Kansas FFA Blog

African Time

Quick review of the day: I woke up a little late, discovered the nearly-Antarctic temperature as I ventured forth to Ag Econ 315, drove out to the Stout Center to feed Noodles the Rope Horse, came back to my dorm to work on Macroeconomics homework, finished an assignment for the speech class that had been canceled, went to the Derb to eat, and capped it all off by visiting the place a friend was boarding her horse at so I could help her when she left for Spring Break. Spring Break. I’ve done a decent amount of things today, but I’ve also spent the whole day thinking about Spring Break. It’s only a week away! But it’s also a whole. Week. Away.
As I got back from my evening feeding of Noodles, I realized just how much time I’d spent thinking about Spring Break. I wasn’t as engaged as I could be class, doing my homework, or even interacting with people, because Spring Break and my plans stayed in the back of my mind. The worst part is that not one second of thinking about Spring Break is going to help it come any faster. I tend to think about the future pretty frequently, and that’s not always a bad thing. But when I stress and obsess about the future I lose focus of what’s in front of me.
Another thing that’s been on my mind recently is the past. I’ve been talking to a lot of friends who worry that because they made questionable decisions in the past, they can’t really move past that point in their lives. I think we all have our own baggage that we struggle to move past. When we spend time thinking about all the things we’ve done wrong in the past it becomes pretty easy to miss what we’re doing in the moment.
My teammate Katelyn likes the quote “wherever you are, be all there”. For me, our time in South Africa really showed me what it meant to live in the moment. One South African professor who visited with us started a little late, and took the opportunity to say he was on “African Time”. After we asked what that meant, he explained that in African philosophy, the idea of living in the moment was highly valued. “African Time” referred to the tendency of people with this train of thought to be a little early, or a little late, but mostly to never make time a huge deal. This was because they placed such a huge value on the moment they were experiencing at the time.
I think we all need to be a little more comfortable living on “African Time”. We should each value the experiences that happen around us rather than worrying about what’s ahead of us and letting our pasts weigh us down. Whether it means trying not to be so focused on what’s coming or not letting our past experiences hold us back, we should seek to maximize our potential to experience a moment.

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So Much Wisdom

While attending Kansas State University I had the privilege of taking a class from Dr. Michael Wesch this fall. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work. While taking his class I was constantly challenged, and his class allowed me to see far more than my mind has seen before. Just a few weeks ago, he came and lectured about a few of his core beliefs. Even though I had heard them all before, they hit me even harder during this lecture. Here are a few of the things he shared that I think we all could benefit from.

1.       Stop trying to find your passion.

  • You don’t have one. Instead, just BE PASSIONATE about everything you do.

2.       Do not try to have all of the answers.

  •    It is the questions that matter. EMERGE IN WONDER.

3.       You are always more than your score.

  •       Do not let grades and categories define who you are.

4.       There is no such thing as a “math” person, so stop pretending you’re not one.

  •   Have a growth mindset, meaning you are in control and you can build your skills.

5.       Your greatest strength will most likely come from your greatest weakness.

  • Dr. Wesch terms this as your “strengthness”.

6.       Failure is fun and fascinating.

7.       Always be trying something new.

8.       You are a hero.

  • Hero is defined as a deeply flawed human being with fatal weaknesses that is a gift to the world – often because of a weakness itself.

9.       Move past the judgement of others.

10.   “You can’t love anybody before you love everybody.”

There is a lot of wisdom in the ten points stated above, but just reading these points won’t do anything. Instead, take time to reflect on each statement and think how it applies to your life. For me, these ten points have challenged me to live more passionately, try new things, ask questions, learn more about my strengths and weaknesses, and finally love in a way that shows grace and compassion to everyone. Each day we have the opportunity to fully engage, be present, and improve. Don’t let another day slip by without living with intention, joy, and engagement.

