Aspire. Passion. Partner. Grit. Build. Courage. These are the six pillars that Engler Entrepreneurs strive to live by. Each is vital to succeeding at building enterprises that contribute value to agriculture and the community – which is Engler’s mission. They all have earned a place as one of the six pillars. That being said, there is one that really sticks out to me. Passion.
Let’s step back for a minute. As a college student, I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked, “So, what do you want to do after graduation?” I know exactly what I want to do. I want to work in the beef industry. More specifically, I want to return to my family’s operation and feed cattle. However, lots of students (perhaps even the majority) have no idea how to answer that question. They say things like, “I don’t know yet”, “I’ll figure it out when the time comes”, or “I’ll take whatever job comes along”. I feel sorry for these people. So what’s the difference? I believe the difference is passion. I know exactly what I want to do after college, because I have found what I’m passionate about – feeding cattle. Granted, passions may change over time, but I’d speculate that many college students have never considered – or searched for – what their passion may be.
So why is this such a big deal? I know in my own life, I wouldn’t be happy if I wasn’t following my passion. If I didn’t care about my job, or don’t enjoy what I’m doing…it’s not worth working at. I’m passionate about three things – Jesus Christ, family, and the cattle business. These are three things that I consider worth living for. If I don’t pursue these passions, I won’t be happy – and I probably won’t be successful. I’m confident that if I do continue to live out my passions, I will have a very meaningful, joyful, and successful life. Success can mean different things, but for me, success means making real change for the things I’m passionate about. For example, my goals are to advance the Gospel of Christ, love my family, and improve the cattle feeding business.
I would challenge everyone to ask themselves, “What am I passionate about?” Make a short list (maybe less than 5) of things that bring you joy. And, most importantly, ask “What is worth living for?” I believe that this is the single most important question you can ever ask yourself. Once you figure that out, you will be well on your way to living an adventure, instead of a career.
In my opinion, the most powerful drive or motivation to succeed is passion. Once you find your passion, aspirations of how to make a difference can be developed. Passion drives the courage and grit that it takes to get it done. When it comes to your idea, no one can build that enterprise as successfully as you can, because they don’t have your passion. Passion is at the core of a prosperous entrepreneur. Passion is what empowers us to make real change.
I looked around my surroundings as I reached the north side. People were scattered around the peak, resembling an ant colony shuffling to complete their tasks. I noticed the diversity; different ages, skin color, adults wearing business attire while others resembling Sherpas carrying twice their body weight on their backs. It was the most bizarre scene I had ever seen. In that very moment, I realized that I would never have a feeling like this again. I could never replicate my sense of adventure, fuzziness that was buzzing in my head, and heat on the tips of my fingers. I live a different life, a very different life. However, there is something so unique but similar in everyone: C O U R A G E.
The pillar that stands tall in my life is courage. I believe it does in everyone, although you may not yet be aware of it. There is a secret ingredient in each person on this world that will make people curious and inch closer to the edge. It is what keeps them up at night and sparks a passion in their soul. Some days it is dull, but sometimes it is strong enough to spark a forest fire. I believe when a person finds their niche they will indeed need the courage to share their passion and vision with the world. The Engler community has offered this experience for me. I have found an inclusive environment that has provided a standard that is tall enough for me to strive for but still see.
When I look back, I wonder what it would be like if I hadn't taken that risk or dipped my toes in the water. One thing I know for sure, I have never regretted pursuing what I believe in my heart is worth pursuing, despite other people's opinions. Courage takes faith and perseverance. I know it's worth the persecution, ridicule, and....the view.
Merriam Webster defines the word ‘aspire’ as a verb meaning to want to have or achieve something. This word is also one of the six pillars of the Engler Experience. It is the desire of each and every person in our program. This pillar is representative of our culture, how we do things and is a part of my own personal journey.
When I think of the word aspire I think of our founder’s commonly mentioned quote, “you gotta have that fire in your belly.” It is the will and desire to achieve on some level that binds everyone in the program together. The program nurtures, challenges and equips those who aspire. The will to aspire is representative in these statements:
Engler Entrepreneurs know what they aspire to is the purpose or objective behind taking crucial steps in the entrepreneurial journey.
Engler Entrepreneurs are asking the tough questions and having purposeful conversations to solve problems and reach goals.
Engler Entrepreneurs don’t shy away from fostering new perspectives, thinking innovatively or immersing themselves into this transformative experience.
Engler Entrepreneurs know that aspirations are more than dreams, they are commitments toward contributing value to agriculture and communities.
