This April I was given the opportunity to go back to Colorado to my FFA chapter as their guest speaker for the annual FFA Banquet. What memories it brought back as I both prepared for the talk and then as the opening ceremonies began. I heard a young lady recite the Creed with such passion! To hear the members’ talk of preparing to go to the state competitions reminded me of the hard work these students are going through and the “life lessons” they are about to encounter.
Because this invitation to speak was literally so close to “home”, I decided I would take the time to write a series of blog posts as an alumnus, who now has a little different perspective on the value of FFA in my life. When I attended that exact same banquet in 1993, I thought about trophies, awards, and elected offices.
20 years later I now see how developing soft skills such as public speaking, making critical decisions and trying new things out of my comfort zone were so beneficial! These life lessons are what I am so thankful for today even though it has taken so many years to fully appreciate.
In preparation for the talk – – – I did three things:
- First and foremost, I did a lot of reflecting. What would I tell myself when I was in high school?
- I chatted with Ms. Rheuby, the FFA Advisor about the objectives she wanted to convey: She said, “the importance of agriculture and how it will influence the rest of their lives”.
- Finally, I reached out to my network on LinkedIn and Facebook to compare notes with my colleagues.
Agriculture has shaped my past, present, and future.
Both FFA and 4-H were key to my foundation. As young people, the observed short-term benefits are different that the long-term lessons that will undoubtedly shape our lives. Growing up on a ranch in southern Colorado immersed me into the world of agriculture and entrepreneurship but so did my involvement in Agricultural organizations.
Growing up, I was blessed with a Grandpa Bill who was the “farmer”. He loved his Massey Ferguson 285 tractor and putting up alfalfa hay. My other Grandpa Gene was the “rancher”. He, on the other hand, loved his horses and cattle. I learned to ride at a very young age, and from him, I learned to respect our livestock and know that if you’re good to them, they’ll be good to you. These plus a million other lessons that shaped my character, like so many of friends who grew up in this great industry.
When you multiple farm/ranch lifestyle * FFA principles it provides a wonderful base for young people.
Technology is moving faster and faster
In addition to Agriculture, I reflected on the speed of technology. As an illustration, I asked one of the sophomores to stand up and asked how they would feel about not having an iPhone for another 14 years or Facebook for another 10 years. Below is how fast technology has changed since I was in high school. I used a Britannica Encyclopedia (on CD) until MY sophomore year, and then was introduced to the internet but didn’t send my first email until I started college. I don’t consider myself that old yet!
Combining Ag + Technology, what shaped my perceptions?
In thinking critically about my career, I shared with the students the SINGLE most important thing I learned from each of my experiences post high school. Here are those key learnings:
20 years ago, I thought I had it all figured out. I was learning what it took to be independent and “on my own” after leaving what I considered a very comfortable environment. The person I am today is more humble than that person 20 years ago. I have more of a framework for life but also a lot less certainty about what tomorrow will look like. But now, I believe that each day is a gift from God. Yes, I still plan for the future, but with more focus on direction and strategy as opposed to tasks and lists. But the person I am today is a culmination of all these experiences that are deeply rooted in AgTech.
In the coming weeks, I will be writing about a life framework. I plan to share the most important elements that I’ve learned since graduating high school in 1996. The goal for these posts is going deeper into key learnings regarding People, Perspective, and Purpose. Again, having the chance to reflect recently has challenged me to think: What have you learned Kevin?