Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What's Wrong With Being Confident? Nothing!

“All I want for Christmas is you!” Currently the most popular Christmas song on the top 100 list, Mariah Carey’s rendition of this classic tends to make us do one of two things; jam our hearts out or reach for the seek button. As Thanksgiving comes to a close, we find society to be on opposite ends
of the spectrum with Christmas tunes. You could be the family who has their tree decorated before the turkey is put away, or the people who put off shopping until Christmas Eve. No matter where we see ourselves on this spectrum, Christmas music shows us just how influential music can be

Ecclesiastes 3:1 explains, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.“ Sooner or later, the majority of us are going to be singing the Christmas carols without the itch to change the station. Much like Christmas music, each genre has a time and a place it fits best. I also believe a certain genre of music has the ability to show us some pretty cool things. From the surface, each genre is unique in its sound and message, but on the inside, it also shows a certain attitude and personality.

I am a huge fan of rap music. However, I don’t like the negative messages or the profane language used quite often. Sometimes, it pays to look beyond the lyrics and general sound, though. When it comes to rap music, I really appreciate the attitude and personality that can be displayed.

We all have these two pieces in our own lives, but let’s put a definition to the words. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines attitude as “a mental position with regard to a fact or state.” Indeed, our attitude reflects what we feel inside towards a certain situation. Personality refers to the dominant quality or qualities distinguishing a person or group. In short, I like to think of personality as how others see us in correlation with how we act.

In particular, rap music exemplifies a confident attitude and an energetic personality.

“I’m so fancy
You already know
I’m in the fast lane
From LA to Tokyo
I’m so fancy
Can’t you taste this gold
Remember my name”

The song “Fancy,” by my home girl Iggy Azalea is a great representation of confidence. There isn’t a moment in the song where she wavers from knowing who she is and exactly what she wants to do. From the lyrics above, I can tell that Iggy Azalea will let nothing stand in her way of doing what she needs to do.

In 2013, Eminem set the record of rapping 6.5 words per second with his hit, “Rap God.” The entire song has 1540 words. American classic Bruce Springsteen averages 280 words per song. That’s quite a difference. I can’t tell you what the song says word for word, but what I do know, is the amount of energy that radiates from his skills is something to appreciate.

What music you listen to shouldn’t change as a result of this blog. As the proud follower of 90 custom Spotify playlists, I see the value in all music. Rap, however, shares the attitude and personality we should be adopting at this time of year. As the holidays draw near, we find ourselves needing more confidence and energy than usual to endure each day leading up to Christmas vacation.

Our attitude influences our personality in ways we don’t even notice. During the holiday season, we have many times when both pieces, attitude, and personality, might be challenged. With Christmas break right around the corner, many of us are preparing for final tests or turning in a long list of assignments. Maybe, you’re stressing out because of the financial burden that comes with Christmas shopping, or simply not knowing what to buy for someone. As an FFA member, it’s easy to become overwhelmed after fruit sales and fall events. No matter what you’re going through, it becomes quite easy to lose our energy as we enter the holiday rush. Take a minute to think about December and all you have to accomplish before Christmas break. For some more than others, it can be tiring just thinking about reaching that point.

Just like Christmas music, we each have the choice to jam our hearts out with confidence and energy. We also have the choice to hit the seek button, which keeps our attitude and personality the same as it was before. This holiday season, we can approach each task a little differently than usual, which can help us successfully work up to the Christmas holiday.

Recently, I made a list of everything I have to accomplish before Christmas break. Teaching violin lessons during finals week, reading my 600-page horticulture book or preparing for a trip to South Africa were just three tasks that could leave me as nothing but a nervous mess. Instead, I chose to be confident in myself, knowing that with the right amount of energy, I could accomplish them. This holiday season, will you adopt a confident attitude and exert energy into all you do? Or will you hit the seek button, hoping your tasks work themselves out?

As Demi Lovato would say, "What's wrong with being confident?"

Well friends? Nothing.

