You Are Your Choices

Published online: Jan 28, 2022 Articles Buzz Shahan, Chief Operating Officer, United Potato Growers of America
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This column appears in the January 2022 issue of Potato Grower.

Brian grew up in the Bronx, New York, in a tough neighborhood that traps many of its residents in unending poverty. Brian dropped out of high school his sophomore year and took a construction job. Evenings were spent in a local bar cheering his favorite sports teams and placing bets on everything from pool games to sports games. After three years on that treadmill, Brian’s girlfriend was expecting a baby. Considering that a human being was about to enter the world with no one to look out for it, and that he was responsible for creating the child, Brian grew up.

While not a scholar, Brian was a quick learner. Throughout his construction work experience, as his boss switched him from job to job, Brian picked up detail after detail of how the construction business works: not how to build a skyscraper but how the business of building a skyscraper works. He discovered that manuals existed regarding construction’s rules and regulations, and he studied them. He studied engineering methods. As his education continued and as he observed how projects he was working on were mismanaged, he concluded that, were he to manage a project, he would do it differently. He would do it better.

When that opportunity came, things turned out as he knew they would; the projects he managed were completed faster than expected and under budget. After that happened a few times, Brian approached his boss and asked for a raise. If not a raise, then some portion of the savings he produced. He was turned down. This was the bosses’ money to pocket, not his. Brian quit and started his own company.

This is a true story and goes on as you expect. Brian became successful in the construction business. Brian, his wife of 40-plus years and his children, a boy and a girl, have all had lives far different than they would have had Brian made different choices. In a literal sense, Brian became his choices.

Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, you are exactly where your choices have placed you. Certainly, reversals and miscalculations happen. Still, how you responded to past adversities and past successes place you where you are today. Like Brian, you are the accumulation of your choices.

This begs the question: By what standards do you measure your choices? It makes sense that higher standards for choice produce better results than lower standards. If you’re in the business of producing and/or selling potatoes, immersion in market data is the best choice you can make in terms of guaranteeing consistent returns for yourself or for those you represent. It’s hard to imagine a person unwilling to do that, isn’t it? It’s hard to imagine someone choosing to produce for and sell into an inelastic (stable demand) market without knowing what their portion of total production should be to guarantee consistent returns.