Throughout this semester, I have come to realize that leadership cannot be narrowed down to a particular list of traits. There is no universal formula to being a good leader, and there’s no particular process that can lead one to be an effective leader. Leadership comes more from a mindset–a willingness to connect with team members, make tough decisions, and adapt to the environment around you. Leaders must be able to learn and adapt to whatever situation they’re thrown in because no amount of reading books about leadership can prepare you for every possible scenario that might come your way. In learning this, I have realized that I have the potential to be an effective leader in my own life. I don’t need a particular required list of skills, and I don’t need to read hundreds of books on leadership. If I maintain the mindset of a leader who is open-minded and always willing to learn and improve himself, I can grow into an effective leader. I will strive to exhibit leadership in minor ways in my life, because I’ve learned that leadership doesn’t require a specific title–it can be shown through simple acts such as encouraging others and leading by example. My main takeaway from this class is that I must never stop trying to learn and improve myself because no leader is perfect, but the best I can do is try to improve every day.
The action step that I decided I needed to take was to start taking more naps so that I had more energy during the day and I got breaks in between working on homework assignments. I found that taking naps in between homework assignments actually helped me to be a lot more efficient when I actually was working on homework. Before I started taking naps, I frequently got into a rut while working on homework where I would be too tired to get quality work done at any reasonable speed. I found that taking a nap helped me to spend less total time on my assignments because I was more efficient with the time that I did spend on them. The only thing that made the naps not go super well was the fact that they made it harder to fall asleep at night afterwards. However, I found that if I napped early enough I could still have no problem falling asleep. Since I was able to spend less time on my homework assignments, I did find that I had a little more free time and was able to have a little more fun during the day, which helped me to have a little more energy as well. I’ve learned that naps are a strategy that work particularly well for me and I will definitely continue to implement them into my college schedule. I think the next step for me might be to find a new hobby that I can enjoy when I have small amounts of down time between classes or assignments so that I can relax and de-stress for a little bit each day. I think this would help me feel more energetic and happier as a whole. The only thing I would do differently in the future would be to start my naps earlier in the day, perhaps immediately after classes so that I’m energized and efficient when beginning my assignments without interfering with my ability to fall asleep at night.
Things that I love:
Animals, travelling, programming, math, statistics, outdoor activities, basketball, astronomy, reading
When I was at my best:
I think I was at my best when I spent the summer as a junior analyst for Boxwood Means, Inc. During this summer, I was tasked with helping to create a model for assessing the reliability of predictions of property prices. I wrote a lot of code in Python, and most of my contribution to the project involved cleaning up the data sets the company had been given in order to make them more easily able to be analyzed using the more senior programmers’ code. The project was a relatively minor side project for the company, but this meant I was able to actually contribute meaningfully to it myself. It was really exciting to me because I was able to apply some of the knowledge that I had obtained from my AP Computer Science class in high school while also recognizing that real world programming was nothing like the programming I had done in class. It was really enjoyable because I got to feel for the first time ever like the work I was doing and the program I was writing was actually meaningful–parts of my code ended up being incorporated into the final product that was sold to an actual real estate company. I wasn’t just creating a project that thousands of others had done before me–one that the world didn’t really need because it had no real applications but was designed helped me build up some of the fundamentals of programming. I was creating an entirely new product that was actually going to be sold to and used and make some sort of difference in the world, small though it may be. This experience planted me firmer in my belief that data science was the right field for me to go into because I enjoyed this internship so much. During this internship, I experienced what it was like to collaborate with actual professional programmers, and I realized that programming is not nearly such a solitary job as many people expect it is. I was constantly communicating with programmers who were in other states and other countries via conference calls–we had to always be on the same page to make sure that each of our code could be incorporated together into an effective final product. I really liked the collaborative environment because all the people I worked with were very patient and willing to help me learn, but they didn’t treat me as though I had no skills and nothing to offer the company. They all seemed to recognize that I had some potential and seemed to genuinely want to help me meet my potential, and this supportive environment made me love this position.
Reflection on my Venn Diagram:
I’ve been surprised to find that I don’t think the category of things I love has changed much at all since I was young. Many of the activities I used to love such as reading, writing, listening to music, and hiking have been the same throughout most of my life. I think the main characteristic that has changed has been which other circles these activities intercept with. I used to want to be a park ranger at a national park because I loved hiking, and I later went through a phase where I wanted to be a zoologist because I love animals. Unfortunately, I think many of these things were pushed to the back of my mind because I later figured I couldn’t really get paid for them. I’m lucky that I have found other fields such as data science that genuinely interest me and excite me as well as offering somewhat better job prospects. I think I will still be able to enjoy the things I love while working in data science–I can hike, visit zoos and museums, watch documentaries about subjects of interest, read, and listen to music all I want in the evenings and on the weekends. I have faith that I will be able to keep up with my other passions on the side, but I also recognize that if data science doesn’t work out, some of my other areas of interest may be worth some more consideration. After reading several articles about the importance of finding one’s passion, I’m a little bit terrified of investing so much time into a profession that I end up hating. I think the best way for me to handle this is to do internships in my current chosen field as early as possible and not be afraid to acknowledge that I don’t like it. This diagram showed me that I clearly have a diverse multitude of interests, so I shouldn’t be afraid of deciding that one of them isn’t for me because there are plenty of other options out there for me–in truth, I think I could be genuinely happy working in several of these different fields. I think my ikigai aligns pretty well with the values I outlined last week. One of the most important values I chose was “fun,” and I haven’t even considered pursuing jobs in any of the fields that I don’t find fun or interesting. It’s just not really necessary because there are so many different fields that I do find fun and interesting. My next chosen value was “purpose,” and many of the passions that I’m considering pursuing fall under the “things the world needs” category. I think I could do meaningful work in many of the fields that I mentioned I’m passionate about in my diagram. My last value, “excitement,” is clearly present in my ikigai. Data science is currently one of the newest, fastest growing, and most exciting fields in the world. My other passions aside from this will allow to maintain an exciting life with a balance of groundbreaking work and exciting activities outside of work.
