Me, competing at our state level discussion meet. Photo credit: Michigan Farm Bureau
If you read my post from a few weeks ago, you know that my theme for 2017 is "do more scary stuff." Sure, it's not always fun, but I'm finding out that the results are TOTALLY worth it. In that post, I shared that one of the scary things I did in 2016/2017 was to compete in the American Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers Discussion Meet. If you haven't read about that, I'd encourage you to check it out, since it's the foundation for the thoughts I'm going to share here today.
Now that the discussion meet is over and I'm back home in cold Michigan (sunny Phoenix was much better...), I've taken time to reflect on the five things I learned from participating in this contest. But don't worry! You don't have to compete in a national contest or be involved in agriculture to find these lessons relevant - and I think that's what makes them so great.
So, without further ado...The Top 5 Things I Learned from Doing Something Scary!
1. Do stuff that scares you - it's where the greatest rewards are!
Yes, I've already talked about this MULTIPLE times. I just wanted to make sure you didn't forget :) Again, if you haven't already, jump over to this blog post to read more about why "doing scary stuff" is my 2017 theme.
2. If you're going to do something, go all in.
When my BFF twisted my arm and got me to compete in our district-level discussion meet, I didn't have much at stake. I hadn't prepared at all, but if I didn't do well, no big deal. When I advanced to the state level, though, I sure as heck didn't want to look stupid. So I read. And I studied. And I asked questions. And I set up meetings with experts.
And it paid off.
When I moved on to the national level, I did even more of all of those things. Plus, I did practice discussions and gathered feedback on what I could do better or differently. I wasn't just going to show up in Phoenix and be happy with whatever I got. I was going to compete.
What activities do you have going on in life? Are you just showing up? Or are you going all in?
3. Be Open to considering Different Opinions.
If you have paid any ounce of attention to the world in the last 18 months, you know that:
- People have strong opinions on pretty much everything, and
- We rarely agree on anything.
This is no different in agriculture. But when the aim of the discussion meet is to work together toward possible solutions to some of our industry's biggest challenges, you have to get past those opinions and preconceived notions, and start considering things from other points of view.
Now, I'm not saying that you'll AGREE with those other points of view. You may or may not. But I do believe that, by at least considering viewpoints outside of our own perspective, we can be better friends, colleagues and citizens. I have learned so much and it was all because I was open to taking other thoughts and opinions into consideration.
What strongly-held opinions do you have? What if you flipped them upside down - just for a moment - and looked at them through another's eyes?
4. Respectful dialogue is lacking in our society - but absolutely critical.
This lesson is tightly linked to Lesson #3, but it goes beyond just considering different opinions – it's in how we have those conversations in the first place. One of my favorite lines in the rules for AFBF's discussion meet is, "This is a discussion – NOT a debate." The goal is to have respectful, productive dialogue that considers multiple points of view and allows for collaboration toward a solution.
Wouldn't that be AWESOME in everyday life?! Especially when the conversations are hard or on a hot-button issue.
When someone says something that gets you fired up, how do you respond? What would happen if you took a moment, took a deep breath and then asked them a question in a calm, genuinely respectful tone? I bet we could start making huge strides toward understanding each other better.
5. There are people out there who believe in you.
Sometimes we talk about how, on the journey from surviving to thriving, you may have to go it alone because not everyone will understand your desire to be a better version of yourself.
But, other times, you'll be surrounded by so many supportive people you won't know what to do with yourself.
I got this picture texted to me from everyone back at Michigan Farm Bureau on the day I competed in the final round of the discussion meet – how awesome is that?!
When I won the state discussion meet, I was surrounded by Farm Bureau staff, friends, family, coworkers and people I'd never even met who wanted to help me succeed, offer advice or just cheer me on.
It was amazing.
Look around you – who wants to see you succeed and is willing to give a helping hand to get you there? Welcome their assistance and show your appreciation for it. Those relationships are true difference-makers.
So, there they are! The five things I learned by going out on a limb and trying something scary! On the journey from surviving to thriving, I'm guessing you'll experience one or more of these lessons for yourself along the way.
The trick is paying attention and putting those lessons to good use for experiences in the future!