A young man told me he was going to start a new dairy next month. Wow, you don’t hear that anymore! Then, he shocked me further by asking me for advice. I was shocked because I didn’t realize I had transitioned from the position of cranky dairyman to Ward Cleaver (i.e. Yoda for you millennials). I didn’t know I was now qualified to give advice. Wouldn’t you think someone would send me a notice in the mail telling me to be ready to dispense golden nuggets of wisdom? As it was, I was caught in a paradox. I couldn’t think of any one thing that would pave the way to success, but I had a flood of thoughts that I tried to say all at once. The only idea I could manage was something about wearing clean underwear.

I failed because I wasn’t prepared. If you got asked for advice just before lunch, what would you say?

The “Success Industry” is big business. People have made careers out of selling their secrets on how to succeed by writing books, doing videos, and seminars. I don’t recall many of these that mention hard work, business fundamentals, or just dumb luck. They have catchy phrases, diagrams, and steps to do. It seems everyone is looking for that one special formula that guarantees they will make it to the top.

I looked for it too. Nothing.

But, I want to help my young dairy friend, and I also would like to get in on the millions of dollars in success marketing. So, if I were to write a book let me offer a few ideas.

I would say something about trusting yourself, trust your gut. Listen to everyone, make up your own mind. At least you will make your own mistakes.

I would warn about pride. There is nothing like a dairyman’s pride. Wives usually take care of this for you. So after she takes you down a notch and you give her a reflexive dirty look, say “thank you”. She saved you from yourself.

Something about tough times and tough people.

Keep perspective. Save yourself a heart attack.

Every now and then stop, stare at the stars, look at the mountains, and marvel at the whole dairy thing. Trust me, it will be over before you know it and you’ll be an expert on oatmeal and slip-on shoes.

Change. It will happen.

Experts say the success books that sell best have 7 steps. 3 steps do okay but are too simple, people want some challenge. 12 steps are too many, people don’t want that much challenge. Books with 3 steps to success get read on a plane to Denver and forgotten by the time you get to Omaha. Books with 12 steps to success sit at the back of the bookcase next to a copy of Atlas Shrugged.

So, the seventh step for a young bright dairyman hungry for success is really the most important piece of advice. It’s probably the only piece of advice that is worth something.

Remember who is in the house. This is really about priorities. This is why my book won’t sell because it borders on dorky. Everyone says, “I know.” Yet, in the middle of the dairy battles, at the moment of the dairy’s triumphs and defeats, it is so easy to get lost in the fray. We forget the reason to get in the business was for a better life for you and the family. Suddenly, the dairy defines us and becomes the most important thing in the world. Wrong, and it makes for a bad life.

40 years ago I was the young guy asking for advice from a Dutchman that helped me get started. I was disappointed because he didn’t give a formula either. Instead, he told me I could expect nights that I wouldn’t be able to sleep. He said there would be times when my stomach would be upset from nerves and my heart would want to beat out of my chest.

He was right.

But, he said if I stuck with it, if I didn’t lose my head, there would be rewards that would make it all worth it.

He was right.

And the last, something I’ve thought about for 40 years. Advice that everyone has to come up with their own interpretation of.

The Dutchman told me, “Don’t go into the business to get rich, do it for something better.”