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Finding life’s why Finkner suggests prioritizing in decision-making

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

During the Nebraska Women in Agriculture conference, Ann Finkner asked women to participate in an exercise. They were asked to cross their arms in front of themselves. Then, they were asked to cross them the other way. 

Some women were able to do it automatically, while others struggled, wondering to themselves how to accomplish the task. 

“This exercise represents how change in our lives can be tricky,” Finkner told participants. “I would encourage us all to find ways to embrace the opportunities that are prevented by fear. Embrace those opportunities and don’t let fear stand in the way. Don’t think about ‘why not’ but think ‘what if.’”

The message of Finkner’s presentation encouraged women to find ways to bring out their full potential as women in agriculture. 

Finkner, who worked her way up to a senior vice president at Farm Credit Services of America (FCSA), said everyone experiences challenges in life. What is important to note, she said, is how those challenges are dealt with. 

Early challenges

When Finkner earned her college degree in business, she realized, at that time, being a woman in business wouldn’t lead up the ladder very quickly. 

“One thing I remember the most happened early in my career at FCSA,” she told the women. “I was a new loan officer conducting an appraisal at a farm, when the male farmer said, ‘I have a question for you. What’s a girl like you doing in a job like this?’”

“I was taken aback,” she shared. 

But then she asked him, “Why do you want to know?” and he responded with, “My daughter is a senior in high school, and I thought this would be a great job for her.”

“What I learned from that is to never make assumptions based on something we are asked or a statement someone makes,” she said. “Use questions to probe more deeply to build relationships and help you understand.”

The why

Finkner shared a quote from Mark Twain, saying, “The most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

Women should ask themselves why they exist and what they want to accomplish in life, she said. By answering those two key questions, they may be able to discover the “why” in life and what their purpose is. 

“What sets you on fire and brings you joy?” she asked.

The “why” will be the rudder of all decisions and choices made in life, she continued. 

“It will help our self-esteem and help in our relationships because we’re more grounded,” she explained. “It also contributes to our physical, mental and spiritual well-being.”


Finkner encouraged participants to determine the most important things in their life and prioritize them from most to least important. 

She shared some knowledge from an executive at Disney, who went to his 25th class reunion. After talking with his fellow students, he found that although most of them had the necessities in life, 80 percent of them weren’t happy and hadn’t found their purpose in life. 

More interestingly, only 25 percent of them had found their passion and the “why” they exist.

From this knowledge, he developed five questions everyone should answer for their own well-being – who are you, what do you love to do, who do you do it for, what do those people want or need that you are providing them and how do they change as a result of what you do for them.

“By answering these questions, I think people can really hone in on what their purpose is,” Finkner said. 

“Most people who are successful in life focus on others before themselves. Know our actions count and focus on not just what work is but what we can do to contribute. Picasso once said, ‘Find what your gift is and then give it away,’” she explained.


Some ways Finkner encouraged women to empower themselves is by enhancing their energy and knowing their boundaries and limits.

“Use ‘no’ to set boundaries and limits. Say ‘yes’ to the things that really matter in your life. Say ‘yes’ to involving our children and grandchildren, but say ‘no’ to being overworked. Say ‘yes’ to involving others, teaching and educating them. Use the failures as a positive in life,” she encouraged.

She also shared some advice from David Cole, a professor at Virginia Tech who encouraged parents to give their children responsibilities and award them financially, to teach them financial responsibility. He recommended a 50-25-25 rule, where children could use 50 percent of their earnings for what they want, 25 percent for investments and savings and the other 25 percent for educational activities like 4-H, FFA and educational camps.

Cole also found that experiences children have at 14  to 15 years old influence the life skills they will develop. 

“It plays a big role in developing who they are,” Finkner shared. “Letting them help us and having those experiences in agriculture are something they will take with them for the rest of their lives.”

Making the decision

“Then, we can say ‘yes’ to things we love to do because we said ‘no’ to other obligations,” Finkner continued, also noting it’s important to plan for guilt-free breaks to help avoid fatigue, become more productive and feel better, as well as to improve concentration and energy. “A break may be just a short walk, a trip around the farm or a cup of coffee, but it is still important.” 

Finkner also encouraged women to make extra time to look at the differences between obligations and choices and to stop multi-tasking. 

“Frequently going back and forth between projects forces the brain to go back and forth. Because of this, we may not do as good as a job on the project or we make more mistakes because we didn’t slow down and focus on one thing at a time,” she explained. 

“I like to make a list of priorities and rate them based on what the immediate and more long-term needs are,” Finkner said. “On the weekends, I make a list of what I need to get done and that is when I get the most accomplished. It keeps me more focused.” 

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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