Kansas FFA Blog

The Name on the Front

What’s more fun than spending five hours in a suburban playing road trips games, holding our bladders, and ignoring our rumbling stomachs? Well when it’s phrased that way… just about anything. However, when I arrived in Iowa, all these small things fade into the background. Recently, my fellow team members and I had the opportunity to attend National Leadership Conference for State Officers. Besides the knowledge gained at this conference, the people and relationships we built surpassed everything.

DeShawn Blanding, the 2016-2017 National Southern Region Vice President, was one of the facilitators at this conference. Talk, about inspiring! He brought the life, energy, and excitement each and every day. I soon found myself invigorated by his words and actions.

One evening he sat us down for our reflections. As normal, I grabbed my moleskin, pen, and let my mind wander through his words and stories. Then, something he said caught my attention. DeShawn was telling us a story about a time when his family could only afford one FFA jacket. Since his brother was older than him, his name went on the jacket. Once his brother graduated, Deshawn was handed down the coveted blue jacket. However, DeShawn felt like he was living in the shadow of his brother. It was his brother’s name on the jacket after all. It wasn’t until DeShawn received his own jacket with his name on it that he realized, it’s about who’s in the jacket…not the name on the jacket.

I remember when I received my first chapter FFA jacket. I wore that jacket during some of my proudest moments…and some of my toughest. While I was so proud of my name on the front, and my chapter or district on the back, I never thought to think…. it’s who’s inside this jacket that I am proud of. Our name’s on our jacket’s will only mean as much as the person inside of them. Maybe we are wearing our older brother’s or sister’s jacket. Maybe we are borrowing a jacket from our FFA Chapter. Or Maybe we have a jacket with our own name on it. It will always be the person inside the jacket that defines us, not the name on the front.

Living to Serve,
Marie Reveles

Posted in 2017-2018 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Golden Years

When I was about seven years old, my great uncle provided me with something that I cherish to this day; a family tree. It’s not an extensive one, as it simply traces the history of a single predecessor, in most cases the father. The family tree doesn’t branch off and reveal that I’m a distant cousin of one of our nation’s presidents. No, this tree offers something much more valuable (who isn’t distantly related to someone famous), a narrative. I can see where my 8th great grandparents were born in Germany and where they passed on in the United States. I learn in which generation the Borger family moved from Pennsylvania to Northwest Kansas.  My favorite part of the family tree is the listings of my 3rd great grandpa, Valentine “VP” Borger and my great grandpa, Oscar Valentine Borger. It’s from these two men who lived before me that I get my middle name, Valentina.

This past June Kansas concluded its 89th State Convention.  Next year will be the 90th and before long, we will be celebrating our 100th State Convention.  Eighty-nine years of recognizing FFA members and students enrolled in agriculture education.  Without a doubt, the FFA you and I now enjoy is not quite the same as members past have.  This is the exact reason our state association has launched the 2028 project.  The project hopes to compile and preserve a collection of documents, including personal interviews with past members, that will help in telling the history of our association.

Thankfully our association has done an excellent job of compiling this data as we’ve gone.  Over the past several months I’ve browsed the state website countless time.  I’ve looked through the past National and State Officer and American and State Degree lists more times than I can count.  Each time it seems I discover something new; for example the father of my best friend (who encouraged me to enroll in my first ag class) earned his American degree as a member.

As I explored the website further, I stumbled upon something that is as important to me as my family tree; Kansas FFA’s Golden Years 1929-1982.  It lists things from what year each chapter was chartered, Kansas Sweethearts, and even who won State CDEs.  While all of this is quite interesting, the publication recognizes “the real history can be found in the lives of present and past members.”

From these compilations, we can learn that Rick Malir and Gov. Sam Brownback served as both State and National Officers.  What it doesn’t teach us is how this association and organization impacted their lives or why they continue to support the organization.  It’s only from listening to these individuals that we can learn from them.  Many of our Alumni lived through those “Golden Years” of the Kansas FFA.  While many things were different during their time as a member, do we not gain some of the same experiences?

It may have been called the Golden Years because when something is new, it is shiny.  However, to this day, FFA members continue to grow in their Blue Jackets, living out GOLD Standards. We’re told that highschool is the best time of our lives.  How can we maximize our time as members so that our golden years are remembered for years to come?

