Growing up, I was involved in Nicollet County 4-H, and now I am the Nicollet County 4-H summer intern. A lot of people think that the fair is all about getting the blue ribbon or being the champion. It is super exciting to see that giant ribbon right by your name and project. However, the ribbons are not everything.
Here are a few life skills I learned exhibiting my 4-H projects at the fair that prepared me for life. In fact, I wouldn’t be in this internship without the skills that I learned during my time in 4-H.
Lesson one: Interviewing
In order to even be considered for a ribbon, you have to have a conversation with the judge. This prepared me for my future job interviews. I was taught from a young age that you should not have your elbows on the table, sit up straight- no slouching, you should make eye contact, talk loud and clear- no mumbling, and appear confident and always have a smile. Last but not least, try not to fidget. This helps make you be more professional.
Lesson two: You don’t have to know everything.
It can be nerve wracking when the judge is asking you questions. Sometimes you will know the exact answer. Other times you might not. I learned it’s perfectly fine if you don’t know the answer. You can tell the judge as much as you know about the subject. You can say you don’t understand what they are asking. This prepares you in life to be okay with not knowing the answer to everything because you will never know the answer to everything. When I told the judge that I didn’t know, most of them would explain the answer to help me learn something new. If they didn’t, it encouraged me to do more research.
Lesson three: Friendly Competition
Yes, there is always competition while showing projects or livestock at the fair. While competing at the fair, you may be competing against siblings, your friends or people from your same club or project who have supported you all year long. It’s important that if someone else beats you for the purple ribbon--the top honor among excellent projects--to tell them congratulations! It’s okay to be excited for other people’s successes in life. It helps you understand that other people will take “wins” in life while sometimes you take a “loss”. It just means it wasn’t your time yet, but if you keep pushing towards your goals, it could very well you be taking the “win” the next time.
Lesson four: Time Management and Setting goals.
Learning time management skills from early on in life will not only help you reach the deadline of the fair, but it will prepare you for many more things such as high school, college, or even your future job. Life has a lot of deadlines. Every 4-H’er learns that starting your 4-H projects the week before the fair is really stressful. It isn’t necessary to wait that long for most of the projects. Procrastinated projects could reflect on the ribbon you receive. 4-H also helps with goal setting. Maybe you want to work on perfecting your skills and projects, or maybe you have the goal of trying a new project area. These are all great goals to have, especially if you have a timeline for them. For example, when I wanted to earn a state fair trip, I started my project early and worked on it regularly to give myself the best shot at achieving my goal. Life is very similar in this way. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once said “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
I learned many things from my time in 4-H, these are just a few. I chose to come back as an intern because I had a great experience growing up in 4-H. Preparing projects, talking to the judges, and celebrating success (yours or others!) are really great experiences that everyone should have. Everyone belongs in 4-H because it is guaranteed to have some life lessons for everyone!