Hop Up For Some Balance!

Hops growing everywhere in my garden!

"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut!" - Ernest Hemmingway

I love a new challenge so last year I added some hop plants to my garden. We have an old unused chicken coop complete with some chicken wire supported up high and it seemed the perfect spot for scrambling vines. The soil was still very  rich with chickie compost and the spot has ample sun. Hops are a low maintenance plant so I just planted and ignored them.  Boy! Do we ever have hops! The vines grew far more robust than I expected and we have hops trailing all over. What a beautiful scented sight!

The city that I live in was named "Beer City USA" last year. Yes, we are quite proud of our new designation. We are eloquent and cultured beer drinkers (well, I don't really like beer but...).Craft breweries are the rage throughout the country. We have varied and unique breweries popping up every week in the Midwest. Recently, the demand for fresh hops skyrocketed and hop prices jumped. Along with our new breweries, there are a whole lot of home brewers as well. Whether it's for pleasure or profit, hops are the new game in town. The hops hoopla hasn't gone unnoticed and farmers, entrepreneurs, and garden peeps like me are jumping in. Locally, hops sell for roughly $14 a pound and they are worth it. The aroma is divine depending on the variety that you grow. They have the freshest smell when you pick them at their "papery" stage and roll them between your fingers. Hops have a spicy, herbal, floral, piney smell depending on the variety. There's a great article on the impact of hops in Michigan at Hop of faith: Michigan and more entrepreneurs, farmers, growing the plant for Michigan beer

You may be asking "What are hops - they are in my beer?" Hops are technically "Humulus Lupulus" which is a "sticky" vine that can grow up to 20 feet tall. Hops are actually the pine-cone like flowers  from the female plants and they are from the Cannabis family - perhaps why we love beer so much? Hops are grown on tall poles with long lightweight cords attached - like a trellis but much taller! As I learned this summer, my chicken coop growing system needs to be raised significantly next year! Hops grow up from the roots every year so clean up involves cutting the vines to the ground after harvest. Hops contain lupulin  which is secreted from the hops when they are boiled. This magical substance contains all the oils, acids, and resins that are needed to make a great beer. Brewers can control the taste of beer by deciding which types of hops to use and when to add them to their brew.

Hops have an important job - without them there is no beer. There is a lot of chemistry and science involved in making beer. There are special "Beer Universities" (real colleges - not your son's dorm room) and distinguished brewers are called Brewmeisters. Top brewers can command a six plus figure salary in the industry. Hops can offer beer the following: The importance of hops for brewing

  • Counterbalance any sweetness from barely with their bitterness
  • Add unique flavor
  • Provide aroma
  • Preserve the beer and add stability

Guess what hops is most  famous for in brewing?

Stability and Balance - sound familiar?

"No one welcomes chaos, but why crave stability and predictability?" - Hugh Mackay

We currently have a lot of unrest all over the world, both politically and economically. There are financial wars and squabbles that people don't even remember why they are fighting in the first place. The root cause of so much of this strife? Instability and lack of balance. Think of when you once played on the playground on the seesaw. What happened when there was no one sitting opposite of you? You sat there looking like a dork - waiting for a friend. What about when you were happily bobbing up and down and your partner jumped off while you were in mid air? OUCH! Down on your tush. The best case? When you and your partner balanced up and down in tandem so that your feet barely touched the ground. It was the best!

This balance is what sound leadership is all about and what it offers. Like the hops in the brewing process, you won't have effective leadership if you don't bring balance and stability to the table. You don't have to be "the" top leader either to bring something of value to the process. Be yourself and be the "lupilin" within your team.

Beer gone wrong can be sour, cloudy, acidic, or skunky. It kind of sounds like some companies doesn't it? I worked for one once and it would have taken a whole lot of "hops" to bring in some balance. Unstable leaders offer poor communication, resist change, love stagnation and the status quo, and remain poor communicators. They are anything but the "yang" to the "yin" and content with jumping off the seesaw while you are in the air. Don't be that person. Hop in and bring balance to the crew.

Today's hops harvest!

Here's what balanced leaders offer to the mixture:

  • Well intentioned strategy and vision for their own lives and that of their group. They follow the vision they have but like a brewer, are willing to make changes.
  • They are committed to the long view. Just because you have some bad hops doesn't mean you give up. Dig in your heals and plug along making the next harvest better. Have the same attitude and balance with people.
  • Maintain strong values. Values = Stability. Decisions must match your values or you risk instability.
  • You can't do everything and have everything. Strive to keep the seesaw balanced.
  • Balance your weaknesses with strengths. Do the same with your people and the team. It takes a concerted effort and dedication.
  • Give and take. Like our hops, you need to balance the sweet with the sour.
  • Follow a steady path and encourage your people to do the same. Steady wins every time.
  • Steady in the long run always means steady in a vertical sense. Stand up for what you believe and for your people/team. Hops need a strong vertical structure to climb and thrive. Your people do too! Be their trellis.
  • Communicate. The right communication is like adding the right type of hops to a brew. Every type has it's own taste and smell, your communication has to be "right" as well.
By now, you know enough about hops to be dangerous. In order for the hops to climb tall and flourish it needs a strong support system. Be a strong balanced structure for your people and grow some "hops"!