FFA and 4-H Teach Lessons, Win or Lose

Hoosier Perspectives

Youth groups provide chance to learn while consequences are less important.

Published on: July 11, 2011

Is it an honor and a tremendous opportunity to be selected as one of the seven Indiana FFA state officers and serve Indiana's nearly 10,000 members for a year? You bet. It's a life-changing experience for many. But it can also be a life-changing experience if you don't make the office, but yet in a good way.

The other night at a county fair I judged one table down from a young lady who ran for state office just a few years ago. She worked hard, and wanted the office very badly. She was qualified, but things don't always wok out as you plan. The Indiana FFA has never found the perfect way to elect or choose officers, and in my opinion, never will.

Guess what, that's life. As my wife likes to say, get a helmet. There isn't and never will be a perfect way to choose a county Farm Bureau president or even President of the United States, either. Lessons taught in FFA and 4-H, some of the best lessons, are in the things you don't get, in the times when you don't win. It all depends upon your attitude and what you do about it.

This young leader is now well on her way to training for a shot at entering law school. She's working part-time for an attorney, gaining valuable insight. "That wouldn't

have happened if I had been elected an officer," she says., "I wanted it badly, but I think I was blessed that things turned out as they did."

Sour grapes? No, just reality. The same thing happened to my daughter several years ago. She ran, put her heart into it, came up just short of getting an office. Yes, it hurt. Rejection hurts. Rejection hurts when your boss gives the choice assignment to someone else. Rejection hurts when your employer says after 25 years, gee, we're outsourcing your job to a private firm and we don't need you anymore. It's how you react when that happens that counts. And if you get a taste of it in 4-H or FFA, maybe, just maybe, it won't sting quite so bad when it happens in real life.

My daughter is less than two years away from a PHD at the University of Georgia. Would that have happened if she had been elected? No. She has made wonderful, lifelong friends at the small town where she does her graduate work in Georgia. Would that have happened if she had been elected? No. Might she have had other wonderful experiences if she was elected? Yes. But what we didn't know at the time was that the major she had chosen, food science, is super-heavy on math and chemistry. She's a good student only because she works her tail off. A year away from the books might have been more than she could handle when she went back and faced a stiff curriculum.

I recently helped another young lady run for state office by assisting in her studying and practicing. She was qualified. She became a winner the day she told me "OK, I'm not half in, half out- I'm all in- I'm going to work at it hard, and if I get it, great. If I don't, I'll know I'll give it my best, and I'll go on to Purdue."

Give it your best shot and let the chips fall as they fall- or don't do it at all- sounds like a pretty good life lesson to me.

She didn't make it-and that's too bad for Indiana FFA, because she, like the young lady at the fair the other night, or my daughter, would have done a tremendous job. But as in the previous two examples, I trust God has something better planned for her. And, hey, if she doesn't get the first job she applies for when college is over, she'll be disappointed. But she won't be devastated. She's already trained to understand the difference.

Yes, FFA and 4-H teach lessons, even when you don't win the contest or get the office you want. Both are great organizations for the character they build. And character is about more than winning. It's great to win, but it's absolutely crucial to learn to lose gracefully. Newspaper headlines, especially in the sports section, are filled daily with stories about people who never learned that lesson.