Let’s face it. Dairy producers are going through some challenging times. Working for an A.I. company, I see it on a daily basis. But I heard a few words at a recent conference that reinvigorated my excitement for this industry.

Gerbitz john
Dairy Adviser / DeLaval

In April, I attended the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association (DCHA) annual meeting in Madison, Wisconsin. Of course, there were presentations on accelerated growth programs for calves, measuring reproductive performance in heifers and long-range consequences of scours and pneumonia, but amid all of the technical data was a hidden gem that I didn’t even know I was looking for: keynote speaker Paul Vitale. As I listened to his presentation, “Energizing the Enthusiasm ... That Exists Within,” he gave us three ways to live out that message:

1. Choose the wow over the towel

Energizing the enthusiasm that exists within begins with making a conscious choice. The choice of either recognizing the wow of your own unique life or wanting to simply throw in the towel. Enthusiasm coupled with the right mental attitude sets the tone for excellent quality outcomes, one individual at a time! —Paul Vitale

This took me back to a time when I was ready to “throw in the towel” one afternoon in the summer of 1993. I don’t remember the exact date, and I don’t remember specifically what caused me to confront reality. I do remember exactly what I was doing, and I do remember it as the day that I realized that if I would be farming in 1994, I would be doing things much differently than I was doing them in 1993. So, I went out to rake hay, and as I watched the windrows roll off the rake, I weighed the options. By the time I headed home from the field, I had a plan. There were a lot of details left to fill in, and more than a few adjustments to be made, but God had given me a new start and new enthusiasm. That new enthusiasm was the beginning of several successful years of farming and other opportunities after that.

2. Examine confidence from within

Our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for who we become. Having self-confidence is not about being arrogant, but possessing a belief in the ability to succeed. Passion, resilience and the willingness to learn are common denominators that equal accomplishment. —Paul Vitale


I know a young man named Andrew who was born with Down syndrome. Andrew’s background and circumstances set him up with challenges that you and I cannot imagine. Andrew’s attitude, along with support from family and friends, put him in a position to be an inspiration to everyone he meets. Andrew lives on his own. He has served on various boards that advocate for people with disabilities, including a governor’s task force. He has a job as a day care provider, and he is starting his own professional speaking business. He has thrown out a first pitch at a Brewer game and sung the national anthem at a Bucks game. Andrew is a great example of what can be accomplished with passion, resilience, willingness to learn and confidence – in spite of your background and circumstances.

3. React steadily and remain composed

Circumstances will continuously occur, and individuals will always act and react in various ways. You might not be able to control how others react, but you sure can control how you react. —Paul Vitale

I heard this from my father-in-law long before I heard it from Vitale. I remember his reactions were always controlled. I have had many opportunities to learn about leadership, but I have not found a better example of it than my father-in-law, who controlled every situation by controlling his reaction. To put it another way, “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you.”

Vitale concluded by commenting on the value of selflessness, saying, “There will always be those who take a little more than they give. When this occurs, we have the opportunity to convey through our example; everyone dies, but not everyone lives. ... That’s the value of selflessness ... utilizing our talents and resources wisely to help with the needs of others, for the greater good of all.”

I remember a winter late in the 1980s when an early snow prevented a lot of farmers from harvesting their corn. Church groups and community organizations went out to pitch in by hand-picking corn. I heard a story of a farmer who loaned cob corn to a neighbor until the neighbor’s corn could be harvested in spring to replace what had been borrowed – a selfless, neighborly act that got a beginning farmer through a tough winter. There are many more stories of neighbors who showed up to help in time of injury or other disaster. Most farmers have a story of someone who made a difference at a critical time and how they “wouldn’t be farming if it weren’t for their help.” Farming communities know the value of selflessness.

Hopefully I have shared Vitale’s ideas in a way that helps you to “energize the enthusiasm that exists within.” I will close with his thoughts on optimism: “There will always be those who choose to look at the negative versus the positive. When this occurs, we must remember it takes no more time to see the good side of life than it takes to see the bad. ... That’s the value of optimism ... fulfilling each person’s needs through a commitment to service.”  PD

John Gerbitz is the animal health product manager for East Central/Select Sires.

This originally appeared in East Central/Select Sires’ Tank to Tank newsletter.