Move the Needle – Adam J. Pallas

 

My professional and academic worlds overlap significantly, which makes sense because I work in the field of my academic study (i.e., higher education, specifically student affairs). Over the last few months, a puzzle has plagued my colleagues: what to do about our commitment to freedom of expression and our commitment to inclusive campus climates. Torn between the values of both, I want to discuss an on-going case at the University of Iowa as a way to help capture some of my thoughts on this ultimate question.

 

Before I get into it, let me position myself. The intersection of my identities is like a reflection of the question. I am a white American gay man. I am afforded a great deal of privilege because I am readily identified by American society as a white man; I am also denied privileges because of my gay identity on a regular basis. The intersection of these two is like the intersection between freedom of speech, where ideas from white men are given great power in society, and inclusion, where systems must be rebuilt to allow for the inclusion of historically marginalized identities. In addition, I’m not a lawyer and I speak only for me (i.e., I’m exercising my academic freedom and responsibility here).

 

So let’s begin: Iowa. I encourage you to read this article to gather context on this story; there are nuances that are lost in my summation. In essence, a University of Iowa student was barred from holding a leadership position in a faith-based student organization because of the student’s gay identity. The University in the past has allowed faith-based organizations to make leadership and membership decisions based on the tenets of faith, citing religious freedom and the University’s position as a public institution, which ties it to the tenants of the First Amendment. Other public institutions also allow similar membership decisions on the basis of faith. Now, the University has reversed their decision, saying that this form of discrimination is unacceptable, and has since revoked access to benefits (e.g., campus space, funding) from the faith-based student organization and others that have provisions of identity-based discrimination regarding who can hold officer/member positions. Naturally, a federal lawsuit is underway. Again, I encourage you to read the article.

 

Cases like this have been historically easily settled in and out of the Courts – infringing on students’ religious freedoms is unacceptable because to make a decision about one faith is to make a decision about all faiths, even those that are marginalized (however there’s nuance like human sacrifices aren’t acceptable). Infringing on students’ freedom of speech is also unacceptable for the exact same reasons (also nuanced, like obscenity, lies, and “fighting words” are unprotected). In the ways that the system works now, this all makes sense.

 

Drawing lines between the acceptable and unacceptable is often portrayed as a slippery slope away from personal liberties and towards the end of American democracy. For instance, colleges’ hate speech codes in the 1990s were struck down because of their broad, overreaching limitations on speech. The Courts decided freedom of speech was greater than the potential harm the speech would cause to those with marginalized identities. It should be noted the hate speech codes, while created to protect those with marginalized identities from hate speech, were most frequently used to punish those with marginalized identities.

 

Like the hate speech codes, Iowa’s decision to revoke access to benefits from these groups is an attempt to change their own application of their human rights policy. After all, if the University is going to provide funding, space, and other benefits to these groups, then they should be held to the equal opportunity policies followed by other activities at the University. But also like the hate speech codes, there’s an impasse between individual freedom ensured by the First Amendment and protections of those with marginalized identities from hate speech and its harmful effects. To do the latter, the former must change dramatically.

 

So I hear a rebuttal: why would a gay student want to be part of a student organization that clearly doesn’t want them there? Certainly this student can be a part of another student organization, and this is a moot point. I agree that at a large public university, it is almost guaranteed that this student can find a different community to which to belong. Just walk away.

 

This line of thinking though is one that roots itself in the current logic of the system of the First Amendment. The issue at hand is the University, which espouses the value of diversity and inclusion, is in direct conflict with this principle by providing resources and support to a student organization that discriminates based on identity. To embrace inclusion fully, I argue the University and public institutions do not need to provide resources to these organizations, especially if the institution is truly committed to the principles of equal opportunity. I recognize that practitioners of a faith often do not get to choose the tenets of their faith, which I respect for those practitioners who recognize the cognitive dissonance between the desires of inclusion and exclusion. I also recognize my radical stance on this issue is likely a result of my own identity being directly involved in the Iowa case.

 

Also, just as the gay student can walk away from the community that shuns them, so too do all others who do not subscribe to the faith’s doctrine. The student organization that discriminates on the basis of ideology naturally selects out who joins and who takes on leadership positions by virtues of the values of the community, so mandating discrimination is unnecessary. However, I quote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Discrimination, written or practiced, ought not to be awarded funds and resources by an institution that values diversity and inclusion.

