Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Vehicle to Success

I could write a few sentences of fluff about the secret to success and achieving your goals…however I will just give it to you. The vehicle used to succeed in reaching your goals is discipline.

Yep, a word we have most likely all heard again and again. We can see discipline at its best when looking at athletes and their dedication to their training and working their body till it hurts. We see discipline in our boss who stays late at work to finish the project that is so crucial to the organization. Discipline is an acquired skill that will make the world’s difference in whether you achieve success or not.

During my time as an intern in Cargill’s Wichita corporate office, it has been difficult for me to remain balanced in all areas of my life…I am lacking the discipline. If there is one thing I have really noticed in the office, it is that those people who advance within the company contain extreme amounts of discipline.

When I traveled to Arkansas with my boss a few weeks ago, she talked about how she usually gets up at 5:30am each day to run three miles and lift weights before going into work. Then she makes sure she goes to bed at 9PM so she can do the same the next day. Another lady I sit next too had a large coffee in her hand this morning and exclaimed how she needed the caffeine—that working out at 5AM each morning is really getting to her.

As I hear these business women speak of their normal routines that keep them healthy and happy, I couldn’t help but realize how lazy I have been! I wake up at 6 or 6:30AM depending on the day to watch the news, eat breakfast and get ready for work. I try to force myself to the gym each night to do my normal 3 miles and weights—yet I don’t always accomplish that goal. Then, I usually don’t actually go to bed till 11Pm, and that is good for me! At work I have to constantly redirect my attention to remain alert and able to perform well (not sure if this is because of my lifestyle, or the characteristics found in our generation).

Through some new insights my co-workers have given me, I have decided to make this summer more than just an intern experience. No, this summer will be a true test to my discipline.

The funniest part of this entire situation is that I currently have more free time than the last three years! I should be able to make time for those crucial health disciplines which we require to be our best. However, like a few of my friends, I find that the more free time I have the lazier I get. When I am busy I am forced to make time to exercise or read a book. However, now that I have so much free time the TV and couch somehow have sucked me in! I am sure that some of you suffer from the same problem as me—having to keep yourself busy to really get all your priorities accomplished.

“Nothing is easier than saying words. Nothing is harder than living them, day after day. What you promise today must be renewed and re-decided tomorrow and each day after that stretches out before you.” —Arthur Gordon

Discipline. It is a daily choice. What we must do is really commit to what it is we want our lives to look like. There is the easy way out, but is that the way that leads to the future you you desire?

Imagine this: you decide you want to really focus on the relationships in your life. You commit yourself to writing a note of encouragement to someone every day during your lunch break (this could be a card, e-mail, facebook message, text, call, etc). After a month, that is about 30 people you have touched and made feel special. After the summer, that is just about 100 people. Someone who may have had a bad day could come home to find that special message that turned their entire week around. That could be you.

One note, each day at lunch, and think of the difference you could make.

Apply discipline to your life and the cumulative results will be more than you originally imagined.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Don't Forget Your Dreams!

The hypocrite: a person who says one thing but does another. “You shouldn’t gossip; little people make little talk,” and “Stop wasting time in front of that TV! You should be enjoying the outdoors.”


Both good pieces of advice, however, when you turn the corner what are those folks doing? Talking about Susie who just broke up with her boyfriend because he cheated with her best friend Jill, or they are sitting there watching the last four seasons of Lost when it is 80 degrees and beautiful outside.

Ok, so not everyone says one thing and does another. However, there are those certain folks who have the “hypocrite syndrome.” Those people who often preach one thing all the time, yet do the opposite. Are these bad people? ABSOLUTELY NOT! On the contrary, these are caring people. They are the ones who are concerned that you don’t make the same mistakes they have.


About a year ago, during a road trip, one of my dear friends named Tyler made the comment that most people’s life message is about that thing or area that they struggle with the most. For example, if your life advice to someone was to be comfortable just being themselves and no one else. Most likely, that would mean that your greatest struggle has been reaching that peace with being who you are and disregarding the assumptions you make regarding what others think of you.


The reason people do this is because they care about you. They have struggled, or currently are struggling, with the same problem they see you may be facing. Often, our immediate reaction to their advice is “Well, they don’t even do that. Why should I listen to them?” Where as in truth, or advice response should be “Good feedback. They care enough to be honest with me. They seem to have a similar problem—how can I see it has impacted their life?”


