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This episode is part of my 2017 end of year challenge – I’m committing to give you two weeks solid of advice, reflections and actions for you to maximise what you learn from 2017, and  unleash your greater potential in 2018.  I’m sharing one episode every single day for the two weeks leading up to Christmas, so check out the other episodes numbers 55 through 65.


There is no particular order, each one of these will be great on it’s own, but listening to more will give you much greater value.  If you are listening to this at any other time of the year, have no fear! – the best time for you to take action on this is always right now!


In this episode, I’m reflecting on what we can learn from the law of the harvest.  Download your reflection worksheet from the box above this text!


I live in beautiful regional South Australia, between the Barossa Valley and the urban fringes of Adelaide.  It’s a farming area, the main crops around here are cereals like wheat and barley, and pulses like lentils and beans.

This time of year, is harvest time for grain farmers.  In fact many hope to be finished in time for Christmas, many will need to continue harvesting without much of a break.


In episode  58 called Look up and Out, I urged you to look beyond our traditional health and safety knowledge and ideas to other fields.  An example of how I’ve done this was learning from permaculture, which amongst other things includes a strong focus on observation of what’s around us, and to work with nature.


This has gotten me thinking, both in the work I do on my little farm, observing those around us and talking with our relatives who are farmers.  I realised that there is a lot we can learn from the harvest, which I wanted to share with you today.


When you think about the harvest, it begins years before.  It’s not all tractors and dusty sunsets and full silo’s – the work for that harvest begins way before that.  Most farmers practice crop rotation, which means they plant a different crop every year or few years, which helps break pest and disease cycles.  Often these crops are not lucrative, because they are part of the preparation for the lucrative crop once every few years.


I think we can forget that the boring, trudgerous and unglamorous work we do contributes to the bigger outcome, though it might not feel great at the time.  If we don’t do that preparation, we may not have as good a harvest.  In fact, of the total lifecycle time, the actual harvesting bit – the results – are tint in proportion to all the hard work leading up to it.


And of course, a crop takes time to grow.  You can choose when you sow, but you cannot make the crop hurry up – there is a natural timeframe for it to mature.  Sometimes in our work I feel like we need to hurry things up – close out these non-conformances, or get our systems certified – which we do, feeling like we’ve got a great harvest….all I’ll say is that weeds are the plants that usually grow fastest.


A great harvest needs great soil.  You can add all the fertilizer and chemicals and ploughing to unfertile soil, and it might give you an ok yield, but not for long.  That’s not to say that we can’t turn poor ground into great soil, but as nature tells us that is a process of time and patience.  Around here sandy hills are a problem, crops do not do well.  Do you ever feel like you are sowing your seed into ground like that?…..


You know, the people and organisations who just aren’t ready for the seeds? Maybe we need to stop sowing, choose a different seed – but in all cases we will need to build the soil first, which doesn’t happen overnight.  Good farmers have an agronomist who does soil tests, and advises them on which areas need more or less fertiliser, how much seed to sow here or there – they adapt what they do according to the soil.


When you are sowing, a great crop comes from great seeds.  Some farmers buy seed from seed companies, others keep their best seed from one year and use it the next. But if you keep the low yielding seed, which suffered from disease and grew poorly, that’s what you will get the next harvest.  Sometimes I feel like we sow the wrong seeds in our work – seeds like fear, compliance, control.  Sure they grow, and you might get a little harvest, but it’s not the best harvest you could get.


When you sow any crop, you will reap more than you sow.  What I mean is that one single grain of wheat will grow into a plan with a flower head full of grains, sometimes 20 or 30 individual seeds.  The work done to prepare for the crop gives you the best chance to multiply your harvest.  So the more work you do now, which is the right kind of work. the more you will succeed later.


You know how many companies are scratching their heads because they are doing more safety, yet performance is flat-lining? Their seed heads are getting smaller each year, but they are spending more time and money on all the inputs beforehand – It’s time to rethink all of that.


You reap in proportion to how much you sow, and how densely you sow.  You can grow wheat in a pot plant on your balcony.  But it won’t be enough even for a load of bread.  The more and broader you sow, your ideas, your support, your passion, your ingenuity, the more you will reap.


Some crops needs to be sown closely together to support each other, like beans. Some won’t do well if sown too close together, they choke each other out.  Our initiatives need a critical mass of communication, and support, and action to take hold.  But if you drown people in safety messages and alerts and procedures and audits, you won’t be harvesting much.  It needs balance.


Farmers know this all too well – despite all the advances in technology, equipment, seed varieties, fertilizers and pesticides and herbicides and all the rest – you can’t cheat nature.  There will always be uncertainty, which is difficult to predict.  We can predict the weather, but drought and frost and wind still destroy crops.  Farmers must take risks even when there is a chance of failure, otherwise they should just sell the farm and move to the city.


Uncertainty, and risk, is a part of nature.  Sometimes the best we can do is to predict as best we can, and to be resilient through our readiness, backup plans and recovery plans.  For me this is one of the most powerful metaphor’s in the argument against zero harm philosophies – nothing in nature supports the idea of no harm, but the resilient ecosystems, people, farms and crops will survive.


This is deep reflection episode, which I think is good from time to time.  No tactics, no bright ands shiny ideas, just my reflection on the metaphor of the harvest, what I’ve learned from it and hopefully your reflection on it will help you take positive, effective and rewarding action to grow yourself, and hopefully your harvest will be drastic improvements in health and safety along the way.  Seeya!