Stationed by the Flag,

Rebekka Paskewitz
Minnesota FFA Reporter 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


IMG_2779.JPG Tuesday, November 15th, I had the privilege to travel to Dawson, Minnesota to help present Mrs. Lund with her Honorary American FFA Degree. The experience was amazing. Everyone in attendance got to see just how big of an impact and how important she was to Minnesota FFA as she is our State Band Director. I arrived fully expecting to hear a band concert, but instead, I had the opportunity to listen to the Jr. High and Sr. High orchestra. I thought this was amazing because my high school didn’t have an orchestra. It was amazing to hear the difference just a few years of practice made between the two orchestras. The amount of growth those students had shown was astounding to me. Those individuals stayed in that orchestra as long as they could to help them grow as musicians and as people (even if they didn’t realize the second part).
All of us have to grow as individuals. Whether we like it or not, it’s a fact of life if we want to go anywhere. I’ve helped prepare myself for my future by taking a job at the SDSU Meats Lab. While working there, I’ve learned how to sanitize coolers, harvest the animals, and break them down into steaks, chops, and roasts. Of course with work, there are days I don’t want to go in or that I think I should be doing homework instead of working, but that has helped me grow. Working there has given me practical knowledge of how to run a meat locker, but also how to manage my time and prioritize tasks. If I wouldn’t have taken the job there, I wouldn’t know how to butcher livestock and I also wouldn’t be keeping track of assignments and work hours in a planner.
IMG_2813.JPG We have to grow in many ways, seen and unseen. We have to become educated, be accepting, develop a work ethic, and develop a plan for our life. To be able to grow we have to push ourselves as hard or as little as we want. My high school football coach would say to us every practice, “I want you to leave practice 1% better than you were when you started.” 1% isn’t a lot if you really think about it, but if you apply that to your life, that would make you 365% better than when you started the year. That is an astounding leap from one year to the next!
There is a great quote that perfectly embodies this, “There is no growth in the comfort zone, and no comfort in the growth zone.” Pushing yourself to grow and achieve more won’t always be easy. However, it will always be worth it. If you start pushing yourself in the morning to grow in the way you want, you will be amazed at just how much you’ve changed in a week, month, and year. Just 1% a day isn’t a lot to ask for, but the things you accomplish by growing 1% will amaze you.

Clay Newton
Stationed by the Emblem of Washington

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Find Your Firework

I sat there in the uncomfortable hospital chairs, waiting. I flipped through the pamphlet the registration people had given me, not registering what I was reading. How soon am I going to be called? Would it hurt when they stuck the needle in?

“Wendy, you can come with me,” a smiling nurse said. I followed her back towards the blue curtains, and she asked me a bunch of questions and took my blood pressure. “Okay, now we’re going to prick your finger.” Oh no, I thought. I’ve heard this is the worst part. The nurse quickly pricked my finger, did the test, and said, “Looks like you’re good to donate!” with a smile. After a few more questions, she told me to wait until someone came and got me.

Again, I sat, waiting nervously in a cold metal folding chair behind a blue curtain. This is going to be unbearable. After a few minutes, the curtain moved to reveal a woman wearing a smile and scrubs. “You can come with me!” I followed her out into the room with all of the foldable cots that were set up for donors. She told me to lay down on one and wait. After she asked me some questions, labeled my bags, and put the blood pressure cuff on my arm, the nurse put iodine all over my arm. This is cold and weird. Why would anyone ever want to donate blood and go through all of these weird, nerve-wracking experiences?

“Alright, Wendy, it’s time to start donating!” I squeezed the red stress ball three times and closed my eyes, bracing for the pain. I waited. And waited. But I felt nothing. I opened my eyes and peeked at my arm--and there was a needle, drawing blood! I hadn’t even felt it. I chatted with the nurse while the donation bag continued to fill. Ten minutes later, I was finished donating and enjoying some fruit snacks and juice at the canteen. I had successfully donated blood, and I didn’t even pass out!

Donating blood is one example of “Living to Serve.” As FFA members, service is at the heart of what we do. As human beings, I believe it’s what we’re called to do. Service can be as simple as holding the door open for the person behind you, or as life-altering as serving in the military. Either way, service should be a part of what we do every day.

A few weeks ago, I attended a church service at Cedar Valley Church in the suburbs of the Twin Cities. The pastor opened by asking who of us enjoyed fireworks. I looked around and saw many hands, including my own, raised. He went on to share a story that went something like this:

“When we think of fireworks, we think of sitting in our lawn chairs on the Fourth of July, watching the fireworks explode over a lake and enjoying it from afar. And that sounds nice, doesn’t it?” Many of us nodded along, imagining this scene in our heads. He continued, “Well, a few years ago, I was in China over the Chinese New Year. My wife and I stayed on the tenth floor of our hotel and got to witness how they celebrate. It was absolutely nothing like how Americans celebrate with fireworks; in China, anybody and everybody that wants to shoot off fireworks can. None of the permit nonsense that we have; everyone can light off their own fireworks. And my wife and I stood there, looking out at the sky, seeing that 360° around us, color and light illuminated the sky.

