Compete in any and everything, you bet! For most of us, competing has become part of of our everyday routine. Who can get to the car first, who can guess the song on the radio, who can get the highest score on Temple Run and the crown jewel, who can shove the most marshmallows in their mouth and the list can go on … you all know what I am talking about. Competition helps push and drive us to do our ultimate best and reach maximum potential; it would be safe to guess however, like some of you I often get carried away. Allowing the word competition to get blurred into a similar sounding word, comparison. Comparing myself to those around me and allow the fear of being inadequate to eat away at me. Unlike competition where I am striving to be my best, comparison only makes me strive to be better than the others around me. In our society, we are constantly looking for the next best thing and the need to do and be better. Often becoming focused on simply being better than the others around us. Instead of comparing ourselves to the others around us we should look for growth inside ourselves and be who we are. If we identify who we are and choose to be who we are then the blurry line between competition and comparison becomes more clear.
To “know who we are” seems like it should be a line in one of those famous chick flicks or a lyric to a motivational song however it goes a lot deeper than that.
As a high school sophomore people would describe me as being the big, strong, future star football player…Not. Instead I was the small, weak, non-athletic individual that would hide in the corner of the weight room hoping not to get caught you know that kid in your school, not doing anything. Mind you I still wanted to be an involved student and reap all the benefits of being an active member of a team so naturally I played sports. Lots of sports, everything from cross country to wrestling to golf. I did not claim to be a good sports player but I did try my hardest and give it my all. As a sophomore I was an individual who could argue with a brick wall and work to win. During an argument when it was suggested I should join a new team, the debate team. Knowing absolutely nothing and not sure what I was getting into I took the class. Learning that I loved to debate and better yet pretty good at it. It took time before realizing that for once I was truly enjoying what I was doing and was no longer the “ok” player I use to be. As some of you might know wrestling season starts just as the debate season is ending and there is some overlap between the two. Typically, the only thing remaining during this overlap is debate regional and state competitions. Being a first year debater I didn’t ever image making the regional 4 man team but due to some ineligibles a spot became open. The debate coach and other three members of the team selected me out of all the other debaters in the program to fill that one spot. Blown away and beyond excited, there was a major conflict between a wrestling tournament I was supposed to compete in and the regional debate. A choice had to be made. A choice to do what I truly enjoyed and had a passion and interest for or instead stick with what was determined as “cool” and “the normal thing to do” but something I really did not enjoy nor good at. After weighing the positive and negatives I decided to sit out the wrestling tournament and compete at regional debate. Looking back this was one of the best decisions I could have made. By knowing who I was and where my passions, interests and priorities lied I was able to make the right choice and what inevitably made me happier. My junior and senior year I decided to stick with who I knew I was and no longer compete in sports. Instead focusing my time on the areas I really enjoyed such as FFA and Debate and Forensics.
To truly be who we are we must first know who we are deep down. Take time and look at what you enjoy doing. What are your values, priorities, passions and interests? Knowing these things helps us focus on our individual abilities and strengths. What is really important and what simply makes you happy? At the end of the day we are responsible for our own happiness. If you like playing golf then go out for the team. If you enjoy reading then volunteer at your local library. Maybe you enjoy working outdoors pursue a career that allows you to get outside. Focus on what you like doing more than anything else and do it. Identify the three most important areas in your life. Now identify what your actions truly show filling those top three spots. If all of your priorities did not make the list and in the right order then make some changes and insure that they do. Do not get caught up in what you think you are supposed to do or be but instead do what you really want to do and what truly matters to you. Knowing who we are is the first step in being who we are.
After we know who we are, we then have to remember to be who we are. Each one us in this auditorium is unique and special in our own ways. Choosing to be who we are is the understanding that we each bring something different and beneficial to the table.
This past fall marked the start of my freshman year here at K-State and with it came the numerous opportunities to become involved. As a freshman I was oblivious to everything that was available however after being told about one group in particular, if there was anything I wanted to be involved with it was this one - Quest Freshman Honorary. This is an organization that works to help freshman leaders get involved at K-State. It is the cat’s meow for all incoming freshman. There were only two conditions and they were big ones, it was only offered to first year students and only 36 applicants are accepted. Of course everyone rushed to apply. I along with Jordan, Justine and Nathan all excitedly received the email saying we were moving on to the next round. My excitement quickly turned to nervousness. Not so much about the interview but at the fear of losing out and being a failure. The day of the interview came and the room was filled with some intimidating faces. All of the confidence built up inside flew out the window as the comparing started. Interview started and ended in a blink of an eye and I just knew. Knew it had not gone well, however a small sliver of hope still existed. That sliver of hope disappeared after Jordan and Nathan had received their congratulations email while Justine and I’s inboxes sat empty. A few moments later we both received our rejection email. Depression sunk in. How could this happen? Failure had occurred and I did not know why. Why wasn’t I good enough? What had gone wrong? For several days the depression continued. The individual that finally cheered me up was none other than Miss. Justine Dlabel herself. She approached me with a very assertive attitude yes that is correct a very assertive attitude and asked what was wrong. Looking at her in disbelief; she knew what was wrong, she was supposed to be experiencing the same feeling of failure I was. Reminding her of my recent failure Justine looked at me and told me to stop with my “Kurt Attitude”! What did she mean by “Kurt Attitude”? She went on to explain that I needed to choose to stop looking at this as a failure. For whatever reason we were not chosen and it had nothing to do with how “good” we were, this was not a competition. Just because we did not make it into Quest did not mean we were not leaders and it did not mean we would not be successful in the years to follow at K-State. She went on to praise me and all of the strengths and abilities I possessed. After our conversation I realized how wrong I had been. There was no reason to be down, I had a great group of family and friends and a great life. Justine taught me that day I needed to quit with my “Kurt Attitude” and to choose to start with my “Justine Attitude”.
In order to be our own person we must choose to be who we are. Every single day, in every single decision we need to make choices based on who we are. These choices and decisions can work for us or against us. Choosing not to cheat on that math test that you are not prepared for. Choosing not to go out and drink with all of your friends. Choosing to stand up for the individual getting bullied or stand by and watch. Choosing to help out that elderly neighbor. Choosing to stand up for what you believe. When it comes to these choices and decisions we do not need to concern ourselves with the others around us but we must choose to live by who we are and the things we hold in high esteem. There is no reason why we should ever doubt ourselves or our abilities, instead we should be proud of who we are and everything we have to offer. If you are that sweet, compassionate, naturally reserved individual don’t be anything else! If you are that crazy, outgoing, high energy individual don’t be anything else! Choosing to be who you are is essential in being your own individual.
After we know who we are and remember to be who we are all that remains is to keep being you. While this seems like a basic task it really is a direct challenge. Everyone in this room at some point has struggled with remaining who they are, especially me. As Justine would say, do not have a “Kurt Attitude”, the attitude that you are not good enough. That you need to act a certain way in order to be successful or to be well respected. The attitude that you are not pretty enough, or talented enough, or smart enough, or outgoing enough, or enough in general. Tonight rest assured that every one of us is enough. You are good enough, you are pretty enough, you are talented enough, you are smart enough, you are outgoing enough, you are enough! Do not blur the lines between competition and comparison. Always strive to do your best! Know who you are and then be who you are, Kansas FFA, be Distinctively Original!