Living to Serve,
Skyler Denio
2017-2018 State Sentinel

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The Lasting Impact and Legacy of a True Champion

I don’t know about you, but if you are anything like me you have your favorite tunes. I love to jam out any chance I can. I have been instructed to turn my music down more than a few times. I love country music and although I cannot play an instrument, or sing any pleasant sound, I still like to rock out. Most of my favorite songs come from what has commonly been referred to as “Red Dirt” music. It is mostly bands from Texas and Oklahoma that are not commonly played on our local radio stations. One of these songs is by Aaron Watson and it is titled “July in Cheyenne.” It is a tribute song to the late Lane Frost. Lane Frost was a legendary bull rider whose life was portrayed in the infamous movie 8 Seconds. The movie shows a glimpse of the life that he lived and it shows some of his greatness. Take a minute to understand some of the reasons why this incredible cowboy was able to make such an impact on so many.

Lane Frost began riding at a young age. He knew that he didn’t just want to be a cowboy, but a rodeo cowboy. He started riding dairy calves on the family ranch around the age of 5. From there his passion flourished and he began his quest to achieve what every rodeo cowboy aspires to be, a World Champion. While he experienced success in nearly every event of rodeo he wanted to be a bull rider. Lane was about five foot eleven inches in height, which is relatively tall for a bull rider. But, his hard work helped him make it to the top of the ranks quickly as he won high school rodeos all over the country. His career continued to take off as he was named 1983 Rookie of the Year for the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association). He and his close friends Tuff Hedeman and Cody Lambert, continued down the rodeo trail for the next few years qualifying for the NFR (National Finals Rodeo) multiple times. Eventually in 1987, Lane finally achieved his goal of becoming a World Champion Bull Rider. He continued to be a successful rider and cowboy. In 1989, he was once again on track to another successful season when on July 30th his life was cut short after an accident following his dismount.

As you can see Lane lived what many would say a “successful” life. Considering he only lived to twenty-five years old, it is impressive that he could accomplish so much. Rodeo has existed for many years, and there have been many world champions. The NFR has existed since 1958 and has continually crowned w

orld champions in each of rodeos 7 primary events every year. That said we now must evaluate why this cowboy was so special as to have songs and movies created in tribute to him and why he is one of the most legendary and well-known cowboys to this day. I truly believe it is because there is more to his story than his accomplishments in the arena. Those that were closest to him would lead you to believing that he was not just a rodeo champion, but a champion at life. Lane was genuine and sincere. These are qualities that many of the leaders we look up to in history, and in our lives, possess.

When Lane was young and starting to ride competitively he twice got the opportunity to meet his bull riding hero, 8 Time World Champion Donnie Gay. When young Lane went back behind the chutes to meet his hero he was disappointed and hurt by his encounter. What was expected to be a dream come true became a nightmare as Lane witnessed his hero wearing tennis shoes, smoking a cigarette, and said he didn’t have time for him. The other time they met Lane was about to ride and asked him for advice only to be told he had drawn a bull too difficult for him to ride. These two instances made a significant impact on Lane as it taught him the importance of being genuine. As a result, Lane always wore cowboy boots and wrangler jeans with long sleeved shirts, the way he believed cowboys should dress. He also would hang around to sign every autograph. Fellow cowboy and close friend Jim Sharp would say “He was always smiling. When we were signing autographs, he would stay until the last kid. He enjoyed everybody. He was there for everybody and it wasn’t just an act. He’d set and talk to a guy and get to know him.”

That sincerity carried over when he met a 12-year-old J.W. Hart who aspired to be like Lane and was riding in a youth rodeo in San A

ntonio, Texas. He was the only boy in the steer riding not from Texas and as a result had been outcast by the others all week. They were waiting in a line when someone smacked him on the chest from behind when he turned around it was his hero Lane Frost standing there smiling. J.W. had been to Lanes riding school the year before and Lane remembered his name and later helped him in the chute as he prepared to ride. Eventually J.W. Hart did achieve his dreams and like Lane also became a World Champion Bull Rider. He also inspired another young boy he met at age 11 named Mike White who also was encouraged from meeting Lan and too became a World Champion.