Forever Blue,

Katelyn Bohnenblust

2016-2017 Kansas FFA Treasurer

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Checking the Cost: Lessons Learned from South Africans and Pony Trimming

I remember being at Grandpa’s place near Longford one evening and herding his small circus of miniature ponies and donkeys into the small pen closest to the house. Our goal for that evening was simple. Using a trusty old pair of nippers, a rasp, and a hoof knife we found in the shed, we were to trim the mini stud, the jack, and one of the jennies that was running around the pen. The two gentlemen weren’t fun to trim, but as we wrangled the jenny we knew we’d be in for a really tough time. One wouldn’t expect a little donkey to require grandpa, my formidably sized father, and myself for a trimming, but that was the case. The little burro squirmed, kicked, bit, reared, and did everything in her power to keep from being trimmed. About the time the struggle was reaching its climax, Grandma walked out and reminded us that dinner was ready and it was getting dark. Now, this made me pretty happy because I enjoy food and I was tired of fighting a miniature donkey. However, Grandpa knew that we’d probably have to be out there a little longer, because this needed done. A pretty fair number of old horsemen will share the secret that “horses can’t tell time”, meaning that you’re on their schedule. The same is true for miniature donkeys, so we finished trimming and rasping down hooves until the job was done. Grandpa knew not to consider time, because we needed to do what was beneficial for little Bethly the donkey.

This reminds me of a really cool experience I had while we were in South Africa for ILSSO. We visited the farm of a gentleman named Andre Cloete, who shared this little bit of profound wisdom with us. When asked for some advice about farming, he said he rarely considers the cost of helping plants grow. In essence, he always wanted to make sure the plant had what it needed to thrive, despite any cost he might incur.

To me, this message is much deeper than simply looking at plant health. So often, we find ourselves questioning if we have enough time or money to follow through with something that could benefit us. For me, I struggle with taking time to reflect as much as I should, and reenergize when I’m feeling drained. I question doing activities with friends when I know they would strengthen our bonds because I might be concerned about how I’m managing my money. On top of that, we can be too quick to consider the costs of helping others. Whether we’re hesitant to commit ourselves to service or we simply don’t feel like we can make room in our schedule for meaningful projects to benefit others, we often have a hard time feeling comfortable with these things.

A challenge I have for myself and all of us is to stop worrying so much about the cost, and focus on the growth we’re encouraging. Take time for yourself, and make sure to “treat yoself” every once in a while. Just as importantly, take time to benefit and grow others, and don’t shy away from the opportunity to serve because you fear the costs. I’m not asking you to completely pull yourself away from managing yourself, but we should all be more receptive to growing ourselves rather than fearing the costs.

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Coaching Towards the Gold Standard: Authentic Leadership

According to the Harvard Business Review, “authenticity has become the gold standard for leadership.”

So what exactly is authentic leadership? According to one journal article, authentic leaders:

  • Do not fake their leadership.
  • Understand their core values.
  • Are originals, not copies.
  • Believe in their core values because of their own personal life experiences.
  • Act based upon their values.

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So how do we reach the “gold standard” and become authentic leaders? We coach ourselves towards authentic leadership. This concept of “coaching” towards authentic leadership was introduced to me in one of the leadership classes I am currently taking at Kansas State University. Bear with me for a minute as I explain the basics of leadership coaching, and then I’ll explain how coaching can help us become more authentic leaders.

What comes to mind when you hear the word coaching? Maybe an image like this comes to mind:

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Or maybe, the image that comes to mind looks more like this:

Coach Bill Snyder

For many of us, images of sports coaches quickly form in our minds when we hear the word “coaching.” However, this isn’t the type of coaching that I’m talking about. Instead, I’m referring to leadership coaching. According to the International Coach Federation, leadership coaching can be defined as partnering with [others] in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

This is something that each of us can do with our friends, family members, and peers. How? It’s simple, as long as you understand the basics of leadership coaching:

  • Listen, Linda. Stephen Covey once said that “most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” In coaching, this is not the case. If you are coaching a friend or family member, it is not your job to reply. Instead, it is your job to actively listen as they talk about their life stories and experiences.

