Livestock Show Life Lessons
Exactly one week ago, my two children and hundreds of other kiddos came together with their rabbits, goats, lambs, steers, chickens, ag mechanics projects, art, baked goods, and my favorite, pigs in tow, to compete in our annual county livestock show.
Every year, I walk away from the show, struck by the life lessons being hard-earned (and hopefully learned) by children and parents alike.
Showing livestock is no joke. But let me focus on pigs for the sake of sharing my musings.
Imagine this. (Or…if you just can’t quite conjure it up in your mind, head here to watch a replay of part 2 of our swine show.)
You’ve got little ones from 5 (that’s right, kinder babies) to 18 years old (nearly grown adult-children about to graduate high school) walking their 180 to 260-pound piggies into a ring. They are navigating other exhibitors, parents, onlookers, adult volunteers, and about ten other competing pigs all to try and get the attention of one Judge, hoping to rise to the top of their class and grab a ribbon, buckle, or banner.
If that alone doesn’t make you a tick nervous for that kind of wild competition, let me add a few more real-life details.
Pigs train to show off their walk in the ring yet can become ornery in the ring–going where they want to go or not going where you want them to go, knocking people over, or hiding out in corners.
Exhibitors range in age, experience, and emotional regulation and run the gamut of competitive, nervous, excited, cool, calm, collected, or downright scared. (This is also true of all us spectators too, and watching is sometimes feels way more complicated than showing.)
The Judge brings a strong mind of their own into the ring and is the single decision-maker of quality and rankings for that day. No one else’s opinion matters–at least not when it comes to official placings.
There are many seemingly chaotic and moving parts, yet I am struck still and silent every year by it all.
And in those moments of reflection, I circle back to these livestock show life lessons that remain the overriding conversations in our family:
–Goals and growth matter. It’s essential to talk as a family about why you’re committing to the time and effort required to raise and show an animal. What do you want to learn as a family or exhibitor? What do you want to improve on from last year? What does a “win” look like this season? Talking about where you’ll focus your energy is a great way to plan for growth.
–Control what you can control. Focus on putting in the work until you walk in the ring and then showing as best you can, knowing you have no control over the results. The Judge will ultimately decide which pigs are the best in their opinion, so let go of any illusion of control you have over that and focus on what you can control–your attitude, your effort, your approach.
–Family first. While there is only one exhibitor with one animal, we commit to showing livestock because it creates family time and memories. The goal is to work together, dream together, and support each other in and outside the ring.
–Hard work pays off in the process. Since the results are up to one Judge’s opinion on one particular day and we already agree that we can’t control that, we don’t only celebrate hard work when it “pays off” with a win. Hard work pays off in the process of preparation and in the new lessons we learn. Hard work and effort won’t always lead to a victory, so we strive to focus on the means rather than the end.
–Friendship and community are key. Competition is always better when surrounded by people you care for with trust and respect. Showing up for other kiddos and families in the months leading up to the show and then cheering them on in the ring makes the entire experience more fulfilling. It’s okay to want to win (which we do), but it’s necessary to remember that we’re part of a community and need to show up ready to help, laugh, cheer and cry with them in their moments of personal competition.
There you have it. A few livestock show life lessons that I genuinely believe apply to anyone striving to grow and compete in this crazy thing we call life.
So, for now, know this.
Life is full of opportunities to grow.
And reflection on the actual experiences and learnings is KEY.
That’s why I dare you to take a couple of minutes to stop and think.
Do you have any life lessons you come back to time and time again? Or do any of these lessons I’ve shared particularly hit home with you?
Pause and think and maybe even jot down what’s running through your mind. Let those lessons fill your mind and fuel your next opportunities to grow.
You got this friend. Keep growing!