Genuine and sincere, those are two of the many qualities that our cowboy had. Lane was truly a champion, and he carried that with a charisma that few have ever before or since have possessed. If we take these qualities and truly apply them to our lives we too will be able to bring out the best in those around us. We will be able to create an impact. Perhaps even a lasting one. To this day people that knew Lane can still tell you about how he impacted them. Lane has helped to inspire many to follow in his steps. Every day we have that opportunity to lead those around us andto encourage them to grow and aspire to achieve more. Lane Frost was able to leave a legacy that has, and will continue to impact people for years. He built those around him up. Now it is time for all of us to create our impact and build the legacy that we will leave behind, in our homes, our chapters, and our world.

Living to serve,

Quentin Umphenour,
State Treasurer

Posted in 2017-2018 | Leave a comment

Relevance Over Time

One of my favorite things on the farm is the equipment. Tractors of all sizes, combines, grain carts, planters, drills, air seeders, and so much more! I would even like to pursue a career involving agricultural machinery. Recently, I have spent some time with local John Deere dealership, Concordia Tractor Incorporated, or CTI. It has been an awesome experience! During this experience, I learned about the many different aspects and functions of the dealership, from looking at the big picture with management, to the parts and service where the nitty, and gritty details are worked through.

While pulling up to the dealership, a piece of equipment caught my eye.  Along the row of massive, beautiful combines, there was one that looked out of place.  The paint had faded to a moldy green, and just by looking at it from a distance I could tell it was a machine from days gone by.

As much as I love talking and learning about equipment, I had never stopped to wonder where that equipment goes when the farmers of the area no longer have a use for it.  I mean, it still functions (although it might need some work!) and scrap yards taking on vast amounts of retired agricultural machines are few and far between.  So I asked, “Where will that combine end up?”

Most machines that are no longer useful in the area are shipped off to another country.  Usually they end up in South America or parts of eastern Europe.  Why?  While these implements have been used and are considered too old or obsolete for the farmers of the U.S., the equipment still has relevance.  In the many different countries the equipment is shipped to, the agriculture companies (if there are any) do not produce equipment of the quality or quantity of what is manufactured here in the United States.  Not all the equipment is as old as the machine pictured, more and more of the equipment that is leaving the country was manufactured in the 90s.

At SCCL, chapters created their vision; one component of  vision is establishing 2-3 year time frame.  Of all the components of vision, to me this was the most interesting.  The vision that was created and will be carried out will last much longer than your year service.  It may last longer than two years, and in many cases past three.  As officers, this means that we will not be the only officers or members to carry out our vision.

The fact that our vision will last longer than our time as officers cannot be overlooked.  If we get bored with our vision, or lose enthusiasm with it, the new leaders of our chapter may not take on the vision.  If this happens, our chapter will lose its vision and the progress that your team has made.  Just like I saw no use left in that old combine, we can’t look at our vision and decide that it is irrelevant.  However, for our new members and officers, our “old” vision will still be extremely relevant and provide them with a sense of direction.  That old combine can still do good work for another operation.

Living to serve,

Eli Ohlde
State President

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Follow Through

If you asked me what my favorite season was, without a doubt I would say summertime. There are so many fun things to do during the summer: swimming at the pool, bustin’ a move at street dances, showing livestock at county fairs, and going on Sonic runs with your friends. However, my favorite summertime event out of all of these is easily baseball games.

Believe it or not, I actually used to be a baseball star. Check it out.

Okay, maybe I wasn’t a pro, but my Pee Wee baseball career was pretty awesome. I was the star first baseman for the Soldier Chargers. I could catch and tag bases better than anyone else on the team. To the contrary, my throwing arm certainly wasn’t the best, which was probably why I played first base a lot.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have very many players on our team. We had exactly nine–just enough for a team. For that reason almost everyone played pitcher at some point in the season, including me. Pitching was a challenge for me. I practiced and practiced with Coach and eventually got better. However, I always made a key mistake: I would forget to follow through.

For those of you who aren’t baseball fans, following through on a pitch is fairly simple. As you throw the ball, you lift up your back leg and carry it forward and plant it in front of you. This way, you carry more energy into your pitch and it remains accurate. Regardless, I had trouble following through with my pitches. Without following through, I couldn’t deliver a strike. Even if my initial form was perfect, the ball would end up way outside of the strike zone if I didn’t follow through.