This pillar does not stand on its own though. One must be backed by passion and courage. With a little grit and partnering an entrepreneur can build what they have aspired toward.
In my personal journey the word aspire represents who I am and a commitment I have made. I am very much a goal oriented person and my aspirations and the thought of the future is what excites me each and every day. As a freshman in Dr. Field’s introductory course for the Engler program I had the opportunity to set goals and think about what I aspire to be in life. My completed projects would end up being guiding forces for my time as a student here at UNL. First, I made a personal commitment to be a student first, a leader second. I knew many of the opportunities I would be given would be because I was a student and I wanted to be committed to my education. Next, I created a personal policy to be the best person I could be in both words and actions, knowing that you never know who is watching. Lastly and I think most importantly, I aspired to leave a legacy. I wanted to leave a legacy based on the type of person I was, the passion I had and the actions I had taken.
My time in the Engler program is a large part of how I am leaving a legacy at UNL. This is done with the past in mind of those who have influenced and lead the program for me. It is also focused on the future of the students in the program who will be keeping the American dream alive and well. In the large scheme of life I believe the program has created my legacy-driven mindset and laid the foundation for me to aspire towards what matters to me…helping others.
What does it mean to partner?
How would you describe partnership?
We have many definitions today for the concept of partnership, but when I ask myself this question I think of a story Jesus told over 2,000 years ago.
There was a Jewish man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho and he was blindsided by an attack from bandits. They beat him, stripped him of his clothing and dignity and left him for dead on the side of the road. I imagine he laid there in excruciating pain and despair waiting to die, knowing that his family and friends would be left to fend for themselves. A priest and another man both came down the road at different times throughout the day. I can only imagine the joy that abounded in the man’s heart when he saw them, hoping desperately they might stop. Only to watch them move to the other side of the road and pass quickly by, eyes focused straight ahead. Sometime later a Samaritan man came down the road, he stopped and diligently bound the Jewish man’s wounds and poured oil and wine over them; he loaded the Jewish man onto his donkey and took him to an inn. When they arrived he found the man a room and paid the innkeeper for the room and told him; “Take care of him, and whatever more you spend I will pay for when I return.”
The Samaritan gave graciously of his time, energy and money – how different might the outcome have been if it hadn’t been for his compassion? The life of an entrepreneur is one full of risks, dangerous moments, lonely places, big wins and big losses and we find ourselves lying on the side of the road in deep need of help at times. In the Engler program we believe in the Samaritan man. We believe in pulling one another up from the side of the road and moving forward together. As a member of this program I can’t imagine how different my path might have been if it weren’t for the incredible partners I have been surrounded by here.
This is partnership and this is the Engler Program.
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. -Winston Churchill
Though Winston Churchill is known as the British Prime Minister who lead England through the challenges of WWII, he had previously worked as a war correspondent for a daily newspaper. While reporting about the Boer War in South Africa, he was taken prisoner. He escaped to Mozambique, a distance some 300 miles away from where he was captured.
Imagine being in Winston Churchill’s shoes – try to fathom the fear and the unknowns in his journey of escape. So must entrepreneurs face uncertainty while dealing with doubt and even fear? Will it work? Are people open to this? Am I absolutely crazy for even thinking this?
The answer to these and many other questions are part of facing the unknowns. Ultimately it takes courage to make the shift from the known to the unknown. Courage is not limited to any special class of individuals – it is not one of those “you either have it or you don’t” traits. It is not an innate state of being, rather it can be acquired by anyone. But sadly many never take the step to let courage guide their steps.
In entrepreneurship, courage is required to deal with risk and the potential of failure. Entrepreneurs are continually trying new things - failing at some, succeeding with others. Have an idea but worry that your courage quotient is too low? Build your courage by taking the following steps:
Do the research.
What's been done? What are the pain points? How can this be fixed?
Weigh the consequences with this risk.
What happens if it doesn't work? How much am I willing to invest?
Ultimately, you face the opportunity and ask yourself Am I meant to do this? Is this my purpose?
If yes, then make the leap of faith and take the risk.
Having courage does not mean you morph from the tiny, yellow tabby kitty to a big, strong, prideful lion just because you visited the Wizard of Oz. Rather, having courage means you have faith in yourself, your abilities, the timing, and your choices.
Imagine yourself as Winston Churchill in your entrepreneurial captivity - are you going to remain a prisoner of your own thoughts? Or are you going to escape to something with far greater potential?