The human brain is a brain of habit, this is for sure. Our habit is to be offended when someone tells us something we can improve on. Of course, everyone would rather have a compliment, pat on the back, or “you’re so wonderful!” Yes, there is a place for these encouraging words in a person’s life—however, do these really challenge you to be a better person?


This past weekend From Thursday through Sunday, I attended the Alumni Leadership Camp in Montana north of Great Falls. There were close to 100 amazing high school students there, all of which were full of energy and ready to learn about personal growth. The six camp counselors (Sam, Brook, Jessica, Chase, Andrew, and John) did a wonderful job presenting workshops on communication, self-motivation, risk taking, relationships, and more. I was invited to present a workshop to the group on goal setting Friday and one on FFA Opportunities on Saturday. That evening at the Saturday night banquet I also gave a keynote address.


In those four days I really go to know some of the students on a personal level. They shared with me their dreams of becoming an architect, going to Med school, becoming a state or national officer in the FFA, becoming a famous country singer, and becoming a national high school rodeo champion. As each student shared with me their ambitious goals, their faces would light up and you could see a surge or energy go through their body. During some reflections by a fireplace one night I shared with those members to dream bit. Shoot for the moon—if you don’t hit it you will still land among the stars.


Well, the conference couldn’t have gone better in my eyes. The students learned a plethora of new leadership and personal development knowledge, and I myself walked away inspired and energized as I always do when around FFA members.


Later that evening as I was flying home I found myself in a state of self-evaluation. Looking out the airplane window, I thought about all those dreams the members shared with me. Then I thought about what dreams I have. It was at that point that I realized, I too suffer from hypocrite syndrome. I have always dreamed of things such as becoming a motivational speaker, writing leadership books, traveling the world and educating people on agriculture and making it fun! All of these would exist in my dream life. Yet, do I really pursue them?


As a national officer I got to experience all of the above dreams minus the book writing. However, since then I have been thrown into a “tough world reality.” First, we have people constantly talking about how the economy is bad, jobs are hard to find, leadership and organizational development are the first positions that will go. Then, I have the second reality check when I see other speakers and presenters. There are so many people pursuing this career—and what is there to say that I am any better or equal to their abilities? I haven’t survived a plane crashed or overcome a serious disease. No, my life struggles have been on the inside—but are those good enough to make a motivating point to others?


Here is the skinny. I believe in dreaming big and going for what it is you want in life. DREAM BIG. Even if your end outcome isn’t what you originally had in mind, you will most likely find yourself in another position even better you didn’t know exist. I will forever preach and share this message with all those I meet.


On a personal level, I too will start doing the same. I will stop thinking of all the reasons I am not good enough, and start thinking more optimistically about my dreams. Every now and then we all need to take a little self-evaluation to check up on whether we are suffering from hypocrite syndrome ourselves. If we are, then what can we do to change that?   

Thursday, June 18, 2009

You as a Trend Setter

Trends; they are everywhere. There is the classy “ugg book chick” seen on campuses all across the states. Then there are the Vera Bradley bags and purses sweeping ladies of all ages. Oh, and we can never forget, the new boat shoes that have done a big come back for guys and gals alike.


Trends will always be a part of this world. One person can take something like a boat shoe that was popular in the 70’s, decide to sport the old school look one day, and then BAM! Everyone is obsessed with the Sperry boat shoes! I remember I was in high school and all of us girls just HAD to have the toe socks…I never really thought they were comfortable, but I did it anyway.


Who are these trend setters? How do they create a movement that can be seen at a local, state, country, or worldwide scope?


I will tell you a little secret…anyone can be a trend setter if you try. Ok now, it is important to realize there are different levels of trend setters—you have the celebrity trend setters who can wear the ugliest big shirt with tights and knee high boots and make it popular. Then you have the more common trend setters, the local setters. 

These individuals are the ones in their communities setting trends such as attending the Monday night volleyball tournaments at the church gym, or motivating their peers to hang out at the local coffee shop and start a study group. Trends don’t have to be clothes or materialistic, but they can be so much more.


The reason trends have been on my mind lately has been the influence of my summer internship. It is amazing how the atmosphere of a corporate environment is so much like high school and college in the sense of trend setters. My boss is one of the most intelligent looking ladies I know. She has this pair of black rimmed glasses that make her look like she has the IQ of 180. I will admit, I was at the mall the other day and found at Claire’s “sassy glasses.” They are glasses that look like real glasses, yet really are just plain glass—no prescription. Seeing how I have impeccable vision, I have never gotten to wear glasses and have that persona of being extremely intelligent. Yes, I bought a pair and enjoyed sporting them at Barnes and Noble later that week.


