Resilience, Rebounds, and Soybean Crops

“. . . If you can meet with triumph and disaster And treat those two impostors just the same. . .” – If, Rudyard Kipling

There’s photo hanging by the desk at my office that perfectly captures what it takes to succeed in a startup.

Except it’s about farming.

The photo on the right is a clipping from a Charleston, SC newspaper in the 1980s:

“John’s Island farmer Eugene Walpole had taken pains to cover his cucumber crop during last month’s frost. Now, he said, he will probably plant soybeans next week. ‘I’m still looking up, he said. “I’m not going to look down or look back.'”

That farmer is – you guessed it – a Walpole of my family He’s my grandfather. And when hail destroyed his crop he gave a typically positive response.

There are few more visceral human failures and disasters than the destruction of a crop. It’s tangible, undeniable, and to some degree uncontrollable. What’s worse is that my grandfather had fought so hard (successfully, too) to protect the same crop from a deadly frost – even burning tires in the fields to prevent frost damage.

I didn’t inherit the family farm, so I can’t imagine what this kind of loss is like. I work at a desk on the marketing team at a software company. But I have still seen plenty of “crops” – projects, brand equity, strategies – get mown down by changing weather. This comes with the territory of starting something new. That’s something at least that I share in common with old Gene Walpole.

I have also tried to protect my crops to great lengths, only to see them *still* get mown down. It feels really unfair when all your hard work is undone by one small falling domino, one small oversight, one small trouble.

So this picture by my desk is valuable in part because it will remind me in those times to come that I have a choice. I can give up, look back, and brood over losses. Or I can do what my grandfather did. He got ready to plant a new crop within a week.

Farming may have been hard, but he was harder.

P.S. Yes, I too am curious about the cut-off story on the bottom about the pet cat murder.

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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