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  • Ask short, powerful questions. These questions will help the person you are coaching gain clarity about who they are.
  • After asking a question, stop talking. Even if there is an awkward silence, don’t try to fill the void by continuing to speak or elaborating on your question. Stay silent, and let the person you are coaching take time to think deeply about their answer.
  • Don’t offer advice. Unlike therapists, leadership coaches don’t offer solutions or advice. Instead, they actively listen and ask questions to help people gain insight and find their own solutions.
  • Don’t brag. When coaching, or acting coach-like, don’t make it about yourself. Just listen.

At this point, you may be asking what in the world all of this has to do with authentic leadership. When we tell our life stories, we gain clarity about who we are and what our role is. Coaching allows us to gain a better understanding of our personal experiences as well tell our stories.

Need proof? Check out the journal article referenced earlier in this post. According to this article published in The Leadership Quarterly, “authentic leadership rests heavily on the self-relevant meanings the leader attaches to his or her life experiences, and these meanings are captured in the leader’s life-story. We suggest that self-knowledge, self-concept clarity, and person-role merger are derived from the life-story. Therefore, the construction of a life-story is a major element in the development of authentic leaders.” Coaching (or being coach-like with) our friends, family members, and peers gives us the opportunity to construct our life stories and become more authentic leaders.

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“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.”

– W. G. Bennis

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Take the Stairs

Every day, I face a choice–a simple choice. Do I take the stairs or the elevator? On my lazy days (or leg days), I will find myself standing in an over-crowded box in an attempt to spare just a little bit of energy. On the days when I feel especially fit, I climb the steps to my destination.

There are a number of reasons I choose to take the elevator. It is convenient to push a button and go exactly where you want to go. By taking the elevator, I expend hardly any energy. I simply walk in and after a few moments I am where I want to be with little to no effort on my part. The elevator allows me to stay comfortable. Elevators provide us with a sense of convenience and comfort.

Likewise, there are a number of reasons that I should take the stairs. By taking the stairs, I am making a healthy decision. The calories I burn by walking up the steps add up quickly and it allows me to stretch out my legs and get some blood flowing. These small bits of exercise keep my mind and body functioning at the highest level all day long! Plus, after climbing more than 50 flights of stairs in a day, I can’t help but feel accomplished.

Just as they should, after weighing my options, the stairs win most of the time. Just because something is convenient, does not necessarily make it our best option. By taking the elevator, I never have to get uncomfortable or worry about hiding my heavy breathing once I get where I’m going. On the other hand, taking the stairs allows me to keep my blood flowing, benefits my health and fitness and (if I do it every day) maybe I won’t have to worry hiding that heavy breathing!

Get uncomfortable. I have found that in just about any situation, if you want to be the best version of yourself, you have to be okay with doing hard things. Make the decision to try something or break the norm, not because it’s easy, but because it’s good for you.

There are a lot of parts that are needed to make an elevator work properly. An elevator needs electricity, pulleys, doors, buttons an emergency phone and a lot of other components too! Why complicate things to make yourself comfortable? Get uncomfortable, keep it simple and take the stairs!

Living To Serve,

Trenton Smedley

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The Power of Perspective

The other day in class, my classmates and I were asked to look at a series of pictures and determine what we saw. It turns out that each picture contained two images. Some people saw one while others saw the other. There were even a few who could see both at first glance.

What do you see first in this picture?

Woman

There is an old woman and a young woman. The old woman looks forward with her head tucked and facing forward. The young woman looks to the right, her entire head the old woman’s nose.

Though there is no deep meaning to which you saw first, it still helps show the importance of perspective. Something may seem one way in the beginning, but after a closer look you can find a different side.

