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Sow what?

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Steve McDonald
  • 451st Air Expeditionary Wing Command Chief
There is a story that talks about a farmer who went out to sow some seed on his land. As he was scattering his seed, some of it fell on the hard path. Some of it fell in areas where the ground was very rocky. Some fell among thorns. Some fell on rich, fertile soil.

The seed that fell on the hard path was trampled on and eaten by birds. The seed that fell on the rocky ground grew quickly but soon withered because the soil was shallow and there wasn't any moisture. The seed that fell among the thorns grew alongside the thorns but was eventually choked out by the thorns. The seed that fell on the rich, fertile soil grew into healthy crops and produced more seed for the farmer to sow.

This story is about trying to convey a message. Whether you get your message across or not depends largely on the receptiveness of your audience and the environment they are in. There will be some who are like the hard path. It won't matter what you say, how you say it or how often you say it, the message will fall on deaf ears. A bad attitude is a hard thing to crack.

There are some who will hear your message and get on board right away. But at the first sign of adversity that comes along, they will change back into the old way of thinking. This happens often in the Air Force when people try new ideas and run into the "old guard" who say "we've always done it this way," "we tried that and it didn't work" or "if things ain't broke, don't fix them." It's hard to hold on to ideals when no one else is supporting. This is like the seed that fell on the rocky ground.

Additionally, there are people who are like the ground with the thorns. They hear the message, buy into it and start making a difference. Before too long, others realize that things are starting to change and they don't like it. They don't want to work any harder than they are now and don't want to be held accountable for some standards. This is when you hear things like "that isn't how things are in the real Air Force" and "we do things differently when deployed." The negative influence of these people eventually chokes out your message and makes it unfruitful.

Finally, there is the situation where you get your message across clearly to someone who appreciates what you are trying to convey. There are opportunities for continued mentoring and guidance. Others in the work environment are also supportive. The message is nurtured. At the end of the day, this person will preach the same message when given the opportunity. Your original "seed" will produce even more "seed" as more people hear the message.

Your responsibility is to be faithful to the message that you are responsible to deliver. It doesn't matter what the message is. It could be about standards and compliance. It could be about pursuing process efficiencies in the work center. It could be about the contributions of the Air Force in a joint environment.

Regardless of whether the soil is a hard path or fertile ground, we have to convey the message we have. Then we can start looking at ways to break up the hard ground, remove the rocks and weed out the thorns. Some messages are important enough to put in the work needed to get the point across.