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Why I need nerds

From the Ground Up with Steve Kenyon

“Delineate in specificity the phantasmagorical conglomeration in your intellectual cranium vacancy.”

This was a quote that I memorized in Grade 9. I can still spout it off at any time if I need to end a conversation. It was a quote from Maclean’s magazine, relaying what one politician said to another. If you are not sure what it means, I apologize, it is an insult.

I managed to get pretty good grades in school, but I was not smart. My skill was that I could memorize information. Once the test was done, the information was also gone. I was not a nerd. Now don’t take this the wrong way, I am not being rude. I need nerds. I even tell my daughters who are in the “boy crazy” stage, “Go for the nerd.”

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I find it quite ironic that I teach about soil biology now. I talk about soil health and all the critters in the soil: earthworms, dung beetles, fungus, bacteria. But they all have very long and difficult names, mostly in Latin. Have you ever noticed that I always call them critters? That is because I almost failed my microbiology class in college. The only reason I passed is because I had 95 per cent in the lab work. The exams were a nightmare for me. I can’t memorize information that I can’t spell or pronounce. As soon as the words get too big or too complex, I’m lost.

Other languages are very difficult for me to learn. I just can’t get the words to sink in. I am also a really bad speller, and I can’t grammar very well either. I need nerds. My wife is my spelling nerd. To be honest, so is my daughter. It’s pretty bad when you need to ask your 11-year-old how to spell a word. She is my little nerd. My wife is also my tech nerd. If my computer or my phone is not working, I’m like a seven-year-old. “Mom, help peas?”

So why am I telling you about all my shortfalls? Because I need nerds and I am not afraid to admit it. I was sitting in our local soils conference this year listening to a few of our absolutely amazing soil nerds (soil scientists), and I could only understand every third word. They are speaking way above my intellectual level, but they can be so passionate about their work. I love it. Passion is an amazing power and I respect someone who has passion for what they do.

I am usually able to pick up the gist of the topic; just enough to realize there is a whole new area of information that I need to dig into. Then I usually contact them after to pick their brain. Somehow, once they dumb it down a little for me, I manage to grasp the topic and then I get excited. This is where my real skill comes in. I am a translator. I can translate from “nerd” to “farmer” language. I can take the science and put it into a relatable situation that shows the value of that topic at the producer level. My job is a nerd translator.

I have many nerds. I have soil nerds, I have fungus nerds, I have bug nerds, I have bacteria nerds, I have dung beetle nerds, I have financial nerds, I have accounting nerds… need I go on? I need nerds. I think a lot of this comes down to my personality type. I am a dragonfly. I don’t want to fuss with the details. I just want the punch line.

What is a dragonfly, you ask? Sorry, but I adapted a personality test into producer language. A DISC personality test measures four main behavioural styles (dominant, inspiring, supportive and cautious). My version also has four different personalities; a dragonfly, a butterfly, an ant and a bumblebee. Each person will usually have a combination of more than one style but will usually have stronger tendencies to one style.

The Dragonfly: This insect is a predator. Watch out, it eats other insects. This personality style is very dominant and direct. This person takes action and needs to be in charge. They are willing to take risks and can be impatient. They are problem-solvers and value their time. In addition, they can be strong-willed, demanding, aggressive, blunt and downright stubborn.

Butterflies: We all know the social butterfly! This personality is social and influencing. They need to interact with others and are friendly, charming, persuasive, talkative, impulsive and optimistic. They are usually a good leader and can motivate others. On the downside, they can appear emotional and self-promoting but also are very trusting and generous. Think of a butterfly you know — they may also have poor time management skills.

Ants: Work, work, work. Tirelessly working doing the same things day after day! This personality style has the need for consistency. They are predictable, patient, understanding and are good listeners. They are hard workers and will get the job done. However, they may be resistant to change and may rather do the job themselves. They can appear as inactive, complacent, possessive, mild and passive.

Bumblebees: If you have ever seen “The Bee Movie,” you will know that the hive is run in perfect harmony. This personality style is a perfectionist. They are accurate, systematic, analytical, methodical and good fact-finders. They will examine things in detail and may set very high standards for others to follow. They can appear as evasive, restrained, conventional and quiet. I bet they like numbers.

So yes, I am a dragonfly. Just give me the punch line. We all need bumblebees. Nerds are most likely bumblebees because they like to dig into the details of what they are passionate about.

Don’t get me wrong, we need all four types in agriculture. Butterflies are very important as they can be the salesperson, the leader, the instructor. The ants are hard workers. I respect ants a great deal as they keep the whole system moving. In agriculture, most producers are ants, but we all need each other.

What style are you? What are you passionate about and who do you need in your life? Our personality styles can be complementary, if we can get past the differences. The most important part of my business is human resources. Communication is a key part of that. One of the biggest breakthroughs my business ever had was understanding that we all have different personalities and that we communicate a bit differently. If we want to speak to others in a manner that they can understand or relate to, we need to learn their language.

I am a dragonfly. I have learned to speak butterfly, ant and bumblebee. Look at that, I speak four different languages, all in English.

About the author

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Steve Kenyon runs Greener Pastures Ranching Ltd. in Busby, Alta. You can email him at [email protected] or call 780-307-6500.

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