With SCCL wrapped up, those of us who attended have a new vision that we plan to implement within our chapters. Some of us have attended or plan to attend our chapter retreat where we can brainstorm new activities to start in the upcoming year. Maybe even some of us planned to revise some of our existing chapter events while at State Convention. In order to make these plans come to life, we should learn from my flaw as a baseball pitcher: following through.

As members we create goals to improve our chapters. Too often, though, we forget about these goals and fail to follow through on them. As the school year approaches and we begin to wind up to pitch our newfound chapter plans, it is essential to take that step and plant our feet firmly into the delivery. When we carry those plans forward, we’re sure to land a perfect strike.

Living to serve,

John Kennedy
State Vice-President

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Break Your Bridge

Every year, a handful of students at Cherryvale High School are given the seemingly simple task of building a bridge that spans a four feet gap; I was one of those students. After completion, the bridge faces a test of strength by hanging masses in the center of the bridge and 12 inches in either direction of the center until it breaks. The bridge project begins with a few simple directions. The bridge being constructed must be built out of nothing but 1/8 inch balsa wood and the constructor’s choice of glue. No members of the bridge can be glued together alongside one another, but a 1/2 inch overlapping of members on each side of a joint is acceptable. Lastly, the final structure must not exceed 70 grams in weight. With these few constraints, construction begins with the daunting task of choosing an attractive, but sturdy design.

The idea is simple, but the work is hard. After doing research and consulting my grandpa (who was a construction foreman with a specialty in bridges) it took me hours to come up with the design I wanted. Even then, there came times throughout the process that I had to revise my design because I realized there was a better way to build this bridge.

Spending weeks measuring, cutting, gluing pieces of balsa wood together and waiting for that glue to dry was not always a fun task. There were several late nights and plenty of early mornings. Two months after the project was assigned, it was time to see just how much weight this bridge could hold.

Just like every other bridge, my hard work was eventually destroyed–snapped in half. After everything I put into this bridge, it was a little heartbreaking, but I appreciate this project. Other than the fundamental design of bridges and the role of forces, I learned three valuable lessons about leadership.

LESSON 1: Build it.

Bridge Blog 1

You can never get anywhere until you start. You learn as you go, so go ahead and start building even if you aren’t 100% sure how to do it.

LESSON 2: Perfect it.

Bridge Blog

Since you learn as you go, this is your chance to stop, evaluate what you are doing and make changes. Then finish it! Why start something if you don’t plan to complete it?

LESSON 3: Break it.

Bridge Blog 2You’ll only be able to measure your progress, your growth if you put it to the test. Break the bridge. No matter how perfect you think it is, this is how you will learn where you can improve and make it better.

Build it; perfect it; break it whether it be in sports, the classroom, leadership or even just a new interest you have.

Living To Serve,

Trenton Smedley

Posted in 2016-2017 | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

You Can’t Recycle Wasted Time

Earth Day was celebrated this Saturday the 22nd, and my social media was flooded with posts and comments about how we can be more ecologically friendly. I saw countless pictures of friends planting trees, picking up litter, and taking out recycling. While Earth Day is a valuable time to think about our planet, I saw a tweet from my friend Haden that I considered to be of equal importance, “You can’t recycle wasted time.”you-cant-recycle-wasted-time-poster

I will admit, I am often one to put the “pro” in procrastination. I felt the full effects of this unfortunate habit today as I took a Chemistry test — a bit unprepared. Yes, things get busy towards the spring semester. However, I had plenty of opportunities throughout the last week to study, when instead I chose to work on other classes, check Snapchat, do my laundry, or watch Netflix. In the three hours prior to my test this evening I attempted to cram four lectures’ worth of material into my studying. At this point, I wished that my past self had been more conscious of the time I had been wasting on pointless tasks. I left the exam disappointed, because I know that if I had studied, I would have performed much better. Try as I might, those hours are gone, and my grade must now face the consequences.

How many minutes do we spend each day idle? Think about the amount of times we look at our phone in the span of an hour. Perhaps we enjoy sleeping in just a bit too much. Regardless of how we choose to kill time, the fact remains that we will never have that time back. As I read Haden’s tweet, I realized that I had been scrolling through Twitter for twenty minutes, and would now be late to meet another friend for coffee. I was wasting not only my own time, but hers as well. Appalled at myself, I closed the app and then scrambled to meet my (forgiving) friend.

