Naive or professional?

The naive farmer farms as his parents, grandparents and great grandparents did. She plants, hopes and harvests. Anything that goes well or poorly is the work of the gods.

The professional farmer measures. She tests. She understands how systems work and is constantly tweaking to improve them. When failure happens, she doesn't rest until she understands why.

I didn''t use the word amateur, because money isn't the point. The naive farmer is failing to take responsibility and failing to learn. The naive marathon runner straps on sneakers and runs (but doesn't finish). The professional marathoner trains. The naive office worker empties his inbox. The professional works to understand how the office functions.

Mostly, the professional asks questions… What's next? How to improve? What's this worth? Why is this happening?

[By the way, it's possible to be naive and happy. It's difficult to be naive and productive, though.]

I spent the last week working with Western Seed and Juhudi Kilimo, two vibrant companies that are helping small-plot farmers in Kenya (and beyond) dramatically increase their yields, their income and their well-being. It became clear early on that the real challenge is to help the naive become professional. Once you open that door (whether it's about how you build a website, swim laps or teach school), so many other things fall into place.

Before you can sell a service, a product or an insight to the naive, you need to sell them on being professional.