You can learn a lot from animals, particularly their character, moods, idiosyncrasies, and the way they respond to the world especially in a group.
Cows are great studies of human behaviour.
Growing up on a dairy farm was a great study in all sorts of behaviours, I just didn’t know it at the time. When you spend a lot of time with cows [and a dairy farm has you do that] you get to know most of the herd pretty well.
You see them twice a day everyday of the year. We milked for town supply so every day was the same routine. 4 o’clock in the morning, when your alarm would go off to get up and going, and 4 o’clock in the afternoon when milking would be starting.
We, like the cows, had an inbuilt clock that had us heading for the milking shed, almost on autopilot.
You’d get to know the cows and their personalities. Those that were docile and amiable, those with a sense of frivolity, those that were loners and those who were leaders.
Twice a day, every day for most of their adult life, they would enter the yard at the cowshed with the other 250 odd cows and go through exactly the same process. Being intelligent animals and quick to learn, they knew all about what milking entailed.
72 was not a pretty cow, not by Friesian standards. She didn’t have that handsome black and white coat that is so synonymous with Friesians, and most of the rest of the herd. Hers was a muddy brindle and black colour.
Perhaps it was professional jealousy, perhaps she was bullied by the others, perhaps she had no friends, but there was one consistent thing you could count on—her belligerent attitude.
Her demeanour, her stance, behaviour, attitude when milking; she just disliked the world and was happy that everyone should know. When milking, she would stand with her head down, ears back tail swishing vigorously, trying to catch any poor unsuspecting human who wasn’t watching, across the face.
And she would kick four or five times like clockwork. Once when you washed her, once when you started her [ready for milking], once when you put the milking cups on and once when you took them off. Often for good measure she’d kick them off in the midst of milking as well.
You knew and would watch out for her. Only if you were particularly tired or not concentrating would you get caught. In the middle of winter, with a substantial frost on the ground and wet hands, your fingers felt like tender little numb stubs on the end of your hands. Collecting a hoof right across your fingers would hurt, a lot, and remind you that you should have been paying more attention.
Why was 72 always like that? I never studied cow psychology but she just didn’t like the world. So, what for many cows was merely a routine part of life was for her a constant reminder of her need to rage against bovine oppression.
I’ve met clients like 72.
You can look at their situation and in a few minutes sum up the numbers and work out the issues. Financially everything should be working well, but it’s not. And the reasons are clear.
The challenge is getting acceptance that the numbers are telling a story and that what is required is not a new and sexy investment program, nor an app for their smart phone. What is required is to acknowledge that there is little or no connection between money coming into the household and what’s going out. Cashflow.
It’s as plain as day, but goes totally unrecognised.
And this behaviour may be decades old. Just like 72 that’s the way it is. More to the point that’s the view from where they stand and it’s normal.
So apart from stating the ‘bleeding’ obvious—what is the resolution?
In the face of facts they will state the need to invest, get better rates, get a salary increase. The reality is they need to watch what goes out of the house. Actually take some notice and manage it better. When we’ve helped them do that successfully, then and only then will they have the platform on which to build everything else. Failure to that will build a house of cards that will fall over, as it often has several times before. Until then it will be another year of the same old outcome.
So why do people choose to ignore that facts and do the same things over and over and expect a different result?
I don’t know, I never studied cow psychology.
Rex Wood Director
Iridium Financial Services works exclusively with people between 40 and 50 who have been earning pretty good money, but realise that their net worth doesn’t reflect the amount of money they’ve earned or the hard work they’ve put in over the last 20 years or so. They feel like they’re falling behind and want to catch up, before it’s too late