Share Your Corn

Many years ago there was a Nebraska farmer who was known for growing the best corn in the county. In fact, he entered his corn in the town’s annual corn contest 10 years in a row, and each year he took home the blue ribbon for the biggest, best looking, best tasting corn.

After this impressive decade-long winning streak, a reporter at the local newspaper caught wind of it and decided to write a story on this farmer’s prized corn, aiming to discover the secret of his success.

While interviewing the farmer, the reporter asked… “How do you win the corn contest each year? Does your farm have the most fertile soil? Do you have a special proprietary blend of manure you use in your fields? Are the weather conditions most favorable in your little nook of the valley?”

The farmer smiled and shook his head. “No, no, and no,” is what he said.

The reporter looked puzzled. “Well what is it then?” he asked.

The farmer replied, “My secret is that I share my corn seeds with all of my neighbors.”

Even more puzzled, the reporter asked the obvious question, “Why do you do that? With all due respect, it seems counterintuitive to share your coveted corn seed with all of your neighbors who enter their own corn in the same contest each year.”

Again the farmer smiled and said, “With all due respect, you must not know much about growing corn. When corn is ripening, it produces pollen. When the wind kicks up, it blows the pollen from farm to farm, all across the fields. So, if either I or my neighbors grow inferior quality corn, we all suffer the consequence. Cross pollination will degrade the quality of my corn and everyone else’s. In essence, if I want to grow the best corn, I must help my neighbors grow the best corn too.”

The reporter chuckled and nodded his head in agreement. “Yes, that makes perfect sense,” he acknowledged. But the reporter was a bit stunned by what the farmer said next…

“I also believe sharing my corn seed is an analogy for life. If I want to live well, I must help my neighbors do the same. After all, growing corn is not about winning a contest…it’s about all of us being able to enjoy delicious corn, right? If I want to live a meaningful life, I must make an effort to enrich the lives of others. I believe the value of my life is measured by the number of lives I can make a positive impact on.”

The reporter was surprised to hear such a profound statement come from a “simple farmer”. 

Then the reporter said, “But I am still confused. If you share your high-quality corn seed with all of your neighbors, how is it that you have won the contest every year for the past 10 years?”

“I don’t think I win the blue ribbon every year because I have the best corn,” the farmer confessed. “Plenty of neighboring farms enter corn that is just as good or better than mine. But the judges of the annual contest live on these neighboring farms and know how much I share with them. So, my guess is, I don’t win the contest every year because my corn is necessarily the best…but because I am the best at sharing it.”

With a wink and a nod the farmer said, “Time to get back out into the fields.”

A few years ago I had the pleasure to meet John Paul DeJoria, co-founder of Paul Mitchell hair products. I asked if there was a secret to his success. I was surprised at the brevity of his answer…

“Success unshared is failure.”

So remember to share your corn.