On Knowing Your Flock

Know well the condition of your flocks,
and give attention to your herds
for riches do not last forever;
and does a crown endure to all generations?

– Proverbs 27:23-24

Sheep © by blathlean

This passage is important for any business owner.

The key is understanding what is meant by “knowing”.

Put yourself in the mindset of a shepherd. He would want to know:

  1. How are my sheep doing as compared to last week/month/year?
  2. Can I account for the change? What conditions were different?
  3. How do my sheep compare with other sheep?
  4. What can I learn from other shepherds to improve the condition of my flock?
  5. What metrics or scoring mechanism can I use or create to help me ascertain the condition of my flock, or individual portions therein, so that I may work on improving it?

“Knowing” therefore has a context and a purpose. It’s not knowing is the sense of knowing facts.

A good business person will have the same mindset as the shepherd. He or she will have some sort of measurement mechanism — or several — to compare different aspects of the business over time and with other businesses… with the goal of incremental systematic improvement over time.

Kansas, Product Creation, and Customer Demand

One of my musical heroes is Kerry Livgren, perhaps best known as the mastermind behind the band Kansas during its glory days.

Despite superb musicianship and songwriting prowess, he nonetheless has no idea what makes for a winning song — a fact he freely admits.

For example, when rehearsing prior to recording the Leftoverture album in 1976, he waited until the band had put all their gear away before announcing his new song. Drummer Phil Ehart tells the story:

When we did Leftoverture, we had practiced up in Topeka, getting
ready to go to Bogaloosa to record, Bogaloosa, LA. Kerry walks in on
the last day – I mean I’m breaking down my drums – packing them up – and
Kerry goes “I’ve written one more song for the album. I don’t know if
you guys are interested in doing it, but I’d like to at least try – once
we get down – we don’t have time to rehearse it here. Let’s rehearse it
when we get to Bogaloosa”. And I said, well OK, does it have a name?
He said yeah – it’s called Carry On Wayward Son.

Carry On Wayward Son (abbreviated by diehard Kansas fans as COWS), of course, became a monster hit. It’s played on classic rock stations regularly and was featured on the game Guitar Hero 2.

That latter fact accounts for the perpetuation of the song’s influence amongst many of today’s youth.

As an aside, there exists a possibly anecdotal story in which Kerry finds himself in a restaurant washroom when COWS came blasting over the stereo system.

A teenage boy — washing his hands in the sink nearest Kerry — said: “That song is on Guitar Hero 2! Have you heard it?”

Kerry replied, “Yeah, I’m somewhat familiar with it.”

🙂

After COWS being responsible for millions of dollars in revenue and a staple for concerts, even long after Kerry exited the band, that is quite an understatement.

In his autobiography, Kerry relates how the record company kept pressing for the band to release material it considered “hit worthy”.

Ever the purist, Kerry refused to cave in and just continued writing music that he enjoyed.

The point is simple: he had a huge hit on his hands and he did not have a clue! What he had going for him is he kept on putting out material and finally stumbled upon a song that met both his high standards and that of millions of fans.

This fact alone shoudl be a great encouragement to you.

Keep throwing oatmeal at the wall and eventually something will stick.

“I need a million…”

Upon arriving home the other other day, I stepped onto our front deck on the way into the house. My three-year old boy was playing there.

I greeted him, and he looked me right in the eye and said: “Dad, I need a million dollars”.

!

Aside from the obvious questions (“where did he hear that?”, “does he know what a million is?”, and “does he even know what a dollar is?”)

… it made me ponder the question of what I want, and why. And the likelihood of actually achieving those goals.

Here’s what I’ve learned about achieving goals:

  • The more specific, the better.
  • Setting vague or non-specific goals is problematic. How do you know when you’ve actually achieved the goal is become “rich” or “happy”? (Short answer: you don’t.) If you want a shot at getting what you want, make it something that can actually be measured.

  • Don’t forget the “reasons why”.
  • By giving yourself good reasons for achieving the goals you’ve selected, you’ll have the impetus to keep slogging away when you may begin feeling overwhelmed or discouraged.

    Remind yourself why you want to earn the amount of money you’ve selected, or what you’ll do with the free time you seek. Perhaps you want more time to invest in your family. Maybe you want to fund orphanages in a third world country.

  • Change is good.
  • It’s ok to periodically review and revise your goals. Don’t feel like you have to keep the same goal forever if it no longer aligns with your values.

    When my son is a little older, I’ll give him the same advice. And also tell him that if he “needs” a million bucks, there’s nothing stopping him from going out and earning it!