This concept with images can be applied to everyday life. Sometimes we will be able to look at a situation through multiple lenses with ease, but other times it may prove more difficult. Just as some people have to look at a picture for a long time, we may be faced with having to examine a situation in great detail to find another way to view it. There may even be times where we require another person to help us develop a different way of thinking. When I was not able to see the other image in the picture, my teacher patiently pointed out all the different characteristics of both over and over until it clicked. We may be needing to do this for other people in their lives.

One time I needed to change my perspective happened last semester on a trip home. In the midst of all I had going on that week, I had managed to forget to fill up my car tank with gas. It just so happened that this was the second occurrence in the last two weekends. I made the phone call of shame to my brother, explaining the situation. As I sat in my car waiting for him to bring a gallon of gas, I couldn’t help but be a bit upset at myself. How could I forget this simple task again? After a while of this, I realized that there was no use wallowing in self-pity. It happens to everybody at some point and it could have been much worse. When my brother arrived, he helped me take this even further. At least I had a car to travel in, people who cared enough to bring me gas, a phone to call for help on, and a gorgeous view on the other side of the interstate. In this case, changing my perspective helped me make the most of a situation and realize all I had to be thankful for. Because I was able to accomplish this, I now can laugh whenever people give me grief for forgetting to fill my car up with gas. I also remember to be over-conscious of my fuel gauge when traveling to prevent it in the future.

What is it that you need to change your perspective on? Maybe it’s that long to-do list, tough homework assignment, or a sticky situation you’re facing. How can you help other people with changing their perspective?

Change

Today and everyday, let’s focus on how we can have a different perspective to help us persevere through our circumstances.

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Impactful Experiences

Over the past few weeks, I have been asked multiple times in scholarship and organization applications to describe a time in my life that completely changed my perspective or allowed me to find my identity. As I have reflected upon this question, one experience always come to mind. I have come to realize how one of the trips that I took to Nicaragua, allowed me to find myself and widen my perspective on this life and the way I live it. To fully understand this impact, I have written about the journey I took when I was sixteen years old.

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In November of 2014, during my junior year of high school, I took a trip that changed my life. I had the opportunity to travel to the country of Nicaragua to help build a church for the village of El Porton. My team consisted of about twelve people. We set out from Kansas City, the Monday before Thanksgiving. When we hopped on the plane that would take us to Managua, Nicaragua, none of us knew what was in store for our lives in the next eight days. However, we figured that we would be helping the people of El Porton.

Life in El Porton was very simple. This village was located up in the mountains about an hour and a half away from any city with electricity and running water. That’s right, we didn’t have any running water for showers, flushing toilets, brushing teeth, cooking, and so on. Nor did we have electricity for the small hut that we lived in. The hut was a small cement structure with a main room, and two small bedrooms. The kitchen where all of our meals were cooked was outside the back door. We had no air conditioning so every night we had to open up all the windows and doors to let enough cool air in. In with the air came many creatures that would get to stay with us every night. Although, we didn’t have all of the comforts we usually had, it was one of the best weeks of each of our lives.

We had been sent to work in El Porton because they needed to expand the church in their community. Our work consisted of mixing cement, carrying bricks, filling the bricks with rocks, and putting up the new walls. I did get in on some of the hard labor, but I was also asked to help with the kids that came pouring in to see us, the white people. Much of my time was spent outside, in front of the church, playing ball, and coloring with the kids. They absolutely loved spending time with us. I remember being pulled every which way, and hearing, “pintar” and “pelo” meaning “paint” and “ball”. With my limited Spanish capabilities I was able to communicate very little with these kids, however they tried their hardest to get me to understand them. Sometimes, even though I tried, I could not understand them. I could see frustration in their faces. There was one little boy, Yodani, that never gave up on me.

