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When an FFA advisor’s philosophy of life sticks with you

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High school was a few days ago for most of us. Yet I’m sure we use more than what we think we do from those days. My husband and I went to the same high school in rural Kansas. He’s two years older than me, and we had most of the same classes. While we remember vastly different things about those classes, one thing we both recollect fondly to this day is Lierz’s Philosophy of Life.

Paul Lierz is the ag teacher and FFA advisor at Jackson Heights High School in Holton, Kansas. Every single year in every single class he starts the school year with the same thing. He will walk in and ask, “What is life?”

Life is a game and it can be “game over” at any time. Your choices can have lasting impacts.

Lierz explains that life can be like a bell curve: In the beginning all of your needs are met by someone else. You are fed, clothed, diapered, and comforted all by someone else. As you grow, the bell curve starts its uphill climb. You learn to walk, talk, and feed yourself. You continue growing, find friends, learn new things, figure more and more out. Then you graduate, go to college, find your soul mate, settle down, have kids. You get your dream job, dream house, dream car. You are living your dream. The bell curve is still on the way up. You gain more independence all the way along the climb.

Then you reach a point that your life is statically more than half done. You start reflecting. You start thinking about what you haven’t done that you want to do. Health issues start cropping up until you reach a point that somebody else is meeting all of your needs again.

Because of this concept that life is a game, we get to choose how to play it. Sometimes we play the games we like: weddings, vacations, wins at our jobs. Sometimes we play the games we don’t like: funerals, divorces, stressful days. No matter which we are currently playing, the game can end anytime.

Lierz says he tries to be happy every day. We never know when it’s going be “game over” for us, and he doesn’t want his last day to be a bad day. Bad things happen, things we can’t control happen, but we get to choose how we play.

Lierz knows what he is working for. He knows why he is working. He knows what makes him happy. He knows why he wants the money. He has his life figured out.

Because we farm on a busy highway, we have no choice but to take equipment up and down the highway. Whenever we see somebody in too big of a hurry to wait and does something dangerous, my husband and I always think back to the idea that it can be “game over” any time.

There’s a lot of special advisors and teachers shaping the next generation. I hope we value knowledge and life skills in our education system, rather than teaching for tests. There is very little that I think about almost daily from my school days. But Lierz’s Philosophy of Life is one of those things.

Spring and summer farm work is in full swing around here. You have a million things to do. Before you do that thing that you think you probably shouldn’t do, think about how life is a game and how it can be “game over” at any time. You never know.


Kelsey Pagel is a Kansas farmer. She grew up on a cow/calf and row crop operation and married into another. Kelsey and her Forever (Matt) farm and ranch with his family where they are living their dream and loving most of the moments.

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