The Communication, Collaboration, and Confidence event with Dad’s Garage taught me about being vulnerable as part of a team. When we did the activity where everybody had to dance in the middle of the circle, I was really embarrassed because I’ve never really been much of a dancer and I feel like I look incredibly awkward whenever I do it. However, looking around me I realized that everybody else was doing it without concern for how they looked, and on top of that, they were having fun doing it. It made me realize that I didn’t need to be self conscious about my dancing because everybody else was doing the same thing and looked just as ridiculous as I did. I actually noticed that all of the people who felt awkward (like myself) tended to look more awkward, whereas those who didn’t care and danced however they wanted looked more natural. This was not necessarily related to everyone’s dancing abilities, but it showed me that giving half effort and only being half invested ends up making me look even worse. It taught me that I need to always put my all into everything I do and ignore how I may appear to other people, because my self consciousness can show through if I let it dominate my thoughts. It’s ironic that caring intensely about how others view you actually causes you to act in way that looks worse to others, but this is something I need to keep in mind because I often find myself worrying too much what others might think and allowing this to shape my behavior. I think the dancing activity was an example of what it’s like to be a part of a group effort where everybody is entirely invested in the team and its goal. We reached a point where nobody made fun of anybody else for their dancing because we all knew it was what we had to do. There was nobody sitting off to the side, not participating and judging us for our participation because everybody in the room was invested in the activity. I think this is an important part of a functioning team. Members shouldn’t feel bad or be embarrassed about throwing out ideas and giving 110% to the project because everyone else is doing the same thing–and having fun while they do it. When you’re part of a group like that, whether you succeed or fail, you do it together. Having your peers beside you in the face of failure can make it seem a little less intimidating–which, in turn, can make you more willing to take risks that have the potential to be more beneficial in the long run. Coming to the middle of the circle and sharing a time we failed was also a useful practice in vulnerability. It taught us to be proud of our flaws because none of us are perfect. I think this is a useful skill that can be applied when trying to brainstorm ideas with a team. People must be willing to throw out ideas that are far from perfect in order for the group to make any progress at all–if everybody only stated an idea when they knew it was perfect, then no ideas would ever be given. When I call out an idea, I shouldn’t be afraid of what my teammates are going to think of it or the flaws they might see in it–I should take pride in it because their discovering its flaws creates an opportunity for the team to make progress toward developing a workable plan. This activity also showed me that being genuine and acknowledging and embracing your flaws can foster a deeper connection with your peers and teammates–we all grew a little bit closer as a class after we were each willing to acknowledge a time we made a mistake because we were all able to relate to each other a little bit better. I will try more in the future to acknowledge my flaws rather than pretending that I’m perfect, because portraying myself as perfect would not only cause me to come off as very arrogant, but it would make it harder for people to relate to me and prevent me from making deeper connections with my peers. Sometimes leaders make mistakes, and they will lose the trust of their group if they refuse to acknowledge their mistake. It is better to recognize that you did something wrong so that your team knows you will do everything you can to avoid making the same mistake twice.
The perception of “success” depends on the achievement of an individual’s personal goals while upholding their values. Personally, I would consider myself successful if I am doing work that benefits people other than myself and I feel that I have a purpose in my life. It is also important that I actually enjoy doing the work and I enjoy my life in general. I think the feeling that one’s work actually has purpose and is not just meaningless contributes significantly to one’s self-esteem as well as their overall happiness. If I were making a lot of money working really hard at a job that I knew really had no impact on anybody, I would feel like all of my time and effort had been wasted. If this were the case, I would be working purely out of a motivation to earn money. The amount of money one possesses is not an accurate indicator of that person’s level of success– for example, teachers can go to sleep every night knowing they have had a profound impact on several children’s lives while still earning significantly less than an investment banker. This feeling of purpose allows one to be more content with their life, because everybody wants to feel as though they are important and have contributed something to the world. This feeling of purpose is especially important to overall success because life is short, and the only real things we can accomplish during it are 1) impacting other people, 2) causing change in the world and 3) having fun along the way. The rest are details that will go away after we die. Success lies in focusing in on these three goals while not allowing the rest to phase us.