We are in a time of turmoil and of hardships. A period in this country where the very act of going out has become a stress-inducing activity. In a time where at any moment you could be out of a job or out of a basic necessity such as food. In a time like this we all need to take the time and sharpen our axe. This phrase was used during our seminar to describe taking time out of our days to sharpen our skills and reflect on the things we have learned to have a sharper and clearer mind, focused on what needs to be done. The idea of sharpening leant itself to the idea of hardiness. Hardiness in relation to leadership can be described as way to facilitate resilience and creativity under stress. What better attitude to focus on during one of the most stressful times in recent history? During our Wedgworth Leadership Institute’s seminar III, Dr. Elio Chiarelli gave us a very insightful look into hardiness and how this attitude can truly make a difference in our business, communities, and personal life. As he discussed the idea of hardiness, I could not help but see the connection to the community of Cedar Key and how they have taken up the attitude of hardiness to innovate and change their way of life during a time of stress and challenge.
Cedar Key residents had a history of net fishing to provide for their families. Overnight the ban on using nets eradicated the number one job creator the small coastal community had. However, despite the challenges and stress of the loss of their main economic driving force, they were able to rise up and innovate. With the help of Ms. Leslie Sturmer, the residents were able to see the opportunities through defeat and innovate a new industry for the community. The new industry they created for their community was a venture in aquaculture raising clams. Although it took many years, farm raised clams are now a huge economic driving force for the small coastal community. Many of the former net fisherman switched over to the foreign-yet-similar job of raising clams. It allowed them to continue utilizing the ocean they loved, while still being able to provide for their families. This switch also allowed many other opportunities to appear in the area such as local seamstresses making the clam mesh bags they use to raise the clams in. They showed that through stress and challenges, innovation can take root and something great can grow out of it.
While learning about the adversity and stress the fishermen of Cedar Key overcame, I couldn’t help but understand consider the hardiness that was demonstrated in order to survive. In our own industry we can take these lessons and apply them. How many times does adversity or stress make its way into agriculture? I personally can’t think of a single season where something didn’t go wrong or stress didn’t mount an unrelenting attack. Agriculture will always be a stressful industry with both; weather you can’t control and outside pressures constantly working against you. In an industry such as ours we must adopt this attitude of hardiness to ensure the success of our own business and communities. We must turn stress to our advantage and seek the opportunities that arise in these circumstances. Dr. Chiarelli mentioned that truly left an impression on me: we must have the attitude that we have control even when we do not. The belief that our effort will positively influence the outcome even if it can’t. This idea truly emphasizes that a positive mental attitude can help you see your way through even the darkest of times. As we all take time to sharpen our axes we should apply hardiness as a whetstone that will make them hack just a little better through even the thickest of tree trunks.