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Experience without Reflection is Experience Wasted
In our Intro to Agricultural and Environmental Communcations class (AGCM 110), students write blog posts to develop writing skills and reflect on current issues and relevant life experiences. As the semester draws to a close and we near the end of 2015, Christy Allen, a freshman in agricultural communications, shares insight on looking back at -- and learning from -- our experiences.
A wise family friend, Genny Six, once told me that “experience without reflection is experience wasted.” I was too young at the time to understand the full meaning of this statement, yet it stuck with me over the years and has slowly but surely become more and more applicable.
Throughout my high school years, I had many opportunities to attend FFA conventions and leadership conferences. They never failed to invigorate and excite me about the possibilities the agriculture industry has to offer. I quickly realized that no matter how valuable the information a presenter shared, no matter how inspired a speaker left me, it did not make a lasting impact unless I made the decision to implement their wisdom into my life.
It takes reflection on these experiences to truly gain anything from them.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending the Agriculture Future of America (AFA) Leaders Conference. Thursday through Sunday were spent in Kansas City networking with industry professionals and acquiring important skills and knowledge (think dining etiquette, the difference between "business casual" and "business professional," interview skills, etc.).
Again, as Genny suggested, “experience without reflection is experience wasted,” so here are some of the key takeaway points that I believe, upon implementation, will help make me a better agricultural communicator and have a better outlook on life.
Take the time to refocus and become re-energized about your passions. We live in a go-go-go society where something always needs our attention or something always needs to be done. Living at a fast pace too long can result in crashing and burning. I hope you are passionate about the ways you choose to spend your valuable time. Make sure to take the time to remember why you have these passions and what you want to do with them. An AFA session focused on “Finding the Right Cultural Fit” included the alarming statistic that 89% of Americans are not passionate about their job. If you are one of the 89%, figure out why that is and what you can do to change it. Passion leads to higher quality work and happier life. AFA provided the chance for me to interact with high caliber individuals who reminded me that the stresses of college are temporary, but the rewards of an Agricultural Communications degree will be lasting and oh so worth it. I will be able to work with inspiring people while representing an industry that I love and quite frankly, I don’t think it can get much better than that. Don’t be part of the 89%.
College students: Your degree is a roadmap, not a final destination. I cannot count how many industry professionals I was able to hear from and interact with over the four-day span of Leaders Conference. AFA worked hard to ensure a ratio of 1 to 1 ½ industry professionals for each delegate attending the conference. As they told stories about how they ended up where they are now, I began noticing a common theme. Very few of them are doing exactly what they originally thought they wanted to do. Yes, your education is important and should be taken seriously. But do not think your major is locking you into a specific career for the rest of your life. The agriculture industry has such a diverse array of career paths; you never know where you may end up.
Busyness does not directly correlate to productivity. A Franklin Covey session titled, “5 Choices of Extraordinary Productivity,” made me aware of how I am spending my time. “Don’t confuse activity with accomplishment.” Checking my email every five seconds will keep me busy, but is not productive. Technology can improve productivity, but it can also be a distraction. Be aware. Live more from intention and priorities than from habit. Do the important things first and everything else will fall into place.
Everyone has some wisdom to share - all you have to do is listen. Below are some of my favorite quotes from the AFA Leaders Conference experience.
“Keep knocking on doors until you get what you want.”
"Don’t let yourself be defined by the perceptions of your generation.”
“Are you going to inspire the world today or infect the world with pessimism?”
“Life is going to happen. And it’s going to be awesome. Then terrible. And then awesome again. Have faith things will work out.”
“Get what you want out of life; don’t let life get what it wants out of you.”
Many of the speakers who have been in the agricultural industry for a long time kept reiterating that this is the most exciting time in their careers and that this is the best time to be in agriculture.
I love soaking up opportunities such as the Agriculture Future of America Leaders Conference. It is necessary to step away from the stress and busyness of day-to-day life to refocus. Pre-conference, I was caught up in the exhaustion and demands of college life. This conference reminded me how lucky I am to be studying a subject I love, at a university I love, surrounded by people I love. Like Genny said, take the time to reflect on experiences. It may end up changing your whole outlook on life.