Each and every minute of our lives could be invested productively in the betterment of ourselves or others, whether it be showing up early to complete our group project, waking up early to grab breakfast with an old friend, volunteering in our communities, or choosing to make a new memory in our lifespan rather than compose a new tweet for our timeline.

It’s okay to treat ourselves once in a while, but my GPA and I will feel the impact of my wasted time. We need not all face these negative consequences. We can live a life with without regrets. How will you choose to invest your time?


Forever blue,

Grace Luebcke

Kansas FFA Secretary

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Disney Life Lessons

Classic Disney movies have inspired people for generations with their positive messages. To this day, I am a genuine Disney fanatic and can probably quote every line or sing every song perfectly. Lately, I began to think of the deeper meaning behind these entertaining stories. Each has lessons we can apply to our own lives. Here are 10 of the most impactful ones to my life:
1. Cinderella – Stay kind.


In the pursuit of her dreams, Cinderella always kept a kind heart. Despite the many setbacks, she never lost sight of her big dreams. It can be easy for us to become so focused on our own dreams and goals that we forget to stay kind to those around us.
2. Tangled – Don’t be afraid to venture outside of your comfort zone.


Speaking of dreams, Rapunzel had one that required her to leave the comforts of her tower. She left all she had ever known in order to have her questions answered. Would you be willing to go to these same depths?
3. Peter Pan – Positive thoughts can produce positive results

Peter Pan

Peter Pan may be best known negatively for his refusal to grow up, but there can be certain lessons to take from this. His unwavering faith in his friends helped them to reach new heights – figuratively and literally. He inspired them to think positively and it ended up helping them soar above their wildest imaginations.
4. Pocahontas – It may not always be easy to stick to your beliefs, but it is important.


The warrior princess faces a difficult decision throughout this film. It takes her a whole lot of courage, wits, and faith to defy the status quo and do what she feels is right. This decision leads her to saving the lives of many. Where can you bring more bravery to stick to your values?
5. Moana — Find your purpose and follow it.

Moana believed in her purpose and that the ocean chose her to save it for a reason. Plenty of people told her she was wrong or not good enough, but she did not let that stop her determination for doing what she loved. Similarly, we have a purpose to fulfill. We should not let the opinions of others keep us from that if it truly is something we believe in and love.
6. Beauty and the Beast – Always look for the best in others.

B&B 1

Quite possibly my favorite Disney movie, this classic tale tells of the courage and huge heart Belle possesses. Where others saw a hideous beast, she saw a creature worthy of love and affection. Do you ever let people’s opinions of another person alter your own? How can you choose to see the best in everyone you meet?

7. Frozen – Friendships can take sacrifice.


Each character in this great story brings about a different perspective, but one fan favorite is definitely Olaf the snowman. His constant positivity radiates joy and keeps everyone laughing. At every turn, Olaf is ready to make whatever sacrifices necessary to help his friends. Though we may not face a situation quite this dire, we can still find areas in our lives where we can devote more time to those we care about. This may mean spending time with one friend who has had a rough day instead of watching a movie with a group of friends. What sacrifices can you make to strengthen your friendships?
8. Finding Nemo – Just keep swimming!


One of the most iconic lines from Dory is to “just keep swimming”. She encourages and comforts her friend Marlin who has begun to lose hope of finding his son. Whether we are the ones providing the encouragement or the ones needing it, this concept serves a crucial role. Some days may be tough, but we need to be persistent and keep focusing to make progress.
9. Princess and the Frog – Hard work will take you far.

Princess and the Frog

Tiana works tirelessly to achieve her goal of owning her own restaurant. Where others may simply wish on that lucky star, Tiana takes matters into her own hands by providing her hard work ethic. When we set goals, it will take many months or years of dedication to seeing them through. Don’t give up on yourself or your aspiration. Keep working hard and good things will come!
10. Lion King – Our past can teach us valuable lessons.