Trends…they are all over. Sometimes we become victim of materialistic trends. For example, I bought glasses so I could “look” smart, despite the fact that my vision is perfectly fine. However, we can also become involved in good trends that improve our mind, body, or spirit.


Last night my uncle here in Wichita invited me to attend a volleyball tournament group at a local church that plays every Monday night. NOTE: I have not played volleyball on a competitive team since freshman year in high school. Seeing this as an opportunity to get some physical exercise and meet some new people, I said yes. This was last night…this morning I have bruised up arms and knees. Apparently the Wichita State University volleyball players attend these Monday nights sometimes to practice. Great, wish I would have taken my knee pads!


So let’s go back to those two questions posed earlier. We already answered the first one—who are these trend setters? The answer we determined is anyone. It could be a celebrity, your boss, or a family member. We all have the capability to set trends. That brings us to our second point: how do trend setters create these movements?

1)    Make it look cool/fun

2)    Be confident

That is it; two simple tactics that are both crucial to use when creating a trend.


First, is making it look cool/fun. Cool and fun are both interchangeable—it depends on which one motivates your audience more. Some audiences have the primary goal of fitting in with the “in crowd.” Clearly, these individuals will be motivated to follow a trend through the coolness factor of the trend. Then you have the individuals who are more interested in how much fun they can have. Those individuals would follow any trend if they would be guaranteed to have a good time doing it! To be a trend setter, you must analyze your targeted group and focus on whichever one of these words motivates them the most.


Second, we have being confident.  This is pretty self-explanatory. You have to make whatever trend you are trying to set believable. If you are having fun, show it! If your trend is an activity that helps improve you in some way, articulate that in a confident manner. People will believe someone who knows and can sternly support what they are talking about. Be confident, and people will believe you.


Trends are everywhere. Sometimes people can set trends without ever intending to.


What trends will you set in your lifetime?


Will you be able to proudly state trends you started that helped make someone a better person? Can you say you have created trends that nurture service, health, and relationships? If you can’t say you have thus far, no worries, you have time. J

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Leadership Without Words

Ah yes, summer. Some of my friends are relaxing at home, rejuvenating from a busy semester. Others are studying abroad. Then, there is the hand-full that stay in town to take summer classes. All of these are common ways to spend your summer, however there is also what I would consider the most common summer option for college students…working!


This summer on June 1, I started my summer internship with Cargill Meat Solutions in Wichita KS.


What have I been up to in my internship? Well, they haven’t had me making copies or filing information yet, so I would say I am pretty fortunate thus far (that, or they just realized early on I am not good with printers, copiers, or many other forms of technology).


Actually, I am a Human Resources intern specializing in the Learning and Development side of HR. Another term you could call this position is a corporate trainer. Here in Wichita, there unfortunately are no other corporate trainers. Due to the economy they had to downsize, so as of right now, I’m the only one out of the thousands of employees in the Wichita offices working on training curriculum for the next year.


Some people in my situation may be nervous and timid to really run with the opportunity of being able to do all the curriculum development on their own. Well, some people may feel that way, but as you have probably already guessed, that isn’t at all how I feel! I am LOVING having the freedom to really be creative and use my past experiences and knowledge to develop curriculum that can be taught by others at plants for their new hires and supervisors.


I would love to tell you in detail everything I have created thus far; however, I would have to kill you. Ok, maybe not that drastic of a result if I tell, however my brain and thoughts completely belong to Cargill this summer…so it kind of is top secret. J


One of the coolest experiences I have had thus far was this past week which I spent in Springdale Arkansas touring their plant. Springdale has 1,300 Cargill employees—kind of like a small city as the HR folks there described it. During the week I spent there I got to tour all the Ag Live Operations (the hatchery, growers, and feed mill). My proudest moment was walking into a barn of 6,000 mature tom turkeys weighing around 45 lbs. each! If I said I wasn’t scared then I would be lying BIG time! No worries, I made it out with all ten fingers and only managed to lose three toes.


  Another part of the week I spent touring the processing plant. IT WAS HUGE! The HR Manager of the operation, Carlos, gave me my tour. As we went through the many different rooms we passed countless employees. Carlos would wave, say hello to them, joke around, and ask about their family or weekends.

Now remember, there are some 1,300 employees there! These workers represent 13 different countries and there are 9 different languages spoken. Carlos had been working at this plant for almost 3 years. I was BLOWN AWAY by how connected Carlos and his employees are. Carlos is in upper management, yet he strongly believes in spending quality time on the floor with his employees. While we sat in his office to discuss some future training programs, workers would walk by the window and wave with a really big smile!