 

So this is an impossibly large change, and it’s one that I imagine a lot of institutions and organizations that have power in society will get into. Kudos to Iowa for taking a stand against discrimination, but I’d wager they’re not going to win this case, not only because they’ve violated their own policy and applied their decision unequally to their student organizations, but also because the systems that struck down the hate speech codes in the 90s is still very-much alive today. The Freedom of Expression will not be infringed by those who hold marginalized identities.

 

This is where I feel helpless, especially because this situation is not unique to the University of Iowa. In my academic and professional circles, we feel share feelings of powerless to move the needle because the system is so large, so complex. We are often the ones who lack power in the system, and we’re often the ones who know we’re in the right.

 

So what do you do when you can’t move the needle?

 

For me, that question comes from the place when the lessons of leadership, and specifically the Leadership Minor, come into different and often unforgiving contexts. The question seeks to capture the feeling of helplessness where the thing that needs to change is the very fabric of a culture, system, or society; and it is so entrenched in the minds and hearts of people that it feels impossible to change. Facing the immovable wall is exhausting, it’s draining, and it’s a fast track to burnout and complacency. Understanding what to do when you can’t move the needle of an organization or culture or society or a single person is at least one way to continue acting.

 

I asked this the other day when I was discussing the topic of this post with someone at work. She said that we often focus on the impossible tasks, the great challenges of society, and we drain ourselves pushing against it. She offered that we have take the energy our frustration the impossible task gives us and use that energy to push the needle elsewhere so hard, so well, so effectively that when we return to the impossible task, those with power can’t help but agree with us. I don’t know if it’s a good solution, but it’s one that allows me to continue acting, to continue leading.

 

So how do I move the needle with free speech and inclusive campus climate? No idea, but I’ll let you know when we’re done moving another needle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adam J. Pallas is an alumnus of the Leadership Minor (Dec. 2016), fully employed at the U of M, and fully in the weeds of pursuing a Master’s degree in Higher Education.

 

Saying Yes – Birdie (Amanda) Temple

Every year I have a few quotes or memorable sayings to try to live life by. They are, on purpose, not
universally beloved or well known. They have always been random nuggets of wisdom, dropped on me
at random. I write them down in my bullet journal (thanks, Jessica!) to refer back to later. Being on the
lookout for these gems helps me to notice and appreciate what is happening around me, while taking a
moment to honor another’s words by writing them down.

Choosing just one phrase to think about for this blog post has been difficult, since I’ve been collecting
them for a while and, frankly, my friends are smart, caring, wonderful people who say brilliant things all
the time. But, a teammate once tweeted “Say YES to every weird opportunity.” I don’t remember the
context, but it spoke to me. Like in the Leadership Minor where we talk about the power of the ASK,
saying yes to weird opportunities is simply making that Ask of yourself. We ask leaders to take risks -the
more times you do something risky the easier taking a risk becomes. We ask leaders to set an example.
We expect leaders to have experiences and understanding of things that are different than they are –
saying yes to weird opportunities allows you to live a more robust life.

Take a moment to reflect on what weird opportunity have you said yes to? Imagine what would have
happened if you had said no? How has that positively or negatively changed your life? How do you
know?

Benefits of saying yes: Saying yes to weird opportunities gives you far more exciting or interesting
stories out of your life. Saying yes puts you in the company of others who also said yes. Saying yes gives
you a great excuse to do the things you have been afraid of. Saying yes might earn (or save) you some
money. Saying yes might help you find a new friend or romantic partner. Saying yes makes you more
confident. Saying yes gives you a reputation of a person who says yes to things, which inspires others to
ask you to do more weird things you can say yes to!

Saying yes gives us the opportunity to get out of our comfort zone and experience growth. I’ve been
thinking a lot about how and why to intentionally practice vulnerability and risk, particularly without
dumping our entire emotional baggage out on the floor, which is what most people think when we ask
them to be vulnerable. We ask leaders to be vulnerable and take risks but it’s often unclear HOW we can
teach or practice that or why it is important. How can we make this a part of our core belief system? The
willingness to be uncomfortable – to be embarrassed, wrong, or hurt – in lower-stakes environments
allows us to later take action when it really matters, often when it is less emotionally safe to do so. I’ve
met people who are embarrassed by what I think are simple things like asking a stranger for directions
or asking for a bank fee to be removed. If you can’t tell the barista your coffee order has been made
incorrectly, how will you be able to stand up for what you believe in circumstances that are more
consequential? Being a person who says yes moves us from being an aspiration of who we want to be
into the actuality of who we are.