Lion King

Again, this movie has a plethora of life lessons. One of my favorites comes from the baboon Rafiki. He teaches Simba the importance of learning from the past and using it to propel his future. Every lesson we learn in life has a purpose to helping us grow. Don’t let past mistakes hold you back, rather let them make you better than before.
While there are plenty of other Disney movies that we can learn from, each lesson has an equally important value for our lives. Even if you do not particularly enjoy them as much as I do, when we decide to add these lessons into our daily routine, it can help us grow and have fun doing it. Let’s live lives that reflect the lessons Disney teaches us!

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You Are Enough

It is April, which means that the end of this school year is within reach. It also means that the busiest time of year is here and in full force. Spring sports have begun, classes are demanding, and the FFA banquet season is upon us. If any of you are like me, I have the tendency to feel a bit overwhelmed during this crazy but wonderful month. Before I go any further, I want to just tell you that you are enough.

Now, let me explain. A few times this spring I have felt as though I haven’t been enough. I’m not studying enough for my classes, I am not devoting enough of myself to my faith, I haven’t been a good enough friend, I haven’t fulfilled my responsibility in that club, the list goes on. The thing is, life is busy and sometimes we may feel like we are drowning in it and that is okay. The way I see it, is that If we feel we aren’t giving, doing, or being enough, that just means we care, and caring is GOOD. Earlier this week, a friend reminded me that as long as my heart is still in it, then I am enough.

Simply put, if you are feeling as though you aren’t enough or you don’t have anything else to give, please remember that you are enough. The people around you want to see you succeed. You have others who are looking up to you and who believe in you. As long as your heart is still in all your actions and words, then you, my friend, are going to make it through. I know this month’s blog was short, but sometimes the most important lessons to learn are short and simple. For me this month, it was learning that I am enough.  So please, please know that YOU are ENOUGH.

Forever Blue,

Katelyn Bohnenblust

Kansas FFA Treasurer


“If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.”  -1 John 3:20

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It’s No Joke – My Greatest Lessons Were Learned in the Blue Jacket

It may be April Fool’s Day, but I can assure you that this is no joke – I’ve learned some of my greatest lessons while wearing my blue corduroy jacket. While it would be impossible to include all of the lessons I’ve learned from my time as an FFA member in just one blog post, here are 8 of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in the blue jacket:

1. Be Fearlessly Authentic
Be Yourself - Emma Stone

There isn’t a “perfect” style of leadership. As an article from the Harvard Business Review points out, this is good news! If there was one cookie-cutter style of “ideal” leadership, we would spend forever trying to imitate it. And no one would trust us, because people don’t trust “fake” people.

As a result of my years as an FFA member, I have come to appreciate people who are real. People who are fearlessly authentic. At times, I struggled with this myself. I tried to imitate the leadership of others, incorrectly believing that I would be a better leader if I were less like myself and more like the leaders I looked up to. Eventually, I stopped trying to be someone else and became more comfortable with being my authentic self. As W.G. Bennis once said:

“Leadership without perspective and point of view isn’t leadership – and of course it must be your own perspective, your own point of view. You cannot borrow a point of view any more than you can borrow someone else’s eyes. It must be authentic, and if it is, it will be original, because you are original.”

Instead of spending so much time working to be exactly like other leaders, I wish I had worked to become more authentic from the start by asking myself the following questions from that Harvard Business Review article:

  • Which people and experiences in your early life had the greatest impact on you?
  • What are the moments when you say to yourself, this is the real me?
  • What are your most deeply held values? Where did they come from? How do your values inform your actions?
  • What kind of support team do you have? How can your support team make you a more authentic leader? How should you diversify your team to broaden your perspective?
  • Is your life integrated? Are you able to be the same person in all aspects of your life – personal, work, family, and community? If not, what is holding you back?
  • What does being authentic mean in your life?
  • What steps can you take today, tomorrow, and over the next year to develop your authentic leadership?

2. It’s About PEOPLE

In Relationships 101, John C. Maxwell writes:

A Short Course in Human Relations

The least important word: I.

The most important word: We.

The two most important words: Thank you.

The three most important words: All is forgiven.

The four most important words: What is your opinion?

The five most important words: You did a good job.

The six most important words: I want to understand you better.

