2018 has arrived. Hopefully 2017 brought you much love, sacrifice and success. With 2018 we find new beginnings and the opportunity for better than we might have had last year.
As most of us find ourselves doing, I was recently scrolling through my Facebook feed. On this social media platform, I have friends from my hometown, around the state, nation and even world. Every day, the app provides me with opinions, pictures and memories from each of these people from all kinds of places. Yesterday, however, this app provided me with a special kind of motivation, motivation from a very special lady right from my hometown.
This favorite history teacher of mine pledged a word for 2018, something many have begun to do in place of a New Year’s Resolution. This word is meant to be a constant reminder, a solid aspiration, and a theme for the year. Her word? “Better.”
Ms. Stever pledges to be better. Not better than anyone, she says, but a better her—a better her for everyone. Every day, she will strive to “eat better, get better, think better, and love better, on and on.”
Just like Ms. Stever, we can embody “better” by thinking about how we can better ourselves, get better at being ourselves, and hold ourselves to a standard of better. We can be better friends, FFA members, siblings and students. There is, and always will be, room for better.
Better is progress. And, our starting points and progress will differ from every single person around us. That, friends, is the beauty part of “better.”
This year, let’s find what makes us better and what makes us want to be better. I know the organization we call home is a stepping-stone in this adventure. Allow it to by helping a friend with his or her upcoming Career Development Event, signing up for your first public speaking contest, going to FFA Camp, or even encouraging others to do the things that you found benefit from.
A better you for a better us, and ultimately a better organization, industry and world.
Like Ms. Stever, I pledge myself to be better. Will you?
The holidays are for spending time with friends, family and for those in production agriculture — for continually caring for our livestock as colder weather seeps into the landscape. This colder weather means our livestock will normally stick closer to the feed and water supply that becomes increasingly more necessary as lower temperatures set in.
This is normally the case for my family’s small commercial beef cattle herd, but this year, one cow in particular decided to change things up. A mature and easy-going cow managed to find her way out of our pasture’s fence THREE times over Christmas Eve, Christmas day and the day after. It seemed that she was on a mission to discover every failure in the fence. At the time, it seemed extremely inconvenient to be fixing fence and dealing with a loose cow around Christmas. However, when looking back on the experience, I began to reevaluate the situation. Many times, whether in FFA or in life, we will encounter failures just like that cow found the failures in the fence. Instead of focusing on the negative effects, it is just as important to keep a positive attitude and look for the opportunity to grow.
Although it was stressful to safely re-secure the cow, we were able to fix the fence before a larger problem could have occurred. Without a doubt, we will make mistakes in our lives, but it is how we react and learn from our mistakes that allow us to improve. Remember, the next time a failure strikes us down, look on the up side, there might be more hidden benefits than we realize.
American industrialist Henry Ford once said, “Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” This concept is one that surrounds us all as FFA members. From the early days crafting our Supervised Agricultural Experience programs to the late nights finishing our State FFA Degree applications, failure exists. Failure is prevalent, and quite frankly, it is often one of the hardest things we face as members of this organization. Although it can be hard to look failure in the eyes, a graceful comeback from a major setback can teach us some of the best lessons, even better than the ones we learn when we win. So, how in the world can we turn our greatest losses, biggest challenges and most triumphant failures into successes — into life lessons — and into our most joyful wins?
1. Take a deep breath. In the wise words of famous author C.S. Lewis, “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” It is unexplainably hard to fall short of your own or others’ expectations. However, if you take a step back and put your life into perspective, there is always more to come.
As the future of agriculture, you will face hardships. This journey will not always be easy, and failure will always exist. However, if we use our failures to build successes, we will always be winners.
Looking back on my first semester of college, one class period of Ag Ed Leadership weighs on my mind. Dr. Tummons had yet another great lesson for our class. He held up his daughter’s painting from elementary school. The painting featured a vast array of vivid colors. It was a woman with bright red hair, a blue top, a purple mountain behind her, and it featured a large yellow-orange sun peeking through the background.
Dr. Tummons told us he was going to recreate her painting and needed us to shout out the colors we saw. The class yelled out the colors blue, red, orange, yellow, green and purple. He poured some of each color onto a pallet and started with the red paint. However, instead of using the red paint on his brush to begin painting, he put it in the blue paint next to it. He continued to mix all the colors together until they made a dull light brown. He then casually began recreating the painting starting with the woman and finishing with the sun peaking out behind the mountains.
