I have been blessed to have great people build into my life and learned at a young age you usually gain a lot more wisdom listening to “old timers” than from your peers. Think about your own life experiences, perhaps sitting around the table with your grandparents, aunts and uncles, or neighbors talking about their own life experiences. Ponder the stories about picking corn by hand, attending a one room school, having no indoor plumbing, or sharing a “party line” with the neighbors. We develop a hunger in our lives for wisdom and understanding by cultivating a desire to listen, learn, and grow our minds while admitting that we really don’t know as much as we would like to think we do.

The book of Proverbs is well known as a great source of wisdom. Its rich contents contain 31 chapters, enough to read a different chapter every day of the month. While journeying through Proverbs this month, it has been fascinating to see how many verses relate directly to our agricultural industry and to the workplace in general.

Let’s examine a few verses from Proverbs and allow the wise words that King Solomon wrote some 3000 years ago to challenge our 21st century minds:

Proverbs 18:20 Wise words satisfy like a good meal; the right words bring satisfaction.

Words are indeed powerful. Positive words build up; negative words tear down. In the workplace and at home, choose your words carefully with everyone. Become an encourager!

Proverbs 19:2 Desire without knowledge is not good; how much more will hasty feet miss the way!

Every employer wants people who get things done…right. Always be careful to first know what you are doing. After nearly being killed in an accident in 1992, I returned to work and a short time later was frustrated with not being able to get an anhydrous tank hooked up to my truck. An older farmer in the lot was watching me. He came over and simply and gently said, “Getting in a hurry never pays; slow down and always think it through.” Then, he helped me get it hooked up.

Proverbs 19:20 Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.

When younger, we often spurn advice from our elders. But when those senior saints are no longer among us, we suddenly crave for just one more parcel of their wisdom. Discipline is a key ingredient in gaining wisdom. Listen. Watch. Set boundaries. Make good choices. Do the right thing. Positive forward progress requires discipline.

Proverbs 19:27 Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.

The young gun walked into the elevator, approached the 30+ year veteran and arrogantly asked, “Would you like me to show you a better way to do that?” Stop, watch, and listen to instruction. Humbly admitting that the more we know (or think we know), the more we know we don’t know, is key to gaining knowledge, which you need in order to attain wisdom. Young or old, never stop listening to instruction.

Proverbs 20:4 Sluggards do not plow in season; so at harvest time they look but find nothing.

Agricultural people of all walks understand this Proverb. Making hay while the sun shines is critical to putting food on the table, whether that is literal hay in the barn, getting the fields sprayed or harvested on time, or finishing up loading the shuttle train just inside the time limit. If you want to eat, plow when it is time to plow.

Proverbs 20:7 The godly walk with integrity; blessed are their children who follow them.

Years ago, a University of Illinois Ag Economics Extension Specialist did a survey of employers on the top 10 characteristics desired in an employee. The number one trait was integrity. Thirty years later, just prior to his retirement, he did the same research, and once again, integrity was the most desired trait. Still today, your word means everything; if people cannot believe you, they will never trust you.

Proverbs 20:10 Differing weights and differing measures; the Lord detests them both.

Unfortunately, agriculture offers many opportunities to be dishonest in weights and measures. Thumbs on the scale, excessively diluting liquid fertilizer with water, putting poor quality grain in the bottom of a load where the probe won’t find it…we have all heard the terrible stories. In our recruiting work, we hear the good, the bad, and the ugly. It all comes back to integrity. You may “get away” with cheating for now, but you have to live with yourself. And the Lord detests it.

Proverbs 20:12 Ears that hear and eyes that see; both are gifts from the Lord.

Listen and watch, and you will learn. We have all heard, “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason…listen twice as much as you talk.” We often want to get our two cents worth in and pay little attention to the valuable advice we would have gotten had we only listened. Value the gift of your two eyes and ears and use them to absorb knowledge and understanding.

Proverbs 20:19 A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much.

Gossip is destructive and even deadly. It can destroy peoples’ lives. Dave Ramsey lays it out clearly in his book, “EntreLeaderhip” (pages 233 and 234). He says, “Gossip, about the company or about leadership, is a particularly evil form of disloyalty.” He goes on to say there is no place for gossip in the workplace, and he has developed a no-gossip policy. Anyone in his company who gossips is warned once; upon a second offense, they are let go immediately.

Proverbs 20:29 The glory of the young is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old.

How valuable it is when older and younger generations can work side by side in harmony. Each has its strengths and value to add. Both can teach valuable lessons to the other. Differences must be overcome, but if you are younger, look for older people to build into your life. And if you have some “gray hair”, take every effort to encourage and assist the young people in your sphere of influence so they can benefit from the wisdom you have gained.