Service is a lot like fireworks. When someone commits an act of service, it’s an amazing thing and has the ability to light up someone’s day, or in other cases, illuminate their lives. Many times, we sit back and simply enjoy the fireworks that someone else lit off; we say, “Someone else will help that lady with her groceries,” “Someone else will participate in the chapter service project,” or “Someone else will make a difference.”

What if we chose to serve like fireworks during the Chinese New Year? Rather than sitting back and watching someone else light fireworks, what if we lit our own? Instead of saying, “Someone else…”, we’d say, “I am going to help with the groceries,” “I am going to participate in the chapter service project,” and “I am going to make a difference.”

I was terrified and nervous the first time I gave blood. I had thought, “Someone else can donate blood; they don’t need mine.” Now, I am proud to say I have donated 7 units of blood and cannot wait until I can donate again. I have found my fireworks to light off; what fireworks are you going to light? How are you going to make a difference?

Stationed by the ear of corn,

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Maximizing the Genius

My little cousin is probably the cutest little girl you could ever meet. Her cute brown bob and contagious giggle are just the start of what this girl has going for her.  She is full of spunk; she loves dressing up as Elsa and appreciates any time when you play princess with her. My cousin is also brilliant. Her young mind is bursting with knowledge, but her brilliance shines the most when it comes to her ability to be herself. She is able to do this because of her mom and my aunt, Kristie. Kristie is someone who I have looked up to my entire life, and as a child, I wanted to be just like her. Kristie loves to encourage her to showcase her loves and styles, and because of this, she picks out whatever she wants to wear. Whether it is printed leggings, a tutu, a colorful sweatshirt, or funky shoes, she can pull it off.

Whenever I see kids dressed like this, I can’t help but smile because they are so proud of the outfit they picked out. The best part is the joy these children are feeling because of the mom or dad who let them choose their outfit standing behind them. As leaders, we can learn a lot from parents. Parents, like my aunt Kristie, are maximizers. They are leaders in our lives who do not think for us but encourage us to think for ourselves. They are genius makers.

During my senior year of high school, I had a genius maker that entered my life. As the fall of my senior year approached, I decided I wanted to have a part time job outside of working on my family’s farm. My mom received an email with a job posting for Lit’l Wizards, a hometown family business that specializes in educational toys and resources. I immediately felt that it fit me and decided to apply. A couple days later, the owner of the store, Maria, called me and told me she would love to have me join their team. At that moment, I was ecstatic and immediately called my mom. I knew this was going to be a great experience, but what I didn’t realize was that working at Lit’l Wizards would impact my life in a very special way.

Each of my days looked similar but were always filled with different tasks. School would get out and I would head over to work. When I buzzed the doorbell at the door in the back, Maria would come open the door and begin to tell me what I could work on that day. One of favorite things she would ask me to do was to redecorate the store. I would always ask, “How would you like me to do it?” And Maria would always reply, “However you want.”  

When I first began my job, I was terrified of these words. What I was doing would affect how people saw our products and sometimes whether they bought items or not. I wanted the store to look amazing, and I wanted to do it well because Maria always did such a great job. Now, she wanted me to decide how to decorate her store. The thing about Maria is that she never saw it as her store. She saw it as ours. Lit’l Wizards had a lot of pieces to it, and she recognized that. She wanted her family and employees to feel like they were integral parts to the store. We were never employees; we were her team. By Maria using the words “However you want,” I soon realized that she believed in me and felt as if I was capable of making our store look wonderful, and I fell in love with my job.

Throughout my year of working, I got to wear pajamas one day to work, decorate for Christmas, and use my creative mind in all parts of our store. I even got to help with social media posts and create our newsletter.  The greatest part of my job though was having a person in my life like Maria. Maria is creative, innovative, motivated, and loving. She is person who does not let anything stop her. She is a wonderful mom, teacher, and boss, but in all of these roles Maria is a maximizer.

