Recently I attended the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Fusion Conference, which is a joint event between the Women’s, Programing & Education, and Young Farmers & Ranchers committees, in Jacksonville, Fla. One of my Collegiate Farm Bureau students won the state discussion meet and competed in the national event.
In addition to coaching, I was a workshop presenter on the topic of work-life balance, with a former YFR leader from Florida that I am friends with.
As I was packing to leave for the event, Marc and I were discussing my planned agenda for the event and I mentioned the workshop with my friend Morgan. Marc got a slightly confused look on his face and asked, “Do I know this Morgan?”
That’s what is funny about the relationships we build at these events. Someone I have only known a few years, visit with at an occasional national event, and am friends with on Facebook feels like so much more than just a professional acquaintance. Morgan and I have a connection through our jobs, mutual respect as leaders and a shared understanding of our industry and lifestyle. Our friendship is easy because our lives are very similar.
I also caught up with my college advisor from California, who I rarely get to see in person and is probably the most impactful mentor of my life. I visited with a fellow presenter who I have judged with in the past and respect tremendously. The conference organizer is a friend with whom I have a long professional and personal relationship. I am motivated and encouraged by time shared with my “far-away friends.” I come home with an enthusiastic and renewed sense of purpose.
Great people are one of the reasons I love attending these conferences. In addition to seeing old friends, I love getting to know new people with interesting backgrounds, listen to the perspectives of speakers and learn what is happening in other places. The information gained through new connections increases my knowledge, challenges my current views and often helps me find new solutions for problems I wrestle with at home.
Early in my career, I remember discussing as a board member whether or not to support a staff member’s request to attend a national conference. The board was divided in support of professional development verses funding constraints. The decision eventually came down to the board chair, who chose to approve the request.
He told the group, “One of the most valuable things I have done in my career is attend conferences and meetings. I have always come away better and think there is tremendous value in participating.”
Coming back better is one of the reasons we step outside our normal zones. I recently read that one of the most accurate predictors of career attainment is continuous learning and skill development. People who never stop growing are better off than people who were rose to top positions early career and maintained that position.
There is tremendous value and opportunity that comes when you attend events like conferences, seminars and conventions. Sometimes you have to step away from your normal circle of interaction to find new and interesting things to bring back.
If you have the chance to attend a conference or event, especially in a different part of the country, I hope you will embrace the opportunity, find people who make you better and gather lots of ideas that you can bring home to make your world just a little bit better.
“Insight” is a weekly column published by Kansas Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization whose mission is to strengthen agriculture and the lives of Kansans through advocacy, education and service. This column is by Jackie Mundt, Pratt County farmer and rancher.