I love this quote, because it’s a really neat way of explaining what leadership is all about: connecting with other people. Too many times, I’ve forgotten about this part of the equation. But every single time I have interacted with Kansas FFA members over the past year, I have realized that it’s all about PEOPLE. Real people with real lives and real struggles and real dreams. At the end of the day, they’re what it’s all about.

3. Don’t Forget to Take Care of Yourself

You Can't Pour From an Empty Cup

I’ve always been a perfectionist. I’m a huge fan of making lists (and even lists of lists) and working through those lists without ever taking a break. Last month, I finally broke down under the weight of it all. I had put far too much pressure on myself, and I hadn’t taken any time to relieve this pressure by actually taking care of myself.

I learned that it’s important to take care of yourself first. Take time to feed your soul. Not sure how? Here are just a few ideas:

  • Take a nice, long bubble bath.
  • Get up early to watch the sunrise.
  • Meditate for ten minutes after you wake up each morning. (There are plenty of apps that can help you meditate! Here’s one example.)
  • Cuddle with a kitten (or perhaps a puppy).
  • Start a journal.
  • Listen to music you love.
  • Try yoga.
  • Get a pedicure.

4. Focus on the Circle of Influence


In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen R. Covey explains the difference between the Circle of Concern and the Circle of Influence. According to Covey:

We each have a wide range of concerns – our health, our children, problems at work, the national debt, nuclear war. We could separate those from things in which we have no particular mental or emotional involvement by creating a “Circle of Concern.” As we look at those things within our Circle of Concern, it becomes apparent that there are some things over which we have no real control and others that we can do something about. We could identify those concerns in the latter group by circumscribing them within a smaller Circle of Influence… Proactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Influence. They work on the things they can do something about.

This is a lesson that I learned as an FFA member before I even knew what terms like “Circle of Influence” or “Circle of Concern” meant) Even though I wanted to be able to control everything (from the outcome of contests to the success of fundraisers to the smoothness of banquets), I came to learn that there were things I had no control over. Instead, I had to focus on what I could control. For example, I couldn’t control the outcome of an FFA contest, but I could spend as much time studying for that contest as possible. And I couldn’t ensure that a banquet would be flawless, but I could prepare as much as possible. All I could do was work on the things that I could do something about.

5. There’s No Growth in the Comfort Zone

In The 5 Levels of Leadership, John C. Maxwell writes:

In order to do anything new in life, we must be willing to leave our comfort zone. That involves taking risks, which can be frightening. However, each time we leave our comfort zone and conquer new territory, it not only expands our comfort zone but also enlarges us. If you want to grow as a leader, be prepared to be uncomfortable. But know this: the risks are well worth the rewards.

Almost all of my growth as an FFA member has occurred outside of my comfort zone. From competing in my first public speaking event as a freshman (the creed speaking contest) to speaking with the Governor during National FFA Week, there have definitely been moments where I was nervous to be outside of my comfort zone. But each of those moments helped me move forward and grow as a leader. As the saying goes: there is no growth in the comfort zone, and no comfort in the growth zone.

6. Everything Speaks

Everything - Jennifer Lawrence

Over the last 303 days, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to serve as a Kansas FFA State Officer. During this time, I’ve worked with Ms. Mary Kane, the Kansas FFA Executive Secretary. One of the things that Ms. Kane has said frequently over the past year is that “everything speaks.” Ms. Kane has showed me that every little detail counts, and every little detail can make a difference in leadership. One example of this involves the wording of e-mails and documents. While it’s always important to proofread before hitting send, the words we use matter. Using inclusive language, and striving to make sure that no one is excluded, is important. Everything speaks.

7. Always Carry a Sewing Kit

Cat Sewing

One of my most embarrassing moments of all time occurred when I was running for a State FFA Office. The seam in the back of my black dress skirt ripped all the way up the middle. As you might imagine, this was not a look that I wanted the nominating committee to see. Luckily, I had packed a small sewing kit in my bag that morning. Sitting there with my skirt on backwards, I sewed the seam in the holding room. While this wasn’t necessarily a leadership lesson, it was an important lesson nonetheless: always carry a sewing kit with you. You’ll never know when you might need it.

8. This Is Water

This video speaks for itself, but I’d like to highlight one of the quotes from the end:

You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. That is real freedom.

As an FFA member, I’ve learned that this (right here, right now) truly is water.

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