards driving your business forward and redirects it to negative thoughts that can feed on themselves creating a snowball of negative energy. 

We all fall into it. I’ve fallen into it around the COVID situation. The tempting thoughts to dwell on are questions like, “When will this end?”; “What local rules will they pass that will impact my business”; “No one will ever want to come to an in-person class again.” This isn’t helpful. I’m telling myself a story and inflating the situation beyond what it is. More helpful questions to ponder are: “How can we position our business to be successful with COVID?”; “What steps can I take to move forward with a product we are proud to stand behind, while in the time of COVID?”. I need to take a lesson from the Thunderbird pilot and have intense focus on what I can control and give quick corrections as they are needed.

In ranching the most common obsessions seem to be the weather, the market and government regulations. I don’t question for a second that all of these can have serious impacts on your business, but how much control do you have on any of these? Sure is it good to be an informed voter and to understand the market and local weather risks but the real work comes in asking better questions: “How do we design a business that insulates us from drought risk?”; “How do we structure our business to be profitable in years of high and low prices?”

RMC along with our Ranching for Profit and Executive Link clients focus on the circle of influence and we encourage others to do the same. During our recent Executive Link meetings I was blessed to have some helpful conversations with members around how we are positioning Ranch Management Consultants to press on, in the era of COVID. It helped pull me from the victim mindset to one of accountability. I hope my story might be an encouragement for you. During this time of Thanksgiving, and as I reflect on my first year at the helm of RMC I am deeply grateful for our clients and our team here at RMC. I constantly learn from you, our client, and am inspired by your grit and resilience. Thank you for allowing us to be part of your journey.

6 Responses to “Focus on What We Can Control”

November 25, 2020 at 3:16 am, Ralph Stroede said:

Don’t forget the words of Winston Churchill. ” When going through Hell…KEEP ON GOING!”


November 25, 2020 at 6:37 am, Patricia said:

Thank you so very much for this. Happy Thanksgiving for you, your family and friends.


November 25, 2020 at 8:19 am, Kent Hunter said:

I’m thankful for you at RMC Happy Thanksgiving to you all


November 25, 2020 at 7:53 pm, Marilyn Clark said:

Thank you for a good reminder! And thankful we’re on this path with you.


November 25, 2020 at 9:37 pm, Kody Justus said:

‘‘This reminds me of the serenity prayer “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference”


November 26, 2020 at 6:44 am, Kyle Marshall said:

This is great and so true! I just listened to “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” by Dale Carnegie. It hit on all the same themes. I highly recommend it to anyone who struggles to focus on what they can influence.


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