This past fall I had the opportunity to attend a leadership conference called Live2Lead in Marshall, MN. Speakers touched on all concepts of leadership, but one of my favorite points came from Simon Sinek. He said, “It is not about being charge, it about taking care of those that are in our charge.” You see, Simon talked about how Millennials (our generation) are not lazy; we are just simply looking for a place where others care about us and show us empathy. As leaders, it is not our job to micromanage people who are fully capable of doing great things. It is our job to take care of these people and make sure they feel loved and cared about.

I seriously love this mostly because I had the opportunity to have one of these leaders in my life. The true question is how can we be maximizers? How can we show empathy to others instead of looking only for results? We can do this by looking to people like Kristie and Maria. When we are leading others, let’s not do their job but help them feel confident in doing it themselves. Whether it means letting an FFA member take over a project that is normally done by an officer or asking a couple of freshmen to help decorate the FFA float. Maybe it simply means that we show someone we care about them and know that they are fully capable to accomplish what they set their mind to.

This is what it means to find the genius in others. The idea of the “genius” came from Liz Wiseman who I also had the privilege of hearing speak at Live2Lead. She talked about how each person we come in contact with has a set of unique gifts and talents. We all have a little genius within us, but sometimes it just takes a leader to bring it out. Let’s be those leaders who encourage creative thinking and self confidence. By believing in others, we will create more leaders, more geniuses, and more maximizers. As FFA members, we have the capability to do this. Look around in your classrooms, FFA meetings, sports practices, work, and band practices. Each person has unique talents and gifts that are so special. How can we help others use them? I challenge all of us to empower someone with a task, compliment, or job.

Whether is it letting kids wear what they want or empowering others to be apart of something, maximizers have the ability to change how we see the world. They give us strength, confidence, trust, and pride. We can do this, too. I have decided I am going to be a leader who finds the genius in others, and I hope you join me in this. FFA members, advisors, and supporters, let’s build our communities and grow leaders. Let’s help others realize their worth and ability. Let’s maximize the genius in all of us.

Stationed by the Plow, 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


Last September I was trying to charge my phone with my fully charged Kmashi charging brick, but my phone would not charge. This was serious! I was only part way through my day, my phone had died, and my charging brick was nothing more than a paperweight. Not a single volt of electricity was going to come out of this battery pack, and not a single snap was going to be able to be sent. I immediately sent an email to the company regarding this dud charger. In a matter of hours, I heard back from the company, and they had already sent a new charger in the mail for me. I was absolutely astonished by the customer service, and I started to tell every one of my friends about the experience I had with the Kmashi company.

            Fast forward to this afternoon, Miss Tolosky, Rebecca, and I had the opportunity to listen to a guest speaker, Jay Baer. Mr. Baer talks about several main points from his book, “Hug your Haters”. He talks about how customer experience and customer service is great when one exceeds their expectations. He also talks about how a company is represented by how good or bad their customer service is. Now depending on how good or bad your experiences are with a company OR person, you are either pleased with them, or immediately turned away from them. That is why when I received my new Kmashi battery pack, I started to tell everyone on how pleased I was with their services.
Taking this message a little deeper, we can apply this idea of great customer service that leads to great customer experience to our own everyday lives and interactions. When we choose to exceed other’s expectations of us, we create that great experience. Now finding a reason to always create that experience can be hard. Baer also talked about BEET, Be Empathetic Every Time. He created this acronym for companies to remember to be empathetic towards their customers, because they didn’t know the customers background. I know that my email to Kmashi about the new battery pack may have been a little sassy when addressing the company. Yet, Kmashi chose to use BEET, and sent me the most empathetic and apologetic email. And because of that, they got a customer for life.

            It is far too easy now days to be a little sassy and short to others when we are annoyed and agitated. It is easy to let ourselves be poorly branded by others when we are not putting forth that great customer service. As students, as friends, and as FFA members, we need to put forward a positive brand for ourselves and FFA. Each time we choose to put forward a positive brand and use BEET, we are creating that GREAT experiences for ourselves, others and everyone around us. So how are you going to choose to be empathetic? What are you going to do to put forward a positive brand for yourself and FFA every day? So why do you want to choose to put forward great customer service to others to create that great experience and brand?

Beneath the Rising Sun,

Spencer Wolter

Minnesota FFA State President