Yodani was eleven years old. He came to our worksite every day to spend time with us. If we were actually working on the church, he would come up and work right there with us. If I couldn’t understand what someone was saying, he would play charades with me until I got it right. Before I had to leave to go to my home for the night, he would always run up and give me a hug. Yodani was one of the smartest, most caring kids I have ever met. He made an impact on my life.

I remember one particular afternoon I was sitting with Yodani looking at the Spanish to English packet we had brought. He wanted to learn English, so that he could one day become a translator for groups like ours. That day he had brought some of his friends to come see us. I would say we had around twenty young children playing ball, coloring, and trying to learn English. All of them came over to Yodani and I, and sat down on the ground and around the bench. Right then and there is when I felt led to share my faith with these children. I pulled out a book called “Cristo me Ama,” which translates into the American song “Jesus Loves Me.” After spending about forty-five minutes learning and practicing the song, these kids performed it for my whole team. Sitting there and listening to these kids sing their hearts out in praises for my savior brought tears to my eyes. These kids who I had just met, had changed my life and my perspective. I looked at Yodani who was singing as well, he just looked at me and smiled from ear to ear.  My heart was filled with undeniable joy and love.

Before I had left for the trip, my life was not fulfilling me. I did not find joy in my day to day activities. I was not thankful for everything in my life. Getting up in the morning felt like the most terrible thing in the world. I had an absolute terrible perspective on life. Going to Nicaragua and spending time with these kids, was exactly what I needed to open up my eyes and kick me back into shape.

Preparing to leave the village of El Porton, I was faced with many tearful goodbyes. These people had taught me what it is like to be truly joyful and grateful in life. I had so many more worldly things than they did, yet their hearts were so much happier. They showed me that you don’t need things to be happy; you just need family, friends, and a savior. As we were driving away, I turned around. I saw the kids that I spent so much time with, chasing our vehicle. At that moment, I cried. I cried tears of happiness. I cried tears of sadness. I cried because my perspective of my world had changed. I cried because I knew that I was changed. I went into that week thinking I would be the one helping the people of El Porton, but really they were the ones that helped me.

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Nev Schulman once said, “Life experience is what defines our character, even if it means getting your heart broken or being lied to. You know, you need the downs to appreciate the ups. Going on the adventure or taking that risk is important.” Let’s choose to take part in impactful experiences. Ones that challenge our perspective, find our identities, and define our character.

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Forever Blue,

Katelyn Bohnenblust

2016-2017 Kansas FFA Treasurer

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10 Reasons Why YOU Should Run for a State FFA Office

I Want You To Run For State Office

Considering running for a State Office? Submitting the intent to run form is the first step in running for a State Office! In order to run for a State Office, this form must be postmarked by March 1st. Not sure if you should submit an intent to run form? Here are the 10 Reasons Why YOU Should Run for a State Office!

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10. You will be well fed!

Well Fed

And who doesn’t love food? I remember being well fed during the State Officer Selection Process. And this makes sense – as the “future of agriculture,” FFA members tend to value their food!

9. You will experience a new side of State Convention.

From dancing at the front of McCain Auditorium at the beginning of each session to facilitating workshops with the convention delegates, the State Convention experience for a State Officer Candidate is absolutely incredible!

State Officer Candidates Create Energy in Opening Session

8. You will be able to interact with one of the National FFA Officers.

One of my favorite parts of the State Officer Candidate Process was being able to interact with Abrah Meyer, the 2015-2016 National FFA Central Region Vice President. Abrah turned the holding room where the State Officer Candidates are kept while waiting for the next round into a place where everyone could just relax!

Abrah Meyer and the State Officer Candidates

7. You will be able to positively impact the future of the Kansas FFA Association.

As a State Officer Candidate, you will facilitate conversation among the convention delegates. You will then prepare and present a report of the information discussed in your delegate committee. These reports are used to promote the continuous improvement of the Kansas FFA Association. By participating in the State Officer Candidate Process, you have several opportunities (such as this one) to positively impact the future of the Kansas FFA Association!

