My Great Grandfather’s cotton picking strategy

My grandfather and his siblings grew up picking cotton. They knew hard work from an early age. My grandfather used to like to tell a story about how his dad motivated them to pick faster. My great grandfather called all of the kids together and told them that there were going to have a race. He would start on a row to pick, and each of them would have a row to pick. Whichever kids could get to the end of their row before he got to the end of his would get a quarter (which was a ton of money for a kid at that time). They started the race and of course, my great-grandfather went at a slower pace to give the kids a chance. Sure enough, at the end, most of the kids beat him to the end of the row. My great grandfather paid them and then said, “Now we know how fast you can pick cotton, that’s how fast you can pick it from now on.”

I love that story, partly because it was clever and partly for the look of mischief in my grandfather’s eye when he used to tell it. I also love it for what it teaches me about productivity. A few thoughts:

  • I must recognize that most of the time I am not working at optimal productivity.
  • I must find a way to motivate myself to optimal productivity and recognize it as such.
  • I must then find ways to maintain optimal productivity, even if there is not a big reward each time.

I’m not sure if I will ever know the kind of work that my grandfather knew as a child, but I know what this lesson taught him and how it stayed with him well into his 80’s. It taught him the value of working hard and doing your very best in all situations. He did some great things in his life and built a great family. If I can learn to work each day as he did, the sky is the limit.