Friday, June 3, 2011

Jeff Cather delivers retiring address as state reporter

Jeff Cather, state FFA reporter, Chaparral FFA, delivered his retiring address, "Work Never Hurt Anyone," during the fifth session of the 83rd Kansas FFA Convention on June 3.

“Jeff, can you hear me?!” shouts my dad. As I lay in bed, I think to myself, “of course I can hear you Dad, I’m not dead.” It’s 6 o’clock on a Sunday morning and I cannot think of anywhere else I would rather be than my bed. But my dad continues to shake me like he is trying to get the last drop out of an A1 steak sauce bottle. Slowly, I get out of my bed and try to come alive. I struggle to put my contacts in because I can barely open my eyes. I move lethargically around my room as I pull on layers of clothes to stay warm against the -10 degree wind chill. I finally make my way to the garage, put on my boots, and head out the door to make the trip to the farm. There are cattle to feed, fences to check, and ice to break. All before church at 9:30. It is time to work.

Work. In science the definition of work is Force x Distance. Or in general terms it can mean purposeful effort. For me, work is waking up at 6 to go to the farm on Sundays. What does work mean to you, and what does it look like to you? Work can be getting sweaty on a football field, or it can be practicing for a CDE. But it can also be classified as something else. We can think of work as the effort to get better. We all are in need of growth and betterment. To succeed at our job, in school, in our FFA chapters, and in our lives; we must work to take a chance, have a willingness to make a sacrifice, and work on what we have control over.

When we work, there will be opportunities for us to take chances. After Indiana State finished the 1948 basketball season, their coach of just three short years was looking for another coaching position. Not because he was unhappy with where he was, but because he was looking for something bigger. This coach was looking to take a chance and land a job that would hopefully propel him into coaching greatness. He was looking for a job that was better and more competitive, but allowed him to remain in the Midwest where he desired to be. The University of Minnesota was a good job for him to take, and he really liked the possibilities that the University provided him. However, the University of California at Los Angeles or UCLA was also showing a strong interest in the coach and offered him the job. The UCLA job was a higher profile position but it did not allow him to stay in the Midwest like he wanted. The Minnesota position was a safe bet for him but there was a calling to the West Coast that was pressuring him. He talked more about this decision with his wife and prayed hard about his future. In the end, this coach decided to not take the safe route and stay in the Midwest where he was comfortable. John Wooden took the UCLA job and never looked back. Coach Wooden took a chance, a chance that would prove to be successful. He coached at UCLA for 26 years. In a twelve season period as head coach, he led his team to ten national championships. Seven of those championships being in a row.

Take a chance. This short statement carries a huge amount of meaning. Taking chances does not just mean asking the girl in your math class to the high school prom. Taking a chance means to pursue a favorable outcome. When we work, there are tons of opportunities to take a chance and it is not limited to just taking one big chance. Chances can be hard to take but it is the first step for us to grow as individuals. The chances you take, big or small, shape you into the person you are. You might have taken a chance to join FFA, though you knew little about it. Or maybe you took a chance to start a new job and get out of your comfort zone. There are many different openings when we work that allow us to take chances.

We are given one opportunity to live and work so why should we take that one chance and do nothing with it? Start putting yourself in positions where you can take chances. What might some of those positions be? Is it a chapter office, a district office, or something else outside of FFA? In these places we can begin to actively take chances. Take a chance and talk to someone new during convention, or try a new CDE. Who knows, maybe you will find something that you will have a passion for. The willingness to take a chance is huge, but to work we also must make a sacrifice.

If we choose to work, we will undoubtedly have to make a sacrifice. My first love was beautiful. There was none like my love. I could go to my love anytime I was upset or bored. My love was orange, round, and felt like leather. Yes, my first love was basketball. I can still remember making my first basket on a ten foot goal with a women’s ball and running into the house, making my dad come out just to witness the greatest feat in my short life. Everyday it was my goal to get in a gym or go to my driveway to make myself better and came to realize that the statement, “love can make you do some crazy things”, was very true. Basketball made me work harder and sweat more than anyone would have thought possible. Between my sophomore and junior year, a college basketball coach expressed interest in me. Playing college basketball was in my future. But there was something in the back of my head that had me thinking about another option. I could remember going to state convention as a freshman and thinking about how awesome it would be to be on stage as a state officer. As the time came to make a decision, I thought more about my options and realized just how hard this choice would be. I gave so much to FFA and had received even more back. I had also worked everyday to make myself a better athlete and basketball player. Would I really want to give something up that took so much of my time? In this decision there were pros and cons for both sides, but I knew that one dream would have to give in to the other. The decision that was made has had the biggest impact on my young life. The sacrifice of giving up a college basketball scholarship to serve Kansas FFA has had that impact. It was a huge decision and an even bigger sacrifice to give up something that I dedicated my whole high school career to, but that sacrifice has made me the into this person today.