6. You will learn a TON about agriculture.

In preparation for the State Officer Candidate Process, I listened to the AgriTalk podcast every day. I also studied resources such as the High Plains Journal, Agri-Pulse, Grass and Grain, and the Kansas Department of Agriculture‘s website. Through this preparation, I learned a significant amount of information about agriculture. From the average age of a Kansas farmer (58.2 years old) to the number of people employed by the agriculture industry (12% of Kansas’s workforce), preparing to run for a State Office taught me a TON about agriculture. And it goes beyond the State Officer Candidate Process – learning about the agriculture industry in preparation for the State Officer Candidate Process has greatly helped me with my classes at Kansas State University.

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5. You will have the opportunity to make professional connections.

Cats in an OfficeWhile preparing for the State Officer Selection Process, you have the opportunity to make professional connections. For example, to prepare for the knowledge examination you could meet with leaders in agriculture and education and ask them about things happening in their industry. Or, you could prepare for the interviews by setting up practice interviews with school board members, school administrators, agriculture leaders, local business owners, and chapter FFA alumni. You can even consider preparing to practice proper etiquette during the meals by sharing a meal with a school administrator, your agriculture teacher, or another teacher! You also have the opportunity to make professional connections during the State Officer Selection Process. During this process, you will have many opportunities to interact with the members of the nominating committee (which includes two industry representatives, the State FFA Advisor, and the State FFA Secretary).

4. You will be much more prepared for future interviews.

Running for a State FFA Office will allow you to become familiar with behavioral-based interview questions, which are frequently used in job interviews (as well as scholarship interviews). The behavioral interview was introduced by Dr. Tom Janz in the 1980s. The logic behind behavioral interviews is that your past performance can be used to predict your future performance. As a result of going through the State Officer candidacy process, you’ll be able to answer behavioral-based interview questions (such as these) with ease:

  • Describe a time when you decided to learn about something new just for the fun of it.
  • Tell us about a time you had to complete a project on your own. How did you do?
  • Tell me about a problem that you have solved in a unique or unusual way.

3. You will discover and develop your individual strengths.

In the past, I believed that the key to becoming a better leader was to eliminate my weaknesses. However, running for a State FFA Office taught me that it’s important to focus on strengths rather than weaknesses. After being elected to a State FFA Office, one of the first things we did was complete a StrengthsQuest assessment. As my teammates and I learned about our individual strengths and how we fit together as a team, we were each able to begin discovering and developing our individual strengths.

Donald O. Clifton

Image Source: K-State Strengths

Over the past 244 days, I have had many incredible opportunities to continue to develop these strengths through my service as a Kansas FFA State Officer.

2. You will build lifelong friendships with the other State Officer Candidates.

The transition between high school and college can be difficult. For me, spending the summer in Manhattan with five of my best friends (after we were elected) made moving away from home less difficult. However, whether or not you are elected to a State Office, going through the candidacy process will allow you to interact with some of Kansas FFA’s most incredible leaders!

2016 Kansas FFA State Officer Candidates

2016 Kansas FFA State Officer Candidates   

1. If elected, you will have the opportunity to promote and support the leadership development of over 9,100 Kansas FFA members.

From facilitating workshops at the State Convention to celebrating National FFA Week (and everything in between), the most rewarding part of serving as a Kansas FFA State Officer has been having the opportunity to promote and support the leadership development of high school FFA members across the state of Kansas. One of my teammates, Katelyn, summed up this experience:

"This year has allowed me to learn and develop myself. In turn, I have traveled the state of Kansas, and helped develop the next generation of leaders. This opportunity has shown me the impact this organization has on so many lives. I have been blown away by the members, advisors, and supporters and all that they do within Kansas FFA." - Katelyn Bohnenblust

So, there you have it – 10 Reasons Why YOU Should Run for a State FFA Office!

More information about the State Officer Candidate Process can be found here.

