A shovel is a simple toy. We love shovels at Meadowcreek and we love to use them. We like spades. We love both round and square bottomed shovels. We love long narrow shovels and huge wide ones. We love scoop shovels. We even love show shovels, though we don’t have a lot of flat pavement to use them on. We like shovels, we like to use them and we know how to use them. We especially like to use them to make good garden beds and more healthy food.
Meadowcreek has attracts a lot of people. Some were motivated and hard workers. Some think they want the Meadowcreek lifestyle, but are not hard workers. Others were intellectually motivated, hard workers and have basic gardening skills. The latter fit right in, especially in the summer.
Those who work hard and don’t have the needed skills can become great Meadowcreekers. And we are glad to teach them. But they have to be willing to accept criticism. The type of volunteer which hardly ever works out is the person who has convinced himself he wants to be a farmer, but won’t accept constructive hints on how he could do a better job.
Anyone who can’t accept criticism is a royal pain. Everyone at Meadowcreek has to accept that they are imperfect and need improvement. When a volunteer gets mad when we suggest putting his foot on the opposite edge of the shovel, we really wish we were a little bit less welcoming. That guy needs to go. He’s going to have to teach himself. That’s hard when you don’t like to work. The only way to learn how to use a shovel or any other skill is to do it again and again.
Why are people motivated to try again and again to master using a shovel or a rake or milking a cow or plowing? Most of us at Meadowcreek learned these skills as a child. We can’t even remember not knowing how to use basic tools. But a lot of people who grow up in town don’t have the first idea.
When they were young and had a lot of energy, the adults in their lives didn’t channel that energy into learning practical skills. Maybe they learned video games, but they didn’t learn how to hoe.
Now that they are older they don’t have quite so much energy. If there is little energy or motivation, its hard to move in any direction, much less a productive one.
Getting people motivated is a tough task. Lots of people have written lots of books on motivation. I spent years reading such books and articles. Some were useful, most weren’t. I had jobs in two universities teaching undergraduates about motivation. Unfortunately for those students, I only began to really understand motivation when I left the Universities and started helping farmers create cooperatives. I gradually learned that motivating people is like learning to use a shovel. You only get good at it by doing it. And, if you are set in your ways and won’t accept criticism, you’ll never learn how to do it.
Many folks get stuck in ruts regarding motivation. Abraham Maslow has the most well known motivation theory. Every MBA student is taught Maslow’s theory. Just google him. The problem is: he was wrong.
Maslow left out some really basic motivations: curiosity and altruism. We’ll explore that some other time. At Meadowcreek we know that some of the best motivators are wanting to learn about something new and wanting to help other people.
At Meadowcreek, we’ve learned that motivation and humility are a great combination. Volunteers can overcome a complete lack of skills if they are both motivated and know they need to improve.