Posts Tagged ‘DECA’

Effort is the great equalizer

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

At this year’s DECA state competition (, Lemonade Stand Economics led several breakout sessions teaching students how to juggle with lemons. Well, first we watched a video about a shirtless guy dancing and discussed the importance of leadership and being the first follower. ( ) Then we juggled. Students have a lot going on in their lives with classes, homework, sports, friends, parents, siblings, a job, and for these particular students…DECA. Students today have a lot of balls…or should I say lemons… in the air. Our breakout session brought attention to the fact that managing all of this is literally juggling, and the better the juggler you are the smoother everything goes. It was also some fun and levity for these students that were pretty serious about competing the next day and really feeling the pressure.157052_512144798824539_508805066_n

In the first session, there was a girl in the front row who learned to juggle in ten minutes. I was there- I saw it. She was right in front of me. When we started – she could not juggle. She started with one lemon, then two, then three. Ten minutes later she could juggle three lemons consistently for two or three minutes. She picked it up that fast. She was a natural. I’d say everyone is a natural at something and hers was obviously juggling. Was it hand/eye coordination? Her friends encouraging her? I’m not sure, but she was very good, very quickly.

Later that day we were with another group of students. One young lady wanted to juggle in a bad way. She was not going to stop until she could juggle those three lemons. At her ten minute point, we were all ducking because she was chucking lemons around the room. She kept saying, “I’m going to get this. I’m going to do this,” more to herself than to us or the other students. She was progressing, getting better each time she tossed the lemons up and she had friends there encouraging her too. And laughing…boy, did they have a good time. It did not come as naturally to her. But she did it. Nearly 60 minutes in, we were all cheering when she kept those three lemons up for two minutes. She had learned to juggle! And she was loving it! And she was beaming with pride as they left.

Both ladies accomplished the juggling challenge set before them. One took ten minutes and one took an hour. Both had fun. Both had friends on the sidelines telling them they could do it. One got it very easily and one had to work harder, but in the end they both walked away jugglers.  The difference in how they got there was effort. The first girl had to use little effort. She literally picked up the lemons and juggled them. Once she got it, she started helping her friends get it too. The second girl exerted much more effort to achieve this lemony juggling pinnacle. She simply would not give up. Lots of kids quit before the third lemon, but she would not let it beat her.

Effort is the great equalizer. Anyone can pretty much accomplish anything with enough effort. I look back at my own personal shortcomings in life and most of them were because of the lack of effort on my part. I stopped before my third lemon.

Don’t be afraid to put in the effort. If something does come naturally to you, be grateful and move toward the next challenge.  I’m glad these two girls – and the hundreds of other students – learned how to juggle and I’m glad we were there to watch it, but I’m also grateful they had fun. That’s important too.

Many people wonder where our future leaders will come from

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

530954_3428580132883_73494425_nI see high school students every day hanging out in front of the school and I can’t say I’m impressed. I see the ones dressed like they are homeless. I see the ones with so much attitude that I wouldn’t hire them to sweep my floor. I see the ones standing outside smoking with a t-shirt displaying a four letter word I will not let my own teenager use. I see potentially smart students making apparently dumb choices. I see students who are just getting by until high school is over. What a waste! The teachers put in their time. The community pays a sickening amount in taxes to pay for that school and the students don’t seem to care at all.

Unfortunately, that’s what most people see when they pass a high school, those kids hanging out in front. To us outsiders, us taxpayers – that is our impression of high school students. But if you look closely, inside the school, you will find some kids that take high school seriously. These are the students that are there to learn and maximize the system put in place to educate them.

These students dress and act properly, not suits and ties all the time, but presentable. These students shake my hand and make eye contact with me when I meet them. These students pay attention when I speak in their class. You know how I know they are paying attention? They are looking at me when I speak, making eye contact, taking notes, asking questions. Sometimes they even shake my hand AFTER class and thank me for coming. These are the students that will run America some day and many of them are wearing blue blazers. You may have seen them in school, blue blazers with a gold DECA seal on them.

I have had the opportunity (the privilege actually) to work with some of the DECA students and their advisers. They impress me every time. Every. Single. Time. They are always professional and their effort level is through the roof. If the DECA students were the ones hanging out in front of the school, your image of high school students would be very different. But that’s part of the point – they aren’t hanging out in front of the school. They are too busy organizing fundraisers for local charities. They are too busy prepping for the next DECA competition. They are studying, getting good grades and playing sports. They are not hanging out in front of the school…they are making the most of their high school experience.

There is a lesson for me here too. I shouldn’t judge a school – or it’s teachers or students – just by the kids I see hanging out front. I should take the time to look further, look inside and look for something impressive. Because chances are…if there is a DECA chapter inside…I will be impressed.

For more on DECA go to