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People Loving People

On an application for an internship I filled out recently, I was asked the question “What is leadership?”. Good question, right?  We all know what leadership looks like and what leadership feels like, but when we try to put into words what we think leadership is, we are dumbfounded and can’t find what we want to say.

When trying to define what leadership is, I thought about the 12 days I spent in South Africa.  My mind reverted to the afternoon I visited the Apartheid museum (apartheid is the South African equivalent of U.S. segregation and the Civil Rights Movement).  Nelson Mandela—the South African Martin Luther King Jr.—was no doubt a great leader, a man who worked for a cause; he was a man with a vision.

What made him a great leader, though?  Nelson Mandela was known for his part in the termination of apartheid, but accomplishments are not what made him a great leader.  Mandela has been quoted several times, but his words are not what made him a great leader.  Mandela became the president of South Africa after he was released from prison, but titles are not what made him a great leader.

You see, Mandela was a great leader because he had a heart.  He had a selfless heart that loved and served.  I think Garth Brooks said it best when he sang, “It’s just people loving people.”  Leadership is all about love for others.

While in South Africa, we also had a chance to visit Robben Island, where Mandela was kept as a prisoner.  Our guide on the island was a former prisoner, who was imprisoned at the same time Mandela was.  Hearing him speak of the harsh conditions of the prison and the unfairness shown toward blacks in the country was the most impactful experience of the trip.  Mandela’s leadership is known around the world because he loved the people he served.  He served for our guide, our guide’s family and all the people oppressed by the Apartheid system.

My definition of leadership is as follows:  Doing what you know is right in your heart at all times; serving others with love for their benefit, not yours.

Treat others with love.  Serve with love.  Lead with love.  Leadership starts in the heart.  If you’re not leading with your heart, you’re not leading at all.

“Above all else, guard your heart,
    for everything you do flows from it.” —Proverbs 4:23

Living (Loving) to Serve,

Trenton Smedley

 

 

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Favorite Flavors

As some of you may know, the Kansas FFA state officers recently had the privilege of attending the International Leadership Seminar for State Officers (or ILSSO) in South Africa along with 75 other state officers and staff from across the nation. The experience was incredible, and any of us would be happy to share our stories from this trip with you, but for the sake of space I will share just one minor piece in this post.

One of my favorite things to do regardless of where I travel is to sample the cuisine. Throughout my life, I have been spoiled by my mother’s cooking, and I have come to know my favorite flavors in certain dishes. I’ll admit I’m preferential, but that wasn’t going to stop me from being adventurous in my tastes. While in South Africa, I had the opportunity to try bobotie (a sort of sweet sausage in a cooked egg custard), abalone (a snail-like creature), chakalaka (imagine a sweet yet spicy coleslaw), and a variety of other dishes I could hardly pronounce. My pallet was certainly educated, but I learned to prefer certain dishes over others.

 

Abalone

Abalone – a member of the mollusk family. Considered a delicacy for many, but not for me!

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Chakalaka is the orange dish in the upper right part of the plate consisting of chopped carrots, peppers, ginger, and curry.

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Various types of bobotie were served to us throughout the trip. (Facing towards me, distant to my friend Liberty across the table), the yellow circular patty towards the front was a salmon bobotie, and the darker beef sausage-like boboties are nearer to the bowl.

However, I realized that just because I didn’t like a certain dish didn’t mean that made it bad. Some of my friends really enjoyed the snaily abalone, whereas I could take it or leave it. On the other hand, one of my favorite foods was chakalaka, but I was one of just a few people at my table who could get over the mild spice.

Similarly, we must learn to respect others’ tastes and preferences even if they do not match our own–different does not equal wrong. We can’t always pick and choose who we interact daily like items on a menu. How true is the old adage “variety is the spice of life”. Each of us brings a different dish -or a different talent- to the table, and when enjoyed together, they create a masterpiece.

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Good food is best shared in the company of good friends.

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