I am not unique. There’s nothing special about me. I am not a well-versed, professionally trained speaker. I am not a speaker at all. Social media guru? Nope. Sly talkin’ slick dressed public relations specialist? Uh-uh. Not even close. I’m a mom, a daughter, an entrepreneur, and a cattle farmer from rural Kentucky. I make my living slinging meat in our family’s slaughterhouse. Talk about worlds apart! I live simply. I walk across my hayfield to work every day. I’m devoted to my family, my farm, and my business. Sometimes I fail. Occasionally I succeed. I am not extraordinary or unique by any stretch of the imagination. So, fancy my surprise when I was asked by the AgChat Foundation to be a speaker at the Agvocacy 2.0 Social Media Conference recently held in Nashville, TN. My topic would be on conversations beyond the choir. Needless to say, I was a bit taken aback by this and extremely honored. Lil ‘ol me? Surely you are mistaken. How nice of you to ask.
Wait! You want me to do what?
Sure, I like to chat. I love people. I find them interesting. But chatting among small groups and being center stage are two totally different things altogether. There is a wide range of emotions involved in something of this nature for me. First, I’m flattered. How nice of them to think of me. Personally, I have great respect for the other faces behind the AgChat Foundation. It was a huge compliment just to be asked. Next the reality of the situation sets in.
You see, on my own turf, I am comfy. Secure in my familiar surroundings. It is my happy place. I am self-assured and comfortable in my own skin. I am the ruler of my own universe and this is my kingdom. Now these AgChat folks want to rip me from my happy place and throw me into the lion’s den. Have they gone mad? Perhaps I’m exaggerating a bit. Maybe. Take that same confidant, assertive me and put me front and center of a room full of strangers with all eyes on me expecting me to say something brilliant and there is only one way to describe it: sheer, unadulterated fear! I begin to have this self-deprecating internal debate with my crazy self. (Oh, don’t you act surprised. You have a crazy self too. C’mon. Let’s be honest here.)
A range of things race through my boisterous mind. It goes something like this:
Crazy Self: What are you thinking? You’re not smart enough.
Feisty Self: Excuse me? No you didn’t. Shut up.
Crazy Self: Well, your rural drawl isn’t proper. People won’t take you seriously.
Feisty Self: Hey! I talk just fine, thank you very much. I am what I am. You should be so lucky to be me.
Crazy Self: You’re certainly not special or dazzling or extraordinary. Who wants to hear you speak anyway? Snore!
Feisty Self: Now you wait just one minute self. I don’t think you realize who you’re talking to! That sounds like a challenge to me. Crawl back to your cold dark lonely corner of the universe where nothing ever changes. Where the world is cozy and you’re always right. Good luck with that. I, however, have a dragon to slay.
I’m driven by a good challenge. That’s something I just can’t pass up. I’m addicted to it. I live for it. Game on! Ok. So it’s really not that simple. As a youngster, I took an F in any and every class that required public speaking. I’m not kidding when I say it really freaks me out.
Long story short, I talked myself into it and glad I did. Tackling challenges builds confidence and grows character. It was a great experience to be among so many talented people. Even if you stumble, just finishing is a personal reward all on its own. As frightening as it was, I was doing the very thing I was asking that crowd of people to do. Step outside your comfort zone where the world is a little scary and unpleasant at times. If you only surround yourself with peers ready and willing to pat you on the back, you don’t grow or learn. You stand still. Agriculture can’t afford to stand still.
Inside our happy place life is simple. It is safe. Nothing ever changes there. Outside, a conversation is happening. Are you a part of it? Don’t let your crazy self hold you back. There’s a great big scary world out there that wants to know what makes you tick. Will you venture outside your happy place? Or will you retreat to your corner of the universe where nothing ever changes, the world is cozy, and you’re always right? You might just find your own sweet reward. You might grow, learn, and stop standing still. At the end of the day, you always have that happy place to retreat to.
Amy is mom of three and a small cattle farmer in Kentucky. Her family owns and operates John’s Custom Meats, an on-farm USDA inspected slaughterhouse, processing facility, and retail meat market. Among a laundry list of other duties, Amy navigates the FSIS regulatory world, serves as the in-plant food safety and HACCP coordinator and consults with livestock farmers on ways of adding value to their livestock. You will also find her hands-on in the processing room daily. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook .