Tackling Failure and Overwhelm


Tackling failure and overwhelm is a must for farmstead living. Moreover, failure and overwhelm is a part of life in general. I know, no one wants it. Everyone avoids it. But I have learned to embrace it. Only because I was forced to. I fail more than I succeed. To accomplish anything on the farm, I had to face off with overwhelm with the intent to win.

Think about it.  Every . single . person starts this life with failure?  How do I know?  All of us learn to walk. And, we failed with our first attempt.  It is called falling.  However, we have a built-in resilience.  We got back up, dusted ourselves off, and tried again. This meme sums it up nicely.

Tackling Failure and Overwhelm

Somewhere along the way, we were conditioned that failure is bad and we must eradicate it from life.  Certainly, don’t ever talk about it.  Just hide it.  Avoidance makes tackling failure and overwhelm harder.

Gems Found in Failure

Here’s my take away about failure: It is a wise teacher, trainer, and mentor if one reconciles with it.

My high tunnels (unheated green houses) lasted two weeks. 60 MPH wind gusts blew them down. We knew it was a risk but we chose the supplies we could afford at the time. It was more lightweight.

tackling failure and overwhelm
Our first high tunnel

This failure was underscored by the failure of other systems. The USPS delivery delays meant reconstructing the tunnels would be delayed … really delayed. They failed big time. After a month of traveling around in Texas, my tool finally arrived.. But it was too late.

In fact, the tool arrived one day after high winds ripped off my row covers in the middle of the night to expose my garden to freezing temperatures. Most of my lettuce is a loss. One row of smaller plants survived. The turnips looked shabby too.

I walked back into the house to see the metal tool sitting in the living room unboxed. I was sure it was mocking me. No worries. I have been here before.

Farmers Can’t Quit

My response? Press on. Farmers can’t quit. Tackling failure and overwhelm is not optional for farmers. If we do give up, we starve, you starve. If every farmer gave up each time they surveyed hail damaged crops, still born livestock, rubble that was once a barn after a late night fire, people would starve, entire communities and nations.

I have farmed long enough to know this is a part of the process. I expect it and learn from it. That doesn’t mean I like it. Yes, I even cry. I am a farm-HER, after all. Oh the valuable lessons I have learned.

I don’t like sharing my failures. They stare me in the face taunting me. But I can’t tell you how exhilarating it is to push through the barriers and see results.

Overwhelm Strikes

To be honest, panic hit me as I realized 1,000.00 worth of metal was at my mercy as I attempted to rebuild. Do you know how many veggies it took to save up 1K? Well, I do. I remember the sweat, muscle aches, and hot weather we had to work in to get that cash. The stakes were higher knowing the failed tunnels represented 1500.00 worth of work.  Sure, we could salvage some of the materials. But, failure meant financial loss in this case.  And I was about to embark on more potential failure.

tackling failure and overwhelm
Top rail before it was bent into hoops

Why panic?  Using the hoop bender was a brand new skill never before exercised. The rest of the crew was busy except my trusty coworker, Zach. I had no oversight from those who knew how to do this.  I read through the directions with my chest tightening more after each new sentence.  Could I complete this task?  Or would my inexperience leave us with grossly distorted unsusable metal pipes?

After calling my husband for moral support, I decided to tackle this project one step at a time.

As a city girl gone country, this is not the first time I faced overwhelm. Panic struck as I sat next to a 1200 lb cow to milk her by hand for the very first time in my life.  The exact same feeling waylaid me when I tried to convert 10 gallons of that milk into cheese.  But anxiety hit an all new level when I found myself elbow deep in the back side of the cow trying to breed her.  Even making soap for the first time seemed daunting. Oh then there was so much overwhelm the first time we butchered pigs, steers, and chickens.  I wasn’t raised doing this.  I had to learn from books as YouTube was not a thing back then.

Using the hoop bender. Will it work?

My Framework to Decrease Overwhelm

 How did I manage to confront anxiety and inexperience to learn these skills?  Tackling failure and overwhelm involves a pattern for me. Here’s the approach I use when tackling a new project.

  1. Get moral support.
  2. Examine an overview of the entire process from several different sources. I apply great scrutiny on this step evaluating authority and credibility of sources.
  3. Compare the outline to observe any differences in technique. Study why there are differences.
  4. Take a quick break. Step back and get some distance from the project. Sometimes I take two to three weeks to mentally process the project.  Other times, deadlines dictate I act fast. But this break helps me adjust my mindset and gain motivation to try something new.
  5. Shift away from the larger outline of the project to focusing on step-by-step tasks. This is important for me. I have to set aside the end goal and break it down into manageable steps.
  6. Complete one step.
  7. Evaluate the outcome.  Compare the results with the sources of instructions.
  8. Adjust technique if necessary.
  9. Move through each step evaluating as you go until the project is complete.

Applying that Frame Work to the High Tunnel Project

To bend the metal, I simply needed to vent my anxiety, get assurance from my husband, and then dive in with the step-by- step process. Here is the overview:

1) Find a place to mount the bender. 2) Mount it. 3) bend one hoop. 4) Position the hoop. 5) Survey the results 6) Repeat the same or tweak to avoid failure.

The outcome equaled success!! The extreme anxiety morphed into feelings of absolute triumph. As I face future projects, I can draw upon this success to gain traction.

Yes, indeed! Three high tunnels were completed.

The picture represents so much. It was devastating to witness the failure of the first tunnels. These are the hoops are now complete. I love the sun set shining through the completed project. It represents the joy of perseverance. It represents hope of a better tomorrow with improved results. Finally, it symbolizes resilience. We will rise again. And we did.

The metal hoops in place as sun sets on the farm.

 Yes, we are still newbies. We have so much to learn yet. That means, we will face more failure. But I love that I have a team, my precious family to face it with. Their support and encouragement motivates me to keep on keeping on in the face of failure.

You have got to be a disaster before you become a master.

Pat Flynn, SPI

Have you ever faced off with failure and triumphed? I would love to hear your story. Share them in the comment section below or send me a quick email.

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