 Carlos is bi-lingual, yet his connection with his employees has no limiting lines. The people working at the Springdale plant in Arkansas are a perfect example of what it means for a company to truly value and appreciate their employees.


One of Cargill’s goals is to value differences. The most powerful part of my visit in Springdale was learning about the many different cultures and how they all can come together to produce their end product harmoniously. There are positions in the plant call “frontline supervisors.” These supervisors are in charge of different lines of the plant. For example, the line that packages the ground turkey is a line. Many of the lines are made up of some 6-14 employees. As you can image, not all of these employees speak the same language. Not all of the supervisors speak the same language as the people they are leading. However, these supervisors have found ways to lead their people using a language different than words.


Walking through the plant Carlos pointed out a middle aged man who is now in charge of the shipping and receiving department. “That is Steve. He started out as a line supervisor,” said Carlos. “He has been one of my best. He only speaks English, and yet his people loved him. He just knows how to make employees feel valued without saying it in words, but showing it in actions and a constant smile.”


Steve was goofing around with some of the employees as we were walking by. It was clear that they all absolutely adored him, and yet none of them spoke English. Amazing! Leading people is hard enough as it is, but perhaps we make it harder than it should be. People like Steve don’t need any fancy words to impress their constituents. No, rather they choose to capitalize on the simpler things like smiling, sharing their lunch, playing innocent tricks on each other, and making yourself an equal rather than a superior. All of these are the non-verbal ways a leader succeeds.


My Springdale trip taught me many different lessons: 1) keep your toes covered when in barns full of adult tom turkeys, 2) People don’t have to come from the same place to work together to create a superior product, and 3) leaders can be successful using more than words.


There are no language barriers when you are wearing a smile.”—Allen Klein


I look forward to the many more new lessons this summer’s internship teaches  me. Whatever you have chosen to do this summer, remember that our greatest learning’s can be in the most unexpected places! 

Thursday, June 11, 2009

There are only so many places you can see all the different type of tears: tears of joy, tears of sadness, tears of uncontrollable laughter, tears of excitement, and tears of relief.


If there is one place that is guaranteed to shed this variety of tears, it is the Kansas FFA State convention. There is a special spot in my heart for this celebration that brings together roughly 1,300 students from across the state. It was the first time I truly understood the magnitude of the benefits FFA has to offer.


This year was my first year at the convention in a new role. Instead of being a member wearing the jacket, competing, or facilitating workshops, this year I was a behind the scenes gal. Not to brag, but someone must really like me because I got what I would consider one of the best jobs available for convention volunteers. My job was to be the assistant to the nominating committee that selects the new year’s six state officers, as well as be in charge of taking care of the 14 candidates throughout the week. Basically, I would consider my role as the “mom” to the state officer candidates!


I had a blast getting to know those 14 phenomenal individuals. From playing games in the holding room, to one-on-one conversations that really let me see what a great person each individual is.


Congratulations to each of you, the candidates, on your leadership and drive to serve others. Whether you were successful in gaining the title of state office or not, you make the choice in how big of an impact you will make in the future. Yes, if you have the title of a state officer you are handed a circle of influence (the KS FFA members), and without the title you must create your own circle of who it is you will target to serve and help grow this next year.


My definition of success is not based on the title stitched on your jacket, but rather in your genuine heart to serve and take action on the needs of those around you. Making a positive difference, even if in the life of just one other individual…that is what I consider true success. 

Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind:


“Every calling is great when greatly pursued.” –Oliver Holmes Jr.


“Caring about others, running the risk of feeling and leaving an impact on people, brings happiness.” –Joe Menchin


“To succeed we must first believe we can.” –Michael Korda


“I feel the greatest reward for doing is the opportunity to do more.” –Jonas Salk


In life, our plans are guaranteed to not always go as we originally thought. At first, we may be upset, frustrated, and sad, thinking there is nothing else great planned for our future. We have all been there at some point in our life. We are put in these situations to truly test how motivated and committed we are. In these moments of our lives we can take two approaches:


1)    Give up and accept a “go with the flow” lifestyle

2)    OR, we can choose to pave our own route


The exciting part of option #2 is…you get to take that much more ownership in whatever it is you choose to pursue. Work hard and I promise that the rewards in the end will be worth it.


We are all faced with challenges, and it is then that our character and perseverance has the best ability to grow.