Presidents Message

Dr. Michael Capel

Put Your Best Foot Forward

How many times have we heard the phrase, “put your best foot forward”? When dealing with difficult situations, meeting new people, or trying to make a good impression, we all try to put our best foot forward. We want the world to see our strengths and our abilities. We want the world to understand the full potential of what we have to offer.Recently, I attended an orientation session with my daughter Caroline. She has just graduated from high school and will be attending college to study math and statistics in the fall. Despite her disdain for blood and manure, I am trying to convince her of the career opportunities that exist in agriculture for someone with the skill sets she hopes to acquire in the next four years. During the orientation sessions, one of her future professors remarked, “when you come here, we don’t only want to focus on your best foot, we want to have a look at your other foot as well.” These words had a powerful impact on me.


We are all proud of our “best” foot.It is satisfying to highlight our strengths.It is rewarding to talk about our successes, our ability to work hard, and our ability to overcome challenges. It is logical to focus on our strong points. Doing so gives us the highest likelihood of success, and through success we develop confidence. This sequence of events, overcoming challenges, achieving success and building confidence, sets the stage for future successes and opportunities. Focusing on our strengths is a great way to chart a course to achievement. To reach our full potential, however, we need to focus on both of our “feet”.


Despite all the focus on our strengths, there will come a time when we need our “other foot”. There will come a time when we need the balance and support it provides.If we have chosen to neglect our other foot, it will not be there during the times we need it most.In my mind, our other foot represents our weaknesses, insecurities and failures. We can’t hide our weaknesses no matter how much we would like to. These are different for each of us. My list of weaknesses is long.I am good at ignoring them, but over the course of my career, I have learned the importance addressing my weaknesses and the importance of minimizing the way they limit me. Facing our insecurities is also critical to our growth and self-development.


Dr. Michael Capel and daughter Caroline.

Insecurities are those things that make us anxious, the things we lack confidence in and the things that take us out of our comfort zone. When we avoid situations that cause anxiety, we deny ourselves the opportunity to learn how to navigate these difficult situations successfully, and limit our potential. We let our insecurity grow and we build bigger obstacles to overcoming our anxiety.


I have also learned the danger of ignoring my failures.How often do you consider how good you are at failing?How good are you at admitting fault, inadequacy or unpreparedness? These are things we all try to hide from the world. When I look back at my career, I have learned far more from my failures than I have through my successes.I have learned where I need to improve and how I can better help others.I have learned to better anticipate and prepare for the future, and how to modify my expectations. I have learned how to better communicate my thoughts and more clearly represent myself.I have also experienced the benefit of sharing my failures. Through failure, we adapt and grow as individuals. By admitting failure to others, we show our humanity, we build trust, and we become relatable. We save those around us from wasted time and effort. Our failures are our best teachers and one of our best tools for improvement.


Consider for a moment a world where we all gave more attention to our other foot. Think about how much better we would be if we were all able to learn from each other’s failures. Think about a world where leaders, researchers, people in authority and even friends and loved ones were able to openly share their failures and allow others to learn from them. Consider the impact you could make on those around you if you not only put your best foot forward, but if you were comfortable showing the world your other foot as well.


At the end of the day, we all need two solid feet to stand on.We need all the support we can get to endure the challenges in our path. While it is unrealistic to expect that we will be able to stand on two equal feet, thus having no weaknesses to hide, it is unwise to completely ignore our other foot. I would encourage all of us to put our best foot forward, but remember to allocate the time to focus on the other foot as well.


Dr. Michael Capel