What We See

by Jordan Steele

trailing cattle

Paradigms are deeply held subconscious beliefs that are shaped by all of our past experiences and education. We all have them and they influence every decision we make. Stephen Covey defines paradigms as “the way we see the world” and that is my favorite definition. At the Ranching for Profit School we introduce paradigms right away and continue to push on them throughout the week. Sometimes being an instructor is like being the little kid asking “why” seven times in a row, because if you come to your own thoughts and conclusions, it is much more powerful than someone telling you the same thing. Once you see that you are operating in a paradigm, it is hard to “unsee” it from there forward. Since I am usually the one challenging other people, I thought I would reflect back on different things I have “seen” this year in different areas of life.

I look through many ranch business financials throughout the year, so it is easy for me to spot something out of the ordinary. What may seem like a normal number to most, I can challenge that dollar figure and dig down deeper into the production behind it. That may lead to a breakthrough on the ranch. Robert Kiyosaki mentions in his book Rich Dad, Poor Dad that once you spot an opportunity, you will continue to see them.

During the summer, we daywork as much as we can on local ranches in Laramie and Wheatland.

It is so interesting to watch stockmanship with horses and cattle handling. Even more interesting to watch is what I am going to call the people-manship (yes, I am assuming that is not a word, but I am going with it for now). Some ranches have fantastic stockmanship, and some are always a wreck. Some wrecks I have seen could have been avoided, and it was easy to see it coming if you knew what you were looking for. With those wrecks, there are probably some people losing tempers and that’s where the people-manship comes in. Clear communication about the original plan and what if scenarios would help beforehand. Then at the end of the day, a discussion on what went well and what could be better is always beneficial to make the next time go smoother.

Watching skilled workers is always impressive too. It could be any trade, let’s pick on carpentry for now. Carpenters can walk into a house and notice things that many people don’t. That door was a left-handed door, that drywall seam is off, this room was an add-on, etc. Because they understand the process of building a house, they can analyze the end result. One of my first jobs was building fence, and I was taught to never stand around. There is always something to do, always. So while you are at work, look for things to do before it is too late.

As I notice more and more things in life, I become more aware of how much there is to learn. I like to learn new things, but that comes with making mistakes. With those mistakes, I am curious what paradigms I am creating for myself in the future. Back to stockmanship, gathering and moving pastures the other day wasn’t a wreck, but it could have been better. I look back on that day and think if I would have done this or that it would have been better, but of course I don’t know that for sure. So next time I go to that pasture or deal with that many cattle or whatever detail I felt like I should have changed, I need to go in there with an open mind. If I think back on the bad day, it would be easy to think “that never works here.” However, any time you hear the words “never”, “always”, or “have to”, that is a paradigm persuading your thought process. I challenge you to identify some paradigms you are operating in, and listen for those “nevers” and “always” because they are easy to hear. If you want to join a group of other ranchers and farmers also challenging their paradigms, check out our fall Ranching for Profit School schedule.

4 Responses to “What We See”

June 26, 2024 at 4:57 am, Hendrik O'Neill said:

Be careful of having paradigms about paradigms


June 26, 2024 at 5:08 am, Dan Brockman said:

Most of my life was spent farming cranberries, though I have owned a ranch and worked cattle, and other occupations. Anyway, the principles you present apply to every area of life and business. I often told employees “Almost everything we’re doing now, we’re doing wrong! We won’t be doing this job the same way 10 years from now.”


June 26, 2024 at 11:45 am, Susan Jaster said:

Thanks, I love the way you put this into words…my thinking too! “How can we” instead of “can we”? We need to ask a better question most of the time. If we would be more positive with ourselves, we would find that our experiences are just that, an experience-sometimes they are negative, most times positive. Sometimes the negative experience is a wreck, if you don’t learn from it and move on, then you are allowing that wreck to be your paradigm. Get your mindset on the positive side and out of the negative paradigm so you can see a clear way to fixing the outcome for next time. Mental health is part of this paradigm weather we like it or not, stay on the positive side, talk to someone, delegate the stuff you are not good at so you can upgrade your life and ranch. When things are positive, you learn more and you actually prepare for better outcomes and then you start getting them….back to Kiyosaki. Have a great day, thanks again.


July 01, 2024 at 10:49 am, Jordan Steele said:

Thank you all for the replies! Great points and discussion. Sometimes I feel pressure as an instructor making sure I am always positive and open-minded. I think realizing you will make mistakes is critical, our response to that is what makes the learning opportunity.


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