Recently this typically star-struck Midwesterner had the opportunity to hear two very different celebrities speak in Kansas City. At the annual Boots, Business and Barbecue luncheon held at the American Royal, seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong spoke. One of the people introducing him referred to Armstrong as a “doer,” not a “viewer.”

 Armstrong talked about fighting his testicular cancer that migrated to his lungs and his brain. He talked about being on top, being on the bottom and being on the top again when people said he couldn’t. It at first seemed odd when he said his cancer diagnosis was the best thing that ever happened to him, and that it was after that he truly began to live and appreciate life. “Diagnosis and survival was the greatest victory I ever had,” he said. “Without that there never would have been my Tour de France victories.”

He spoke about the “obligation of the cure.” “It’s an approach to how you walk out of the hospital,” he said. “You can be private about your experience or public and share the experience. I accepted the obligation to share my experience.” Armstrong said that obligation extends far beyond triumphing over an illness.

“It can be a health issue, it can be an environmental issue, it can be an agricultural issue  —  we all need to find the commitment to something in our lives. We have to fill this void or someone else will.” That is a message we in the food-animal industry can take to heart as well. Will we sit on the sidelines and watch others shape our industry, or will we be “doers” and join in the race?

On a lighter side, my other event at the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor Homecoming featured celebrity dog trainer, Cesar Millan, whom you might recognize from his popular show “The Dog Whisperer” on the National Geographic Channel.

 What I found refreshing in Millan’s message was his total affinity for the human-animal bond and respect for dogs and their unique pack behavior, but he never once anthropomorphizes them  —  he clearly keeps dogs within the animal realm and humans in the human realm.

Much of his training boils down to the human being calm and assertive which then translates to the dog. And though he didn’t try to turn dogs into humans, he did point out that humans could take a lesson from dogs, specifically the pack leader. That message was that calm-assertiveness in your business and personal life can lead to a happy attitude overall, much like a well-deserved roll in the grass.

Overall, Armstrong’s and Millan’s messages weren’t that different. Be passionate in what you do and what you believe in. Have courage and assertiveness. And above all, remember that life is to be enjoyed.

Next issue: November 2008