Finding Your Place in Modern Agriculture with Karl Binns

The Superman Principle: Unleashing Your Inner Superhero


What sparked your love for agriculture? Maybe you had the joy of growing up on a farm or you got inspired by joining a 4-H club as a kid. Or maybe, like Karl Binns, you stumbled into it. In his interview with AgGrad Live, Karl discusses his journey in the agriculture industry and what he’s learned about making a difference.

Were it not for a chance encounter during his senior year of high-school, Karl might never have thought about agriculture at all. In fact, he only got involved because he met a university recruiter who offered him a full scholarship. But that scholarship had a catch: it was only available to students who planned to major in agriculture. While the scholarship opened a door for Karl, he could have made a different choice. He could have been resentful that his only college funding option dictated his major. He could have refused to go to college altogether. But instead, he chose to embrace the opportunity in front of him and really get involved.

Although an early experience in collecting fecal samples from a goat taught Karl that Animal Science was not for him, he quickly found that he loved agriculture not just for the work, but for the people. Where his friends in other majors experienced competitive or pretentious environments, Karl was amazed at the down-to-earth nature of his fellow Ag majors. Being welcomed into such a positive community made Karl think about what he could do to be his best self, Ag-style. As he embarked on that journey himself, he discovered something called “the Superman principle.”

You’re Superman. Yes, You!

If you haven’t read Steven Kotler’s The Rise of Superman, Karl strongly advises you to give it a try. This very book inspired his number-one piece of career advice to students. Although most of us know Clark Kent as Superman’s mild-mannered alter-ego, Kotler’s theory reminds us that Superman’s true identity lies in his status as the superhuman being, Kal-El. Because people are intimidated by a guy with super-strength and x-ray vision, Superman has to train himself to become the socially acceptable, ordinary Clark Kent. And, in Karl’s opinion, so it is for all of us.

He thinks it’s important for students to know that we’re all secret superheroes; we each have talents and goals that can be amazing. But often, students suppress their Superman in favor of Clark Kent because they’re afraid of standing out. Karl’s advice for that problem? STOP! Be the Superman you are at heart and relentlessly pursue your dreams! Because the only way others will be encouraged to be super is through seeing your example.

Living out that principle has made a big difference in Karl’s life and that’s exactly what brought about the next cool part of his story. Because Superman doesn’t take a day off, and when it comes to doing his best, neither does Karl. That’s what he did one day while giving a motivational speech to a youth group, although at the time, he had no idea what that presentation would set in motion.

A few years later, when Karl reached out to entrepreneurs who inspired him, seeking personal and professional advice for a new project, he finally got in touch with one of his career idols, a man who seemed so successful, Karl was a little nervous talking to him. But the meeting wasn’t going too well until the man’s sister recognized Karl as the guy who spoke to her youth group! When he gave that speech, Karl had no idea that the youth director’s endorsement would land him a chance to work with one of his idols, but that’s exactly what it did. And that taught Karl something he’s used in his career ever since: never consider any networking opportunity unimportant, and always look for ways to make a difference.

Don’t Put Yourself in a Box

Today, Karl continues to make a difference in the world of agriculture, especially in his role as the president-elect of MANRRS. If you’re not already familiar with it, this organization seeks inclusivity for minority students by encouraging kids like Karl, who otherwise might never have gone into agriculture. His work with MANRRS has also lead Karl to another piece of career advice for students: don’t box yourself in.

Don’t assume that the agriculture industry can’t use an engineering major or someone with an accounting degree. In fact, he points out that the industry is desperate for people with those skills! But more importantly, don’t sell yourself short by limiting your horizons to only one thing. Go find that thing you love and unleash your inner superman!
And while you’re at it, don’t be afraid to talk to Karl! He’d love to connect with you on Twitter at @KarlBinnsJr.

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Tim Hammerich

Tim is a strategic communications consultant, founder of AgGrad, and the host of the "Future of Agriculture" podcast. Originally from California, he is now based out of Boise, Idaho.