I recently heard a story (from a pulpit) regarding the deadly nature of the hippopotamus. Due to their territorial nature, hippos are extraordinarily aggressive. Depending on which list you read, hippos rank fourth to sixth among mammals in terms of taking human lives (other humans not included) worldwide.

Natzke dave
Editor / Progressive Dairy

The story related an experience of Juliet Starrett, a whitewater canoe champion, lawyer and cancer survivor. While canoeing a river in eastern Africa, she was suddenly lifted out of the water by a submerged hippo. The impact destroyed the canoe. Instantly recognizing her situation and the potential for danger, Starrett looked for the nearest shore and began swimming – while still in the air.

As you might guess, the message was to “be prepared.”

Later that day, Starrett’s story made me reflect on some of the articles in each of our Progressive Dairyman issues offering a similar theme. Be prepared. Minimize and manage risk. Develop contingency plans for both the possible and the unexpected.

Be in a “ready state,” able to follow alternative, pre-determined courses of action in the event something bad happens, from a manure spill or disease outbreak to drastic swings in milk and feed prices or the release of an animal activist’s undercover video.


My closest family and friends tell me I am a hard person to “read.” I minimize displays of emotion and process things slowly. Part of that stoic processing is getting myself in a “ready state” and weighing all possible situational outcomes and options.

For example, when I drive, I don’t just look for other cars, traffic signals or pedestrians. When approaching an intersection or speeding along an interstate highway, I also scope out a safe escape route in the event a driver aside or six cars ahead of me does something unexpected.

I confess to being in a nearly constant “ready state.” I have alternative contingencies for current contingencies for things I’m doing next Wednesday.

The upside of all this is that I’m seldom caught by surprise. It’s boring, maybe, but I’m not prone to wide swings of stress or emotion and not thrown off-track when something out of the ordinary happens.

There is a downside. So much focus on what might be can obscure the here and now. Fear of the hippo could make you miss seeing all the other wildlife in the river.

Many of us fail to celebrate the small victories that happen every day. When my “team” succeeds, whether it’s putting together a great magazine or winning a football game, I might do a quick fist pump, but then I get in a “ready state” for the next magazine or game.

After seeing how my millennial sons balance life, I’m becoming convinced every family and business should have a “social chairman,” focused on celebrating the here-and-now and not constantly worrying about the what-might-happen.

If you are in a constant state of “ready state,” it might be good for you to associate with business partners or family members who can celebrate living in the moment, even if financial or other stressors seem large.

A social chairman’s focus might drive you crazy sometimes, but he or she could be a great life balancer. Whether it’s the joy of victory or the relief of survival, it should be celebrated.

One final comment: As I write this, the current political environment impacting dairy seems a bit chaotic, especially related to exports and labor. Each has the potential to negatively impact your bottom line or long-term management. It certainly makes being in a “ready state” a bit more challenging.

The climate might more accurately be reflected in a quote attributed to baseball great Yogi Berra: “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Sometimes that’s the best you can do in a ready state.  end mark

Dave Natzke