Eli Ohlde Delivers State President’s Retiring Address

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My first exposure to country music was from an old cassette my dad had in his pickup.   This introduced me to some of Waylon Jennings’s greatest hits with no commercial interruptions.  My favorite artists growing up were Brooks and Dunn, Montgomery Gentry, Toby Keith, Rodney Atkins, Justin Moore, and Randy Houser.  I loved their music because it was relatable, and the lyrics seemed to describe my hometown and the people in my life.

It’s amazing, how song lyrics can make you feel.  Especially when it seems they were written just for you.  Some songs are deeper in thought than others, while some of this thought is hidden between the lines.   A set of lyrics from a recent Luke Bryan song caught my ear.  In his song, he says, “I believe most people are good”.  Quite frankly, I would agree.  However, I do not see this attitude in the world we live in.  We are wired to focus on the negatives of others.  And it’s made easy with the media and news we see on a day to day basis.  This leads to a problem:  a lack of investment in others.  We focus on the negative and discount our fellows and choose not to interact with them.  But here’s the thing:  we have all been invested in, we have all had people in our lives that have helped us get to where we are now.  We must identify those individuals who have invested in us and in turn invest in others to create the same positive impact.

I always wanted to be a farmer.  The problem was I knew little about actual farming.  On top of that, I did not have land, equipment, or capital to start a farming operation.  So, I considered livestock as an option: the investment was smaller and would pay for itself quicker.  My dad suggested I purchase a cow-calf pair from my Uncle Terry.  As I wrote the check, my uncle told me how this investment would grow if properly handled.  Little to my Uncle’s knowledge, he had just signed up for an investment himself.  That became clear when I walked into my first big lesson in cattle ownership, vaccinations. The time had come to vaccinate, and we were standing next to the chute, and for the first couple of heifers my uncle took care of vaccinating them.  I paid attention to how he filled the syringe and was injecting the animal.  Then it was my turn.  My uncle Terry handed me the syringe and told me how much of the vaccine each animal should receive. So, I filled the syringe and waited while the next heifer was caught, I was a little nervous.  As a 12- year-old, I was no match for a 1,000-pound heifer. Although the heifer was constrained I could still see her move about the chute and was imagining my hand crushed between a her and the steel tubing.  On top of that, the needle I was about to use was sharp and I have never been a fan of needles!  I was thinking to myself, “It would not be hard to stick myself with one of these!”. Even though I was nervous, I knew that it was my turn and it was now or never.  It took me a few tries; I bent a few needles, and even managed to break a syringe, but quickly I was vaccinating on my own. Over the years, the lessons kept coming. From Uncle Terry, I learned how to become a better cattle producer, but he also helped to lay the foundation for my future in agriculture.

Just as my uncle Terry invested in me, others have invested in us as well. This investment takes many forms.  These can seem huge, meaning tons of time and effort to build us into who we are.  Like when our teacher saw our potential and pushed us to explore our interests further or a coach who spent hours working to develop our skills.  These can also seem small, like when someone we didn’t really know lent a hand when we faced a challenge, or our friend listened to us in our time of need. Who is this person in your life? How has their investment influenced your future?  Think of times when others have been purposeful about their time for you.  On the car ride home take time to think of these individuals and let them know of your appreciation for their investment.  This can look like a phone call or a letter.  To truly be able to understand the investment in us, we must recognize the individual who has spent time on us and let them know of our appreciation for their influence in our lives.

When thinking of someone who invests in others well, I think of a certain teammate and friend.  My first interactions with this person were through the state officer selection process just one year ago. As soon as we were put into the holding room on the first day of interviews, they immediately started interacting with their fellow state officer candidates. That future teammate of mine was quick to learn where everyone was from, and suggested the idea of an icebreaker, so we could all get to know each other better. On the second evening of the selection process, we were all sitting around when they brought each one of us a goodie bag with an individually hand-written note inside.  I was struck that someone I had just met took the time in between interviews to write notes of encouragement for all fourteen of the candidates.  After we were elected, this didn’t change.  As we traveled to different conferences and trainings it was not uncommon to receive notes from this teammate, offering those words that we sometimes needed most.  Skyler’s investments were small but built on each other to leave a powerful impact.  Her willingness to engage with others so quickly, offer encouragement, and take the time to use handwritten notes has shown investment in our whole team.

This constant investment in others is something we can all take note of.  Investments in others does not have to be lifelong mentorship investments.  The time Skyler took was relatively little, but the impact was huge.  Just like Skyler’s investment and my Uncle’s investment look very different, there are many different styles of investment, ranging from small investments to ones of much larger scale.  Either way, the impact of these investments is felt and is much more valuable than the time it took to accomplish that task.

We all can use investments to have a powerful impact.  Our investments can spark the fire of passion in others, inspire others to accomplish their goals, and create the change we want to be in the world.   What are ways you can invest in others?  Who can you invest in?  What will your investments look like?  Maybe it’s starting a conversation with a new member, so they feel included. Or writing a note of encouragement to someone who’s feeling down. Or inviting someone to get something to eat and see what is going on in their life.  The way we chose to invest looks different for everyone, but there are many small ways to make a big impact.  Start today – invest in someone on your ride home by offering encouragement or including everyone in the conversation.

I believe most people are good.  No matter who they are, they are worth spending purposeful time on.  This world we live in is far from perfect, and the change we want to see starts with our investment in others.  If we believe that most people are good, and we invest in those people, we will see more positive outcomes.  The investment comes in many different sizes and shapes.  Like my Uncle Terry invest time and knowledge in others.  Like Skyler invest in small, intentional actions.  We have the power to influence change – so build people up, choose to invest, and create the change we want to see.  Make a sound investment!

“If we believe that most people are good, and we invest in those people, we will see more positive outcomes.”

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