To gain we must sometimes make a sacrifice. The sacrifices that we make can be the biggest shapers of who we become. Giving something up can be difficult for us but we can gain from taking a loss! I have gained a whole new appreciation for FFA and some of my best memories are seeing members grow throughout the year. I have gained five new friends who have pushed me to grow and help serve Kansas FFA better. Your gains differ from mine, but we all can advance forward if we make a sacrifice. Work is making sacrifices and improving ourselves.

I am not saying to go out and quit your passion right now. Look at what you really want to accomplish. We might want to feed the world by becoming a farmer. So look how you can work on committing more of yourself to reaching that goal. Or we might want to commit more of their time to their FFA chapter and help the chapter grow. That may mean making your chapter a higher priority and cutting out more of your free time. We all should be striving to make ourselves better. Sacrifices in work can range from not rushing home after school to catch Spongebob at 4 to work on your record book, or spending less time with your friends to get your grade to an A in chemistry.One of the phases that we will undoubtedly experience on our way to success will be to make a sacrifice.

When we work in our lives we will be challenged, but if we know exactly what we can control and how we can do it, we can be successful. My dad has always been someone I have aspired to be like. Earlier in life, we shared the love of basketball. As I grew older, we shared interests in agriculture and feeding the world. My dad has been the best teacher I have ever had and I have learned from him the importance of attitude and effort in our lives. One day after a big rain, we were headed to the farm for work and I made the mistake of asking Dad what we were going to be doing that day. He simply responded with “you’ll see”. I was pretty concerned now because it probably was not going to be the best experience of my life. We got to the shed that morning and he headed right over to the shovels. He grabbed one for himself and one for me. Then it hit me like a nine pound hammer. We were going to be shoveling mud and manure. As we started in, my dad went right at it cleaning out the cattle chute. Being the boss, he did not have to work but he was giving his full effort in cleaning out the pens. The most impactful thing about that day; however, was my dad’s attitude. Being a young teenager, it was in my DNA to complain but my dad was not about to do that. Keeping a positive attitude about shoveling manure is hard but Dad was able to do it. With every complaint I had, he would good heartedly respond, “just keep shoveling Jeff, it builds character.” I just shook my head and wondered how this crazy man could have such high effort, and a positive attitude about shoveling mud and manure.

There are two things in your life, and in work, that you can control; your attitude and your effort. We can go about our lives not having a positive attitude or not giving full effort. But where will that get us?!?! You can go far if you change the way you approach work. Is your attitude toward work positive or negative? How high is your effort level in your work?

Think about how you can control your attitude and effort in what you are working toward. Once we give our full effort and attitude to our work, our chances of success drastically improve. Charles Swindoll once said "life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react." This directly relates to our attitude and effort. If we let ourselves have a poor attitude, it affects us and those around us. But if we have a positive attitude toward our endeavors, we lift ourselves and those around us up. My dad was able to keep his attitude positive cleaning out the chute and made mine better. How can you do this? Keep a positive attitude after a loss in an athletic event by uplifting your teammates, and encourage them to come back the next game and win. Keep a good attitude in your FFA chapter by making meetings more fun and interactive, making those around you more excited to be a part of FFA. If we lack effort, we will fail at our goals. However, with an increased amount of effort we put ourselves in a position to succeed. How will your effort define you? Are you giving full effort in school, or in relationships with your parents and friends? Commit to a high standard of effort and attitude.

Back to that cold Sunday morning, my dad and I finally arrive at the farm. I climb out of the car and am instantly chilled to the bone but know that I can not let that get to me. We start feeding the horses and getting the sick cattle down to the circle to begin their daily rounds of medications. Then, we get the old feed truck fired up, saddle the horses, and head across the road to feed, as well as ride through the cattle. We move quickly through the chores to stay warm and on schedule. We jump in the pickup and go to our wheat pasture fields to break ice and check each fence. This is the best part of the whole morning because it will be the final thing we tend to before making the trip back into town for church. Sunday mornings working on the farm meant a weekly struggle to get out of bed, but it also meant that there were chores to get accomplished. It meant that there was work to be done. This has been my definition of work but there are many, whether it is my Sunday mornings, or the transfer of energy through a force across a distance. But do not think of work like that anymore. Think of work as being willing to take a step forward and take risks. Work at pushing yourself to betterment. Take a chance and find something you have a passion for. Be willing to take a loss for a gain, and make a sacrifice. Give full effort in your goals. Most importantly just breathe, smile, and have a postive attitude for life. Kansas FFA, are you ready to work?

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