Entrepreneurship is not an individual event despite the fact that it is often portrayed as the modern version of the American cowboy where stoic independence reigns supreme. As it turns out the culture of the cowboy and the entrepreneur is decidedly team oriented. Teams are at the heart of successful organizations and especially those who are able to sustain high levels of performance – business, education, community, family, faith, and yes athletics. Underpinning the most effective teams is a spirit of deep commitment to personal excellence by each and every member. What defines the ultimate impact of a commitment to personal excellence is whether or not the individuals comprising a team use the energy created by the pursuit of exceptional performance selfishly or in service to others. .
I recently finished the most powerful book I have ever read about teamwork – The Hard Hat by Jon Gordon. The story lead me to reflect on the attributes of great teammates across all kinds of situations and circumstances. My assessment of the great teams with whom I have been associated directly or have studied from afar is that they share a set of common philosophical themes and behaviors:
- “Leave it better than you found it” is a philosophy that drives team oriented behavior. High performance team members claim ownership and take action to lead and generate outcomes that improve the organization. When ownership drives decision making then people take the extra steps and take on work that is behind the scenes, often unrecognized and usually unglamorous.
- An attitude of humility coupled with a hunger for excellence is a force multiplier and allows teams of lesser individual talent to dominate their more talented but arrogant competitors.
- Holding others accountable is impossible without personal accountability. Great teams are comprised of people who hold themselves to high standards of performance and who refuse to play the blame game, to make excuses, or to take a short-sighted approach. At the same time they hold each other to high expectations because a high level of trust is in place.
- Communication, connections, and compassion are ever present.
- The one percent rule is deeply ingrained (work to get 1 percent better in critical areas each and every day). It is the unrelenting dedication to this principle that moves human beings and teams towards their true potential.
- They do more than attract talent – they attract the right talent – people who are truly aligned with the core values, mission and culture of the team.
- Each member of the team strives to grow their skills, competitiveness, and to serve their teammates in pursuit of a common goal.
- They never shy from the opportunity to take action in pursuit of creating impactful relationships. More often than not; their behavior originates from a desire to see the team succeed.
The success of the Engler enterprise rests on one fundamental question that must be answered by each and every Engler Entrepreneur – what kind of teammate are you and what steps will you take to earn the confidence and trust of your team?
Inspiration comes in many forms – chance encounters, friends and family, comedic and tragic moments alike, stories and tales told through the lens of sermons, books, films, music and art. Two such stories have recently invaded my thinking – Howard Buffett’s book Forty Chances and a little known Scottish film On a Clear Day. Each work is a perspective about opportunity and the realization that in our time on earth we are given a finite number of chances to have an impact. Buffett addresses the great challenges of global food security from the lens of a farmer who has 40 chances during a lifetime to profoundly impact a harvest while On a Clear Day examines the life of a middle aged man in conflict with the demons of missed opportunities, frustrations about work without purpose nor autonomy, and the pain of relationships left to simmer only on the surface.
These two stories beg us to ask a tough question – so what are my 40 opportunities? A variation on the question is to ask it within a variety of time frames – what are my 40 chances this week, this semester, this year, during the productive years of my career and in those years that follow? We ding the universe in ways both small and large and each mark we leave has both intended and unintended consequences with outcomes known and mysterious.
The undergraduate experience will be fleeting and on graduation day it will seem as if the four years were no more than a moment. The speed of time’s passage demands intentionality if we are to make the most of our days and hours and minutes. To be sure, choices involve trade-offs (perhaps the greatest lesson of the university experience) and not choosing is every bit as powerful as deciding on a course of action. To make the most of our opportunities and to discover the path that transforms our view of possibility, self, and community requires a certain synergy between discipline and spontaneity. Unfortunately there is no detailed instruction manual or recipe to guide us along but there are perhaps a couple of “suggestions” that have value:
- Don’t ignore the opportunity to learn from someone beyond our comfort zone;
- Fulfillment depends on taking risks, daring to reach for greatness, and as Steve Jobs reminded us – to trust that somehow the dots get connected;
- Sweat, pain, hard work, disappointment, and set back will be involved – if not on the front end then certainly at a later date – so embrace these elements as part of a life well lived; and
- Relationships are the foundation of all sustainable success. Who we choose to travel with is so very important.
What are the 40 chances that lie ahead of you this week, this semester, in your lifetime? Do you have the audacity to cast off the frustrations and limitations that anchor you to the shoreline? Are you willing to invite others into the story and to take the plunge? Will you settle or will you reach for the opportunity borne in your 40 chances?
What you decide will change history.