A Farmer's Wisdom

Lessons in Life and Leadership from Granddad Atkin


Peter Pickering

5/7/20242 min read

Growing up on the rolling fields of Derbyshire under the watchful eye of my grandfather, James William Atkin, a distinguished gentleman farmer, whose words often carried more weight than the morning mist on his vast fields, I was privy to a wealth of sage advice. Daddad Atkin was known for his timely sayings, and one peculiar phrase has stayed with me through the years:

"Stand behind a shooter and in front of a shitter and you'll neither get shot nor shit on."

Initially, it sounded like practical guidance for a young lad holding a shotgun, but as I navigated the wider world, this quaint maxim unfurled its deeper wisdom. This story explores how Daddad's advice proved to be not just about shooting sports but a fundamental strategy for life and leadership.

But, as it happens with the wisdom of age, Daddad's words began to unfurl their deeper meaning as I trudged through the various seasons of life. It wasn't just about literal shooting and the hazards of farm life—it was a guideline on navigating the tricky waters of human interactions and situations.

Take, for instance, the workplace. Aligning yourself with proactive, forward-thinking folks—those 'shooters' who aim high and strike true—can propel you forward. These are the go-getters who innovate and drive change, leading projects and teams toward success. Standing behind them, metaphorically, positions you in a safe spot where you are likely to catch the winds of their progress, rather than getting caught in the crossfire of any incompetence or complacency.

Conversely, steering clear of the 'shitters'—the naysayers and the doom-mongers who are more about problems than solutions—means you avoid the mess they create. These are the folks who drain energy and morale, leaving chaos in their wake. Standing in front of them (again, metaphorically) allows you to see the mess coming and sidestep it gracefully.

Daddad's advice even echoed through my personal life. In friendships and relationships, choosing to spend time with those who uplift and aim for the best—those who 'shoot' for the stars—often means you rise with them. Avoiding those who drag you down or dirty your morale—those who metaphorically 'shit' on everything—ensures you stay clean of drama and negativity.

A Farmer's Wisdom: Lessons in Life and Leadership from Granddad Atkin

In memory of Daddad's enduring wisdom, I used a little of the money he left me to craft something that would carry his legacy forward—a fine shooting stick with a folding leather seat, engraved with his now-infamous saying. I often look at that stick in the corner during a quiet evening and think of the very fields where I learned to shoot, and I find his words ring truer with each passing day. It's remarkable how often that simple, quirky advice provides clarity in life’s complex moments, reminding me to always position myself wisely—whether it’s avoiding religious or political discussion or choosing the right friends.

Daddad might have been a man of the land, but his insights were pure gold, applicable far beyond the boundaries of his farm.

© Peter Pickering 2024. www.peterpickering.com

From the tranquil fields of Derbyshire to the complex social landscapes of adulthood, my grandfather's counsel on where to stand in life has served as an invaluable compass, often steering me clear of trouble and towards success.