I wrote this for an FFA newspaper but thought you might enjoy it as well!
“If you’re early you’re on time, if you’re on time you’re late and if you’re late, you’re left.” How about “Look sharp, act sharp, be sharp.” Or even “If you only practice half heartedly, you’ll perform half heartedly.” Ah…the great quotes so many of us can recite from our FFA advisors. When I think of the things I learned in FFA these pop into my mind right away. But when I remember all of the animals raised, speeches memorized, or pieces of scrap metal welded together, I realize the real lessons I learned in FFA.
I never felt like I was very successful in my ag teacher’s classroom. I didn’t feed my pigs like I was supposed to one year and my best gilt didn’t make weight. When we had to give a speech, I thought that the goal was to get the most information out in the least amount of time. Leaving the entire room baffled, confused and the front row slightly glazed with saliva. Oh and pieces of metal welded together? That only happened after I’d melted at least 6 welding tips. I still have the lecture memorized about how expensive those things are. Now, I don’t want you to think of my advisor as a grumpy old man. I just admired him so much and my main goal became to gain his approval. No matter how badly I messed up he saw the good in what I’d done. He would encourage me and tell me to keep my stick-to-it-iveness and to never stop working hard (with blonde jokes packed in the middles so I didn’t get too big headed). I learned that a lot of my issues were sprouts from a long root of self doubt. Through my four years in high school, multiple speeches, agronomy tests, range ID lines and a class of livestock now and again, it became evident that no one else had things figured out any better than I did. I realized that being part of a team didn’t mean that I had to know and do everything. It just meant that I needed to do my best. And when I did that, things turned out pretty good.
I didn’t actually go to public school until I was in the eighth grade. Our ranch was a long way from town and, although they don’t admit it, my parents loved the free labor. When I did begin my secular education, I caught on fast that the things I’d been raised with really weren’t very popular. Things like dressing modestly, being honest and never taking short cuts were only for the weird kids. Speaking out about my faith in God and love of country were judged as pretty dorky too. Because of that root of self doubt I talked about earlier I began to conform to what everyone else was doing because it just seemed easier, and much cooler. As I grew to know the school better, and became more involved in FFA, I realized my convictions weren’t just okay, they were the best way. FFA members understand dressing modestly; they wear stiff, corduroy long jackets for crying out loud! The more I understood this organization I’d joined, the more I learned about great people who had used their convictions to help others who were going through trials.
Thankfully, I was blessed with influences who kept me on the straight and narrow. I finished high school and completed college as well. I’m now blessed to be in the career of my dreams. I have the opportunity to broadcast to a quarter of a million people on a daily basis and to share my beliefs, information and funny stories with them. Every time I pull my microphone down and push the “On-Air” button, I know that for the next hour everything I say will be judged, hashed through, gone over and probably regurgitated to someone else. If it weren’t for the confidence I gained in FFA I wouldn’t even be able to walk into the studio. Many of the stories and ideas I share through the airwaves are based solely off of my convictions, those same convictions that I tried to hide until I realized that they were actually the best way to live. Which brings me to my last “C,” conduct. It is rare to find people who walk straight, hold their head high and look people in the eye. I know I didn’t always, but I realized how important those things were from various mentors in FFA. I’m so glad I understand it better now, and hope to continue to improve in my conduct because we live in a world where presentation is a lot, if not everything!
How many people still understand the commitment in a handshake, the content feeling of being completely tuckered out after a hard day’s work or the bolster of pride felt after accomplishing something great. It seems as if the number continues to dwindle, unless you look at the 540,379 FFA members or the growing group of alumni. Then you see a group of successful people who understand the importance of being confident, yielding to your convictions and conducting yourself in a professional way. Thanks FFA!