Nellie Hill, State FFA Vice President, from the Centre FFA Chapter, presented her retiring address during the fourth session of the 82nd Kansas FFA Convention.
My mini masterpieces were easily recognized by this super sweet, feathered purple gel pen and my hybrid print and cursive handwriting. Both of which I used on every important document. Sometimes my friends and I even spelled was W-U-Z, cause you know we were too cool to spell correctly. These marks I left let my friends know where I had been, like the smoke from an accidental science experiment explosion or the streaks left on the gym floor after wearing the wrong shoes to P.E.
During junior high, it was not uncommon to open up my planner or notebook and find a friends name scribbled across a page. I would read “Julie was here” or “Tye was here” and either laugh at how often this happened or wonder how they managed to get a hold of my things again. Now, I will not deny that I was guilty of writing “Nellie was here” on my fair share of property. I was here and I wanted my friends to know it. But what was the purpose of these one-liners? Maybe it was that we wanted everyone to know how awesome we were for being so many places at once. More likely is that we wanted, like everyone does, to be remembered.
Whether it be while you are on a school field trip or after you have graduated and left home, not one of us wants to be forgotten. It is a natural human desire to leave something behind, a legacy. To be remembered as we wish, we must make deliberate choices. Together they create a brand that reflects our personal character and values. We make thousands of choices each day. Whether we recognize it or not, these choices shape our brand, which will be our ultimate legacy. It is imperative that we make deliberate choices because they leave an imprint of ourselves everywhere we go.
I had been dreading this day. I knew that I would be sick over the Chem I final exam. Studying feverishly for days before, my mind still did not seem to want to grasp the concepts of anything from stoichimetry to oxidation reactions. To be honest, I had been failing this class most of the semester.
Looking down at the test, I was in a panic. I had no clue how to answer several of the questions. If I did not do well on this test, my prized GPA would take a massive hit; my scholarship money would be taken away too. I desperately needed the financial aid. Failing chemistry was not an option.
Suddenly, my phone vibrated. I had just received a text and I already knew what it said. It was not another good luck message from my roommate. There, waiting on the screen, were all the answers to the Chemistry I final exam and my ticket to that coveted GPA and continued financial assistance.
The night before, I had been hanging out with some guys in our floor lobby who were also in Chem. I. We were joking around about how our fates were cinched. We all knew we would fail Chem I. Then, the guys just kind of looked at each other and grinned. Turns out, they did not have a thing to worry about. During each chemistry one exam, they all receive the answers to the tests via text. Shawn asked if I wanted in. I said yes. As I walked back to my room that night, I was uneasy.
Back in that lecture hall, staring down at my test, cell phone open and hidden, I was in a battle with my conscience. Yes, I wanted to pass but at what cost? If caught, I would fail for sure and definitely get kicked out of K-State. What about my integrity? There would not be any left. Did my goal to pass chemistry overshadow my belief that cheating is morally wrong? As I wrestled with these thoughts, test time was ticking. I needed to decide my next move now. So, I closed my cell phone and put it back in my pocket. Handing in that exam was one of the most difficult tasks of the semester. Leaving that lecture hall, I began to cry. My grade was out of my hands now but I had survived the temptation to cheat. I found out later that I did not need those answers after all.
Each decision we make, no matter how great or how small, reflects our personal ideals and ambitions. It does not matter what happened to the guys on my floor, what is important is that I made my own decision to not use the answers. No one would have known if I had cheated. There was a slim chance I would have been caught. The issue becomes the fact that I would have known I cheated. If I had done it once, what would have stopped me from doing it again? Do not focus on how large or small the choice is. Every single choice we make leaves a lasting imprint.
Each imprint we leave with a decision peels back the shade covering who we are. Take a moment the next time you have the opportunity to make a choice. What do you stand for and believe in? I strive for honesty, dedication, and integrity. Ask yourself, does my choice demonstrate who I am and how I will be remembered? There are and will be times when it is difficult to decide. This Saturday night you might be at a party with your friends and it’s harmless enough. Maybe one of your friends asks if you want a beer. What will you say? Will you say yes because you want to be seen as “cool” for about as long as it takes you to drink it? Or will you rise above for the sake of your own integrity?
We face pressures just like this everyday. Everything from our personal style to the Career Development Events we are involved in is a reflection of who we are to the world around us. The classes we take, our attitudes, our hobbies, who we are friends with. What is amazing about our lives is we get to choose. Some decisions will be easy, others will not. It is a fact of life. Making a deliberate choice means asking ourselves, “Is this what I want to be remembered for?”. The imprint left by our decisions becomes more permanent with each choice we make. Think about a choice you made recently. Are the choices you are making leaving behind the legacy you desire? It is never too late to start making the decisions that demonstrate your true character. Once we realize that every choice leaves an imprint, we must focus our decisions to develop the personal brand we desire.
Brands bombard us as we watch television, drive down the highway, or choose a new place to eat. No brand is the same and many are easy to recognize. We instantly know that “I’m lovin it” relates to McDonalds or the apple symbolizes Mac. It took years for these brands to build the strength and credibility they enjoy today. The creation and development of our personal brands is a constant life process that makes every individual unique. They do not always have to be tangible as the brand of a company is. Our brands are composed of our character and values, or what we are known for. It is a bonding of every choice we make. We find encouraging role models around us who display their brand as a reflection of who they are.
Take a moment to think about what kind of character you have. What is it that you are known for? Building your brand is about asking your self what is important to you and determining your own strengths and values.
With every action taken you are creating your brand, what you are known for, how you will be remembered. Is your brand a true reflection of who you are? When I asked myself this, I realized that I wanted to add an aspect of service to my brand. Giving back was, and still is, important to me and I needed to act on my belief in it. To take action, I developed a community service project. With the help of my advisors and fellow students, we coordinated the Centre High School Recycling Program.
Each time someone has served me, I feel it necessary to give to them or another. I serve because I desire to return the favor. This is a part of my brand. The value I have for service and my personal strength of dedication made me see the recycling program through till I graduated.
No action is too large or small when it comes to developing your brand. To pick a staring point, ask yourself “What are my strengths?” How can you put them to work in building your brand? Often times, it can be difficult for us to jumpstart our action plan without some direction. Build your brand by being early to meetings if you want to be seen as dedicated or show that you care about the subject and those involved. Build your brand by tutoring someone because you have the strength of knowledge and can share it with others. Build your brand by taking the time to write a thank you out by hand. It shows that you value your gifts and creates a brand of appreciation. Share your knowledge of the industry and how it works if you are passionate about agricultural literacy. These are just ideas. It is about what you want your brand to be. Remember, each and every action you take is a building block for your brand.
It is easy to make choices as if they leave no mark behind once you have taken action. Remember that your deliberate decisions combine to form a brand that will last forever. Your brand is unique. Do not be afraid to take what is important to you and display it through your actions. Use those building blocks to assemble your brand into an exact reflection of who you are and the legacy you want to leave.