Thursday, May 27, 2021

Messes and Mixes

When I was little, I wanted to grow up and be a chef. The kitchen was, and still is, my happy place. It is where colors, aromas, textures, and often music come together to make something. While I can't promise that it is always delicious, something is always made; messes, meals, and memories included. The key to making anything in the kitchen? Mixing. You can mix ingredients together to make a cake… something I don't do since I am a notoriously lousy baker. Mix up some butter and garlic in a pan and you have fooled all your guests into thinking you're making something amazing already, even though you do not know what you are making yet. Or maybe you like to mix your cooking with music and break out into an impromptu dance party. 

Pro Tip: don't forget about your food and set it on fire.

It's funny that I often find myself doing my best thinking in the kitchen. My most recent conclusion is that life is a lot like being in the kitchen. If you ask my mom, she would say that I am a messy cook; however, I would say that my creativity can't be confined to the stove or cutting board and must fly across the kitchen. Similar to my cooking style, life is full of messes. Some of us may try to live in black and white, but the world is much more than that. It is black and white and grey and every color imaginable. Life is messy, and life is art. 

How do we live and lead in this unavoidably messy world? We have to leverage who we are and own our stories. Think about everything that has made you, you. Memories, interests, hobbies, relationships, experiences, hopes, and dreams. They all come together to make you. But sometimes, it is hard to balance every part of ourselves and our stories. We end up showing only parts of ourselves when that is far from who we truly are. Imagine if you tried to bake a cake, but instead of mixing it into a smooth batter, you just dumped the ingredients into a pan and threw it into the oven. Bits of the egg would cook, flour would burn, and oil would coat other ingredients in an oily mess. Which one are you going to want after it is baked? My guess is that you are going to enjoy the actual cake, not the half-baked mess. For someone who hates baking, I use a lot of baking analogies in my writing. Similarly, there are not just parts of us. There is only one us, one Luc, one you. We have to integrate all aspects of ourselves and our lives. We have to mix it up. 

I'm going to blame this in part on my State Officer mentor, Claire Baney, but I am a huge fan of Brene Brown. I recently listened to an episode of her podcast Dare to Lead, where she talked to Justina Blakeney. This designer is known for her bold combinations of color, plants, texture, and patterns. You need to go look at her work at to fully capture what I mean when I say each design is marked by its own uniqueness. Justina commented that since her life was "a convergence of so many different things," like culture, religion, ethnicity, and so on, she has always been familiar with amalgamations and mixes. Justina writes in her book Jungalow:

"In the wild, plants send pollen grains to ride the water or wind or develop flowers with the colors, fragrances, or nectar necessary to attract pollinators, all in order to send their genes far afield to mix with one another. All sexually reproducing species go to great lands to mix their genes as a way to survive shifting environmental conditions. Over time, new species evolve, and the result is the vast array of living organisms we encounter on our planet. We humans are part of this story, of course, and there is a deep sense that our very existence as individuals and as a species is the result of putting a very high value on genetic mixture and diversity. Mixing is magic."

If nature goes to such lengths to mix it up, why shouldn’t we? Justina is writing here through the lens of design, but this speaks to so much more than just design. In her work, you see combinations of colors, patterns, textures all coming together to make something unique. You see designs that stand out and are bright and creative, and uniquely memorable. Her designs are bold and vibrant. Why? Justina tells us that the spaces we create reflect our lives and our stories. Her designs are reflections of her life and story. Similarly, Brene Brown writes, "Who we are is how we lead." While our mediums may vary, we are all works of art, and we are all artists. Crafting and creating, and bringing into this world reflecting who we are through our words, actions, and existence. 

Think about yourself now. What stories are you bringing into this world? Is your work reflecting who you are? How? Are you showing your whole self, or are you trying to only show parts of yourself? If your life and your story were art, what would it be? What medium? What colors? What would it look like? Why? 

We are all a mix. The stories, experiences, memories we hold conflate to make us. To navigate this messy world, we must learn to embrace our stories. I'll leave you with this quote from Shonda Rhimes. "They tell you: Follow your dreams. Listen to your spirit. Change the world. Make your mark. Find your inner voice and make it sing. Embrace failure. Dream. Dream and dream big." Don't just stick to the black and white. You are so much more than that, so don't hide it; own it. Find your mix, your story, and live in the messy.

Mixing it up,


This is just scratching the surface of the idea of mixing and how to leverage our stories. I would highly encourage… no; I'm telling you that you need to listen to Brene Brown's Dare to Lead podcast. Here's the link for you to go check out the episode I referenced in this blog:

Brené with Justina Blakeney on Creating Space to Reflect Our Stories | Brené Brown (

Friday, May 21, 2021

What Comes Next

Are you ready for State Office to be over? I’m sure you’re looking forward to college.

I hear those same two lines at almost every FFA event I attend these days. From Chapter Banquets to Business and Industry Visits, everyone wants to know if the State Officer is ready to be done. If the person who dedicated almost a year of their life to Indiana FFA is excited for it to be finally over. Thinking through a typical response to that question, the answer should be an easy yes or no. Yes, I’m ready for the year to be over. Or no, I’m not ready to move on.

