We must adapt and be the best we can. “The best leaders get to live on.” This is quite the powerful note to start a book with. But, as a leader you must always send a clear message to your audience. I received my clear message about three years ago, when I really began thinking for myself. I was given the opportunity to move to Hawaii. I accepted, no hesitation. I bought a one-way ticket, packed or threw out all of my belongings, and was on my way to a new life. I didn’t know anyone on the island. I was going to start fresh, be a new me, live life the way I wanted to. And I did. I remember my friends, family, the boyfriend I broke up with to avoid a long-distance relationship, they all thought I was crazy, that I wasn’t going to follow through with it, that I would be back in Iowa within a year. They were wrong. I lived my new, individualistic, and positive life out there. From then on, I knew if I could get rid of half the things I own, find a job I love, get into another university, fall in love with a major, meet a new group of friends, all at twenty years old, I was pretty ahead of the game.
My move brought me to the realization that I am a positive person. This was news to me. My friends, from back home and on the island came to me for advice on anything. They liked my view on life. They knew I was a reliable and honest person. I began work at an all natural deli. I was cutting vegetables I never knew existed. My boss sat me down one day and gave me raise after three months because of my strong work ethics. She liked my fast-pace, upbeat spirit, and that I remembered our customers’ names. I was being praised for actions I have always known to be commonsense.
After reading through Strengths Based Leadership, and learning the attributes of successful business men and women, I, at first, felt distanced from them; there was no way their leadership characteristics and mine could ever match up; they are millionaires, I can’t even keep my checking account above two hundred dollars! I had to remind myself that money isn’t what leadership is about. Rather, it is connecting with people, spreading awareness, building relationships. I had to remind myself of the former NATO Commander, Wesley Clark’s quote, that we must continue “working to sharpen [our talents].” It isn’t possible to one day, three years ago, come to the conclusion that I am a leader and that’s that. I must continue to work towards strengthening those features everyday as I go further into my future.
As a (fifth year) senior, I still look back at my past experiences. I do this for two reasons; one because I miss my island life dearly, but secondly, and more importantly, to remember how I got to that point in my life. I had to figure out who I was while out there, and who I still had time to become. I know learning and gaining knowledge is an important value of mine, along with traveling, and meeting people who share the same values as I do. After studying abroad and attending school in Hawaii, I really have to try at keeping my strengths an values alive. I have to continue to remind myself and others who similarly “want to get out of here” or others who are applying to jobs in the midwest, that there is so much more out there; so many more people to meet, so many opportunities to grasp.