There comes a time in everyone’s life when certain things will occur, whether they like it or not. For me, it always has been knowing when to accept defeat and take constructive criticism in stride, especially when I was in FFA during my high school days.

Growing up, I always would hear stories from my dad about the time he and his fellow FFA members did so well at the state soils judging contest back in the day, how they advanced to the national-level contest in Oklahoma, that I couldn’t wait to get my hands dirty learning the different types of soil and how to classify them.

In soils evaluation, just like it is in several other judging contests, including crops, dairy and livestock, I was able to start judging during middle school in the 4-H division. I’m not going to lie — if I did, my dad most certainly would call my bluff — I struggled from the beginning for a few reasons.

No. 1, there is math involved, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that when it comes to math and me, we just do not add up. No pun intended.

No. 2, soils judging takes a lot of memorization and understanding. After figuring out what kind of parent material is in the top 40 inches of a six-foot hole, an individual then needs to determine if grassed waterways or buffer strips could or should go on this area.

Whenever some of the high school students scored higher than me, especially my older sister, who usually ended up being one of the top five individuals in the contest, if not winning it, I would just mumble under my breath something about how I’m young, not even in FFA and they should be scoring higher than me anyway.

Well, that answer was enough to make me feel better about myself not quite grasping all the core rules of judging soil and only half-heartedly listening to my dad’s advice about how I would do better if I spent extra time on the weekends studying my rules instead of watching television.

That is until my younger brother decided he wanted to start judging, too. OK, he always wanted to judge, but when I started as a sixth-grader it was just his first year in 4-H, and my dad told him he had to wait until after he completed third grade to start competing.

To all of those reading this blog, please feel free to read between the lines here and assume that what my dad said didn’t mean that Daniel, my brother, had to wait until he was in fourth grade to start practicing. It didn’t.

When he entered his first soils judging contest, Daniel won the junior soils judgers age division, not only beating me and blowing my score out of the water, but also scoring higher than quite a few of my dad’s senior judgers, as well as senior FFA soils judgers from other FFA chapters who were at the contest.

A couple of tears, promises that I was quitting soils, angry stares at my brother, several dozen before- and after-school soils practices and many hours memorizing soils rules in front of a blank TV later, I finally beat my brother.

Although no fireworks were shot off or balloon drops let loose when it happened, I forever will remember the moment because it was the first time I actually accomplished a long-term goal that I had wanted to achieve for many years.

Whether it is getting into the college of one’s dreams or raising an animal that will go on to win grand champion at the county fair, anything is possible when one finally realizes that people aren’t trying to discourage them, but rather encourage them through pointing out areas in their life and work where a little improvement could go a long way.