Then, Dr. Tummons turned, to what I can only assume to be a class full of confused faces, and asked which painting we thought was more beautiful. His daughter’s with the array of colors or his that was all dull brown. We answered obviously the one with all the beautiful colors. The paintings were a representation of life, and the colors represented people.
Life is beautiful and interesting because we are different and bring a unique color to the painting. If we were exactly like everyone else, our picture would be painted with the same color. All the shapes would remain, but the eye-catching appeal of an intricate and beautiful color scheme would be lost.
As the school year continues, stay connected to your own vibrant color. Do not be afraid to be yourself and strive to become the best version of you. As tempting as it might be to want to become like another person, the world really needs more you. Like Dr. Seuss said, “Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!” Let’s all use our individual colors so that together we will create a masterpiece!
FFA members, are you ready to rise to the challenge?
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…And hearts will be glowing when love ones are near…It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” This song is one of my absolute favorites. In my humble opinion, it perfectly describes the holiday season. My father used to tell me that there are two types of people in the world: those that love Christmas music and those that haven’t been introduced to the right Christmas music. I fall into the first category. I cannot get enough of the cheerful lyrics and happy notes that accompany them. I am also one of those people that you can catch humming Christmas songs under their breath all year around. After all, Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a mindset!
Christmas is when we can sit around with our loved ones and look back at the year. We can see all of our accomplishments and look at them with pride, and this year there is plenty look back on! Missouri FFA has set a number of records, including having more members at the state convention than ever before, packaging more than 50,000 meals for Food Insecurity Day at the Missouri State Fair and having the most American Degree recipients at the 90th National FFA Convention and Expo!
Christmas is also a time when we can look at the coming year with a sense of hope and determination. There are endless possibilities for us as to look forward to. We might find ourselves working on a new contest team, attending a leadership conference for the first time, or adding a new portion to our SAE. Either way, these new experiences are both exciting and challenging ones. They will push us to break out of our comfort zones and grow as individuals. To learn new things and apply them to our lives, just as we are told to do in the FFA motto. However, it is not until we accept that the previous year has come to an end and embrace the new one before we can rise to the challenge of making 2018 even better than the year before!
FFA members, are you ready to rise to the challenge?
Growing up with a father as an agriculture educator, I was always exposed to the contests offered in FFA. In a sense, I was almost like an honorary member of each team. Every contest season, I was there to help dad with training his team. The knowledge and experience I received, while watching my dad prepare teams for competition made me eager to be part of my own contest team, when I became a FFA member.
My freshman year, I competed in the knowledge contest; my sophomore year, I was on the dairy cattle team. My junior year, I was a member of my favorite team, ag sales. Having achieved previous success increased my excitement for my senior year when I signed up for the meats team. However, as the list started to fill up for tryouts, I noticed seven others on the list. This meant we had to cut people for the final team.
For the next month, I studied meats like it was going out of style. I thought I was ready to claim my spot on the team, however, after taking the test I did not make the cut. Devastation was all I felt, and I didn’t know what team I would be on. After a talk with my advisor, I decided on job interview. This last-minute decision taught me so much.
In life, we always seem to have a plan of where we want to go and what we want to do. Sometimes our plans change, and we are left trying to figure out what is next. It’s always good to have a back up plan. You never know where life will take you, but with a plan you will feel more secure.
Sign in through your FFA portal at http://www.ffa.org to access the 2018 scholarship application. More than 1,800 scholarships were available in 2017. Click here for details and a list of 2018 sponsors.
Online Application Deadline: Feb. 1, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. EST
Signature Page Postmark Deadline: Feb. 8, 2018
Tickets will be sold until January 6. Individual tickets are $5 or five tickets for $20. You may purchase tickets online at mocattle.com or from participating local FFA chapters. Winners will be selected at the MCA Convention on January 6.
Two winners will receive a quarter of beef and the top two selling chapters will win the other quarters. Money collected will go towards a cash prize to the top exhibiting FFA chapter at the 2018 MCA All Breeds Junior Show, June 8-10.