You’ve probably heard the old adage, “you’ve got to make hay while the sun shines,” but do you know what it means? Put simply, the phrase suggests doing something when the conditions or situations are the most favorable. It could also be taken as a reminder that some of life’s best opportunities are fleeting and should be taken when presented.
I think hay production is the perfect metaphor for such a concept. For all the diligent preparation before ever firing up the old John Deere, the farmer is at the mercy of one, quintessential element – the weather.
Everyone knows that the sun doesn’t shine all the time and since it is the one component in hay production that makes the whole thing possible, you have to get it done while it’s bright in the sky. So, like any missed opportunity, if you don’t act on it, you could lose out.
For those readers who are not rurally educated, let me explain. Hay is made by cutting tall grass, drying it, and packing it into bales; not to be confused with straw, which is the dried and baled stalk left over after wheat is harvested. After cutting, the hay has to dry, or “cure,” before bailing to make sure there is nothing wet that would cause it to mold.
Although this all sounds easy enough, there is a great deal more to “making hay” than some people might realize. Hay production involves preparation of equipment while keeping an eye on the weather forecast. You have to take the first, best occasion to get to work or lose the window of sunny skies.
Not surprisingly, each of us is faced with this kind of decision regularly. Your “hay” could be the offer of a new job with a limited window of opportunity to say “yes,” or a trip to see a long-lost relative. In any event, the opportunity is temporary.
But wait, there’s more! Advertisers use this kind of urgent feeling against us, to sell more of their infomercial junk. If you don’t buy it now, you will never know how white your laundry can be or how great your gizmo-cooked chicken will taste. So, we whip out those credit cards so as not to miss that once-in-a-lifetime chance (at least until the commercial runs again).
As strange as it might seem, more people probably take advantage of an advertisement than a real, life-altering opportunity. Procrastination, in my experience, seems to abound in epidemic proportions in America today. But just what is it that people are really waiting for?
My guess is that most people let an opportunity pass them by in hopes that a better one will come along. I’d also guess that it rarely works that way. Once missed, it’s not like there are do-overs in life, although some people seem to think they can just bang around without consequences and leave the rest of us to clean up after them.
But here in the real world, there are consequences for every action, even when you don’t take it. How many regrets do you have in life about not taking a chance on an opportunity you thought wouldn’t come around again? How many did you act on and had a far less positive outcome than you’d anticipated?
Returning to our “hay” analogy, it may not be possible to wait for the perfect set of circumstances. Sometimes you have to just do the best you can with what you have. As we prepared to run hay at my dad’s farm this past week, I just hoped that if rain were to come it’d happen either right after it was cut or after it was baled.
Fortunately, we had amazing weather for the whole week, including bright sunshine and lower humidity. If the machinery had cooperated more I wouldn’t have been upset, but that’s farm life. What’s all this to do with “seizing the day,” as they say?
Just remember that life is dictated by actions and how we react to outside influence. Take those opportunities when they arise. You never know where they’ll lead you.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications. More at gerydeer.com.