Sunday, December 7, 2014

"You can't dream big enough"

"You can't dream big enough." That was the title of keynote speaker and host of The National Farm Report Orion Samuelson's talk after lunch at the Midwest Pork Conference last Tuesday in Danville, Indiana. 

Although he was speaking at a pork conference, Mr. Samuelson grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm. That caught my attention. The room was freezing, but I was so wrapped up in the presentation that I didn't even notice after a while. My co-worker who was working our trade show booth with me joked, "Of course there would be a dairy farmer speaker at a pork conference you are attending...everything is somehow linked to dairy with you." Well, maybe not everything is directly linked to dairy, but that did make me laugh. 

His presentation took us back in time and while he discussed many innovations in agriculture during his lifetime, he said one of the most important was in the 1940s when his dairy farm was hooked up to electricity. I can only imagine how much easier this made everything. He also talked about milking cows by hand before school and all of those chores farm kids know all too well. I connected with that since if I didn't know better, I would have thought Grandpa was up there talking to me. I'm not sure when Grandpa got electricity, but I'm going to guess it was before 1944. However, he's told me so many stories about how he would get up before school and milk cows by hand so the family would have milk to drink and how they sold any excess to the local creamery. I wish that creamery was still open so I could go see it, but like many things, it closed up shop a very long time ago. 

He kept urging everyone to continue working hard for their dreams, never give up and keep striving to accomplish more. It's easy to give up on dreams when things get tough, but it's rarely a good idea to take the easy way out.

A few things I took away from it:
  1. Don't give up when times are tough because they will (eventually) get better
  2. Never stop learning and striving to make a difference
  3. Don't lose your sense of humor
His presentation style ties directly into what everyone always gets at when talking about how to effectively tell our farm stories to consumers. Why did Mr. Samuelson's presentation matter to me? He connected with my values of family and hard work. Dairy caught my attention, but those shared values are what kept me listening intently. For someone who is always freezing, the fact that I didn't notice that after a while is saying something, too.

You have to connect with your audience's values before you can really get them to pay attention to what you are saying. Establishing shared values is key in communication, regardless of the conversation or presentation. 

I've said before that one of the things I really like about my job is that I get to go to lots of different meetings, farms and events, learn a lot about all of Indiana's livestock industries and meet a lot of really amazing people. This was no exception.

As we get closer to the end of 2014 and you start developing your New Year's Resolutions, keep some of those lessons from Mr. Samuelson in mind. Everyone is an advocate for their way of life and it's important to never give up on your dreams just because you hit a speed bump (there will be more of those). 

To steal a line from one of my favorite Cross Canadian Ragweed songs, "After All", "someday's never coming." So true. It's easy to say someday I'll do this or learn that or travel there. However, unless you put some kind of timeline on it, it's easy to lose track of your goals and it will never happen. That's how canning was for me, among other things. I've been saying since 2010 that "someday" I would learn how to can. Well, the years flew by. Then one day this September I woke up and decided I was going to learn how to can that day. I bought a pressure cooker, green beans, peaches and pears and got to work. I also called Mom up for some tips. My only regret is that I didn't do that sooner. I love it!

You'll never know where life will take you or what opportunities will come your way if you give up. Keep believing in yourself and your dreams and work hard. It will pay off. 

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