Oswald Letter

Lessons from the Duck Blind

This past weekend, my son and I went duck hunting. Despite growing up in a rural area in the Midwest where hunting was a way of life, I never cared for it when I was young. Among the reasons was that it was brutally cold in Iowa in the winter. But, my 15-year-old son has become an avid duck hunter and the time with him on these hunting trips has caused me to find real enjoyment in hunting. That, and the fact that we live in an area where the average temperature is about 20 degrees warmer than where I grew up!

In addition to the father and son time, there’s quite a bit of male bonding going on with the other dads and their boys. For a few weekends each year, we get to be guys and do all the disgusting things we do when no women are present. But in addition to all the macho stuff and the lessons the boys are learning from their fathers, duck hunting teaches all of us some great life lessons — things that can be applied to our everyday lives, including on the job.

It pays to be organized. You might be thinking that all you need is a gun and some shotgun shells to be a duck hunter, but there’s a lot more to it than that. The amount of equipment required seems endless. There’s the clothing: hats, gloves, coats. And that’s in addition to the layers underneath — all of it camouflaged in order not to be spotted by those wary ducks. You also need your duck calls and decoys. We have ATVs to get us through the muddy fields and they must be maintained and fully fueled. The last thing you want to do is miss out on a duck because you weren’t organized and you’re missing something.

That’s a great life lesson for all of us. You can miss out on a lot if you’re not prepared. And to be prepared, you need to be organized. Like ducks, opportunities can present themselves infrequently. You don’t want to miss out on a great opportunity because you failed to prepare.

Patience is a virtue. To be a successful duck hunter, you must learn patience. The ducks come in on their time, not yours. Sure, there are things you can do to coax them in, but in the end they’re in control. Often you must sit for hours to get that one great opportunity that only lasts a few seconds. That means a lot of sitting and waiting. If you can’t learn patience, you’re going to struggle as a duck hunter.

The same can be said about business. If you jump at the first thing that comes along, you may miss a great opportunity that would have presented itself later. And like duck hunting, there are things that you can do to encourage more opportunities to come your way, but in the end you still have to be patient enough to wait for the right one.

You need to be able to recognize a good opportunity when you see one. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been with a group of hunters who have passed on a good shot to get a better one. Only the better one never comes as the ducks move on to greener pastures. Then the conversation in the duck blind turns to, “We should have taken that shot when we had the opportunity.” Coulda, woulda, shoulda! If you have a good shot, take it. You never know when another opportunity is going to present itself.

That’s wonderful advice in business as well. If a good opportunity comes up, seize it. If you don’t, you might find yourself waiting forever for that perfect opportunity that never comes. And, as with duck hunting, if you do that, you’ll go home empty-handed. Sometimes you’ve just gotta take the shot!

Teamwork is important. There’s a lot that must happen to have a successful hunt. If everyone can work together, the chances for success are much greater. That’s especially true when the ducks come in. In a matter of seconds, the blind door must be opened, the guns must be raised, the shots taken. Knowing who is going to do what and working together can be the difference between success and failure.

We all know how important teamwork is in business. Just like with duck hunting, it can be the difference between success and failure. If you can’t work together, you’re only hurting everyone’s chances of success.

Share the credit. It’s a fact that with a group of five or six hunters in a blind, you’re not always sure who shot which duck. As I said, it all happens very quickly and with that many guns, each possibly firing as many as three shots, it can be hard to tell who deserves credit for a specific duck. It’s best when you hunt with a group that’s willing to share the credit and the proceeds.

In business, much of what we do is a team effort. Attributing the credit to any one individual is difficult. And you don’t want to be the person claiming it for himself. It’s best when the credit is shared, because no one can do it all by themselves.

So those weekends in the blind aren’t just teaching my son the skills to become a better duck hunter. They’re also teaching him lessons that he can take with him for the rest of his life. And I never go a weekend without learning something myself!