Summer. For FFA members, summer means camps, conventions and many opportunities to meet new people. You may meet your new best friend or even your future spouse while attending these events. Developing meaningful relationships is tricky, but if done correctly, they can be the foundation for a lifelong friendship. So what’s the key to making strong friendships? Being authentic.
Have you ever met that one person who you could tell was just putting on a show to get attention from everyone in the room? Are they truly being themselves?
During high school, we had a substitute teacher who tried to act as cool as the students he taught. He would show up to class wearing the latest fashion trends even though no one over the age of 30 would ever look normal in them. He would tell inappropriate stories and behave like a teenager instead of an adult. He wasn’t being himself. He was trying too much to be cool.
How many of us have tried to be something we are not in order to get people to like us? At one point or another we sacrifice who we are just to please someone else. So how do we maintain ourselves and our integrity while getting others to notice us and make friends? Being ourselves is the best way to do this. In order to be authentic, we need to stop worrying about others and do what makes us happy.
So often the reason we stop being ourselves and start trying to be “cool” is that we worry about what everyone around us will think. We buy the coolest clothes, listen to the newest songs and carry the newest phones all because they boost our reputation. When I was in sixth grade, everyone who was cool was wearing high top Chuck Taylor Converse. I thought if I owned a pair then maybe I too would be cool. After much begging, my parents finally bought me a black and pink pair of new Chuck Taylors for my birthday.
Looking back on that day, I realized I didn’t even like those shoes. I only wanted them because everyone else had a pair. I didn’t gain any new friends because of my shoes or become the most popular kid in school. It’s easy to get wrapped up in what others think, but is it worth compromising our happiness? A true friend will like us no matter what shoes we are wearing. If shoes are a priority to them, then they aren’t really the type of friend we want anyway. So stop worrying what others think and do what makes you happy.
To be authentic, do what makes you happy. Michael Neuman, agricultural teacher at East Chambers High School (Area IX), always tells his students to “do what makes you happy.” When you are doing what makes you happy, then you are being true to yourself. You aren’t being fake or trying to please others. People will like you for you, not some counterfeit image you make up.
When I served as a Texas FFA state officer last year, I met one of the people who is most true to himself. Kyle Schmidt didn’t care how others perceived him. He was Kyle, 100 percent of the time. I truly value this about Kyle. Do you have a hobby you don’t share with others because you are afraid of what they will think? In order to establish a deep and meaningful relationship you need to be you, quirks and all. Follow your heart’s desire and you will find friends who accept you as you are.
Which path to making friends will you take? Will you put on Ray Bans and pull out your iPhone 5 to impress others? Will you make 90’s song references because that’s who you are? I challenge you to build relationships based on self-reflecting actions rather than objects. As one of my favorite authors, Dr. Seuss, once said in his book Happy Birthday to You!, “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.”
Ethical Leadership Fellows Update:
In April, Heston, Dean and I traveled to Siloam Springs, Ark., to the Soderquist Center at John Brown University for our training. Soderquist is the world’s leading ethical leadership training center and works with major companies such as Walmart and organizations such as the National FFA Organization. During our training, we learned some new facilitation techniques, completed several team building exercises and established a workshop for our service as Ethical Leadership Fellows.