More often than not, I find myself struggling to answer this question. It’s been an amazing year full of incredible accomplishments and great memories with my teammates. How could I possibly want this experience to come to an end? At the same time, the college process is starting up and I feel myself getting pulled towards that world. Filling out housing papers, deciding my fall classes, and gearing up for football season has me really excited about going to Notre Dame. How could I not be excited for college to start? 

As you can probably tell, I’m conflicted between these two emotions. I love what I do and I’m comfortable where I’m at in life. I’m happy with being a State Officer and I’ve grown used to being in this position. On the other hand, the future is quickly becoming the present and college will be here in less than three months. A new phase of my life is about to start and so many opportunities lie ahead for me. So where does that leave me? A State Officer reminiscing about the good ol’ days? A future college student who is nervous about starting a new life? A person who can’t seem to make up their mind? A little bit of all three. 

Throughout my entire life, I wanted to be in control of my own destiny. I wanted to know every single step I was going to take and where I was going with my future. So when I’m faced with a dilemma like this one and I struggle to decide exactly how I’m feeling, it really challenges my thought process and makes me feel uncertain. It leaves me wondering what comes next for Derick Williams.

Life is full of unexpected twists and turns. No matter how much we want to be in control of our future, things come along that are unexpected, unpredictable, and unimaginable. A surprise job offer in a completely different work field. A chance to create a new friend group from people that you have never met. Or even a random opportunity to travel with friends. All of these are real life examples of things that come along and land in front of us whether or not we are ready to face them. And that’s okay. It’s okay to not know what the future holds for you. It’s okay to be nervous about starting a new chapter of life. What comes next will happen and it’s up to us to accept that and embrace it.

Whether or not I’m ready for State Office to be over, my future is out there and I’m happy to be along for the ride. Instead of getting caught up in predicting what is unknown, let’s enjoy the journey we have to travel and be comfortable with those unknowns when they come. Be the person who faces that journey knowing the steps taken will bring you what is supposed to come next in your life. Remember that and you’ll never be disappointed with the outcome.

Enjoying the Ride,

Derick Williams

Indiana FFA State Reporter

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Practically Imperfect in Every Way

If you’ve ever met me, you know that I strive for perfection in almost everything that I do. Some people have called me a perfectionist and they’re honestly not wrong. I thoroughly enjoy making sure that everything goes exactly as I want it to. I shoot for the moon with my grades, my achievements, and every little aspect of my life. I try and live my life by four P’s:






Let me let you in on a little cliche secret: perfect is overrated. If we get so caught up in striving for perfection, we miss out on the learning opportunities that come with failure. I’m not saying that I enjoy failure or that you should also enjoy it, but I am saying you should begin to appreciate the doors failure opens. An obsession with perfection also leads to an incredibly toxic mental state, where we constantly compare ourselves to others. We become so focused on the end result that we lose focus on the value of the process to get there. Following in the footsteps of our State Southern Region Vice President, let me provide you with a list of tips to come to terms with being perfectly imperfect.

  1. When you fail, admit it. Don’t try and make excuses for why you failed. 

    1. It’s important to note that this won’t feel too good when you first start this practice. Accepting failure little by little will eventually rewire the way your brain thinks and failure won’t rock your world as much. Admitting your failure will also help with your relationships! People don’t like a know-it-all and letting others in to help you is a great idea.

  2. Even when admitting you failed, don’t be too hard on yourself.

    1. If you beat yourself up for failing to reach perfection, you’ll never make any true progress. Be gentle with yourself, because growth can be a very fragile time period.

  3. Understand the difference between striving for excellence and perfection. This is crucial.

    1. There is a big difference between the two, so search it up! By definition, they’re two separate things and it’s okay to strive for excellence.

  4. Remember that everyone else does not have it together, as much as it may appear they do.

    1. I don’t have much to say on this, other than this is simply the truth.

  5. If you were perfect, you would be unrelatable. Your flaws make you human.

    1. Genuine human connection is important and perfect doesn’t facilitate that connection. If you had it all together, people wouldn’t be able to connect with you.

  6. Read this INCREDIBLE article:

Practically Imperfect in Every Way,

Evan Coblentz

State Treasurer

Friday, May 7, 2021

Loren's Top Ten Experiences So Far

This blog is dedicated to my top 10 experiences as a State Officer so far. In no particular order.

1. Traveling the state to go to banquets.

2. Swimming in the lake at the Indiana FFA Leadership Center with my teammates.

3. Meeting State Officers from other states.

4. Getting to meet people through business and industry visits.

5. Meeting with new members in person and virtually.

6. Facilitating at conferences with my teammates.

7. Walking to Trafalgar in the snow to go to DQ.

8. Taking photos of my teammates sitting in weird positions.

9. Writing blogs that were lists.

10. Spending time around the center and enjoying God's creation.

Always having fun,

Loren Matlock