I’ve never been much of a goal person. It’s not for lack of ambition or milestones, it’s just because I’ve always felt that goals can hold us hostage to thinking beyond what we think we can reach.

Now, I do have a list of broader goals like “don’t lose the ranch,” or “don’t kill yourself doing something stupid,” but I guess the minor detailed goals – if I want them bad enough – I just put my head down and plow through them.

There’s one exception. One goal has been a mainstay in my life the last 14 years.

In the early 2000s I was approached by a gentleman about applying to the Nebraska LEAD Program. I had heard about the program in passing, and after doing a little research filled out an application and went through the interview process. I did not get in.

I was discouraged. But looking back I realized I was fresh out of college, didn’t have a whole lot to offer the program, and was pretty unsettled with what I was doing and where I was at. Being around four years younger than the cut-off age was a check against me, too.

I’m stubborn enough that I applied the next year and that time, I received an acceptance letter.

The next two years I participated in one of the biggest, life changing experiences I’ve had so far. Sure, I stumbled multiple times, and I did not fully appreciate the experience until I was out of the program. But I learned and I grew.

Looking back, there was a part of me that wishes I would have waited to go through the program until now. I’m at an age that I better understand social interaction and have a firmer idea on how the world functions. Then I take pause and think of all the opportunities that have arisen from being a LEAD graduate (including the start of my writing escapades) that would not have happened if I hadn’t taken that chance in my early 20s.

Our final seminar of the two-year program we talked about goal setting. I struggled with goals as much then as I do now. I wrote down a goal that day, though, and it was to monetarily give back to the program what the program had invested in me.

Fourteen years of being a seminar sponsor for the Chadron State College session, I achieved that goal last Sunday.

I was a little emotional as I talked about the goal to the second-year class of the LEAD program over our beef dinner. (It should be noted that 15 years ago, the meal was chicken). It was such an opportunity for me to look back over the last 14 years and see my successes and failures. There were years I had to scrape pennies together to fulfill the sponsorship for the year. There were also years that I came in with confidence. My relationships have changed, my business dealings have changed, but most of all I’ve changed.

If someone told me 15 years ago when I completed the program that the extroverted, tunnel vision, chip-on-the-shoulder 24 year old would become the introverted, big picture woman I’ve become, (sure, sometimes there may still be a little chip on the shoulder), I would have laughed in their face. I also would have laughed at the thought that 14 years later I would be reaching a goal that I wrote down on a whim because I was instructed to do so.

The ranch life is busy this week, but I was considering taking the time to road trip to Omaha. There’s a group of agricultural organizations that are hosting a rally to discuss the current cattle market situation. Knowing the consensus of these multiple groups, I’m sure it’s going to be a festival on bashing sectors of the industry and other organizations. I hope it’s not.

It’s tough in our industry right now. We all have struggles of different forms. Those that survive do, those that can’t don’t. The Boss Man said it best to me the other night: “There are always ups and downs. Sometimes this group makes money. Sometimes that group makes money. It’s always been like that.”

True, and change can occur. Goals can be made, and it may take years, but goals can be reached. Be supportive, be respectful, be leaders, but most importantly, be nice. We don’t all have to get along. We don’t all have to have the same goals, but we can all be decent human beings that are being positive about where we are going.

Jaclyn Wilson is a committee member on the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

She is more than a rancher, raising Red Angus cattle at Wilson Ranch near Lakeside, Neb. Wilson an artist with a welder’s torch. She holds leadership positions with several agriculture organizations. She can be reached at jaclyn@flyingdiamondgenetics.com.

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