Riding the dragon

From the Ground Up with Steve Kenyon

Sometimes it’s easier to talk with a coach when the going gets tough. Do you have a person in your life that you can turn to?

That sounds tough. All fire and brimstone, a knight in shining armour riding a beast into battle to rescue the princess. You can’t get more manly than that, right? I am that tough guy and I am proud to say that I have ridden “the dragon” many times. Let me explain.

I grew up with two big brothers, so I had no choice but to get tough. I’ve played all sorts of tough-guy sports and I have done some pretty crazy things in my days. In my generation, guys were taught not to cry, not to show their feelings and if they got hurt, just to “walk it off.” Hold it in. Bottle it up. I’m pretty good at it but it is tough being tough all the time. Internal emotional turmoil can be overwhelming some days.

I would like to open that door today on the issue of mental health in agriculture. It’s not a comfortable topic, but it is important. Similar to physical health, we can have good mental health or poor mental health and of course, there is a whole range in between. Farming is a stressful profession. The risk of markets, production, weather and people all add to the stresses in our day-to-day personal lives. Depression is not something to take lightly. I have been on that edge many times.

I attend quite a few agricultural conferences and that’s where I first heard Dan Ohler speak. He was hilarious. I remember him running around the stage dressed up as a little old lady. He was very entertaining, but in the end, the powerful part was his message. He talked about the power of emotional support. I had to hide my tears by the end of his talk. This tough-guy act was not all it was cracked up to be.

With hesitation, I contacted him to set up a meeting. Dan is a relationship coach. Yes, that could mean marriage relationships but it also includes other relationships. We have many different types of relationships in business. How about dealing with extended family, employees, co-workers or even your boss? Coaching can be for personal or business relationships. Good communication and emotional support can help us a great deal during times of stress on the farm. I still call Dan up from time to time when I need an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on. He is a great listener and gives great advice. He is my coach.

A few years ago, I went to meet with Dan. I was going through some stressful times and just needed to let some things go. I always try to stay positive, but sometimes those negative thoughts still creep in. I remember explaining to him that it was like I was on an emotional roller coaster. One moment I am excited, and things are going great, and the next I hit rock bottom. Then I shake that off and pull out those positive thoughts, only to have them pushed aside again. Up and down, back and forth.

Has anyone else ever been on an emotional roller coaster? It can be mentally exhausting and emotionally draining. Dan just sat and listened for most of our session while I vented. In the end, he said one phrase that changed everything. “You don’t have to ride the big roller coaster… just get on the little one.”

Just ride the small emotional roller coaster. Why didn’t I think of that? Let me add in the back story to explain why that meant so much to me. We live close to the West Edmonton Mall, which has Galaxy Land. This is a huge indoor amusement park that has many different rides, including four different roller coasters. There is the Mindbender (really big), the Galaxy Orbiter (kind of big), the Autosled (medium) and the Dragon Wagon (a kiddie ride). Of course, this was a popular place to go when my kids were young. My youngest was only about four, so she could not go on the bigger rides. As a single dad at the time, I would get the older kids set up on a ride and then I would take my little one over to ride the Dragon Wagon. It was basically an oval track with one little bump. I would wedge myself into the belly of the beast as best I could and we would ride the dragon together. Around and around, bump. Around and around. Bump. Sounds pretty manly, right? Can you picture me with my knees up against my chest riding the dragon?

That one phrase has helped my emotional health more than anything else ever has. Whenever I find myself riding an emotional roller coaster, when stress creeps into my life and negative thoughts take over, I just look back in my mind and I jump on the Dragon Wagon with that cute little four-year-old. That is my positive thought.

When times are tough, or life on the farm gets out of control, just remember that you can choose not to ride the Mindbender. It is okay to ask for some help. Find an ear or a shoulder to help get you off that big emotional roller coaster. Be the tough guy that just rides the dragon. What is your dragon? What is your positive thought that can pull you off the Mindbender? Something that just goes around and around and can make the bumps in the road of life a lot easier to take.

You can still be a tough guy, but maybe if you had that one person that you could talk to, you could release some of that emotional turmoil. If you are like me, it might be easier to share with a coach rather than with a friend. It is good to have close friends, but in my experience, friends don’t always give the best advice and sometimes I may still be hesitant to open up fully to them. A coach takes away all the pressure and hesitation. I am free to drop the tough guy act with Dan and tell him anything.

Dan is a great listener, so I’m going to include his contact information. Visit his website at danandcarol.com or call him at 780-785-9479.

It is kind of ironic that in this tough guy story, it is the princess that keeps saving the knight in shining armour.

About the author


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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