Imposter syndrome can be a real barrier to this philosophy. If I have been struggling with self-
confidence, feeling closed off, wanting to be seen as “cool,” being asked to do something I feel
unqualified to do, or trying to do something that scares me, I think of this tweet. (When I was asked to
write this blog post it was the thing I reminded myself of to inspire me to be brave.) Say yes now and
figure it out later – trust the future you!

Stephen Sondheim write a song in Anyone Can Whistle called “Everyone Says Don’t.” One of my favorite
lines is: Make just a ripple. Come on, be brave. This time a ripple. Next time a wave!
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLK7JZO4EYM – Jenn Colella at MCC Theater’s MisCast Gala)

Be brave. Say yes.

Birdie (Amanda) Temple has worked at a college since she was in college because she never wanted to leave college. Being able to teach in the Leadership Minor is a privilege not taken for granted and she thanks her lucky stars every day for the opportunity. She also loves going to musicals, listening to podcasts, trying new things even if she’s not good at them or will look stupid, and roller skating. 

The Truth of Myself – Stefan Moses

I sometimes find myself thinking about “What is the meaning of life?” to questioning myself “What is the meaning of being alive?”

Sometimes I ask, “What am I pursuing so hard about?” And sometimes I think, “What the hell am I doing?”

I was caught up in a question. The story in the question is imaginary, but it made me struggle a lot. The story says, there is a village called the Truth. All the folks in the village drink from the same well. One night, a witch added seven drops of magical water into the well, and since then, all the villagers start to confuse right and wrong, they cannot tell sweet and bitter, and they reverse the truth and the fake, except for a young villager, who has not drunk the water from the well, and is still holding on to the truth. After a while, all the folks in the village start to marginalize the young villager and say they’ve lost their mind. One day, the young villager is standing by the well and thinking, “what am I doing? What am I holding on to? Has everyone lost the truth, or have I lost my mind?”

And here is the question: if you were the young villager, would you drink that water?

I brought this discussion up to a lot of my friends, some of them said yes, because they thought if you think everyone has lost their mind, you might be the one who lost your mind. Some of them said it would be much easier. Drinking that water helps you to fit in and understand the “new world” better. Some also said, happiness is the most important thing in your life, if that makes you struggle, you deserve the choice to make you happy.

One friend told me that if I insist not to drink the water, that means you are not willing to fit in. This situation is imaginary, but it reflects a real-world philosophy: are you willing to come in right and seek to understand a very different world and its culture, even if the situation is to the opposite of your world view? Also, in the new world, everything is changing little by little every day. What the water in the story does is to change the world faster. How can you judge if the things in the new world is right or wrong? Drinking the water is the easiest way to help you adapt into this new world, so why not? If you insist not to take it, that means you are in your denial and you refuse to adapt.

When we say coming in right, seeking to understand, and adaptive leadership, we are trying to understand the community and the local life. However, adapting does not mean losing ourselves.

So, how can we tell when someone lost themselves? I think it is when they start to fake. When they say, the sky is green, when they say ignorance is knowledgeable, when they say war means peace, and they believe these lies. At this point, I would say they are losing themselves, because I know the RIGHT truth.

Human being is the sum of all the social relationship. The lies, the fakes, the arrogance, the wars, discriminations, and the inequity are all harmful for our social relationship. They may have become the truth that the “new world” believes, but that is not the right truth they should believe, because that is not a world, it’s called hell. At this point, I choose not to adapt, and I choose to hold on to the truth, even if everyone in the world thinks that I have lost my mind.

One book that I thought about when thinking about this question is 1984. When the whole world was losing the truth of humanity because when someone distort anything in the world, people would believe that. Winston Smith, the hero of the story, was holding onto the truth. He was so afraid of losing the truth that he risked his life to write everything down. People thought he lost his mind. They called him a freak. In real world, there are even articles saying Winston is not a hero, he is just a man of arrogance. This book used to be called The Last Man in Europe. I would like to be the last one, because when I lose the truth, I will lose myself. I will forget who I use to be, and it feels like dying because giving up the truth and forgetting who I am is like ending my life and come back to life, as a different person.

Forgetting myself is horrible. It terrifies me. In the Japanese movie Spirited Away, Haku, the white dragon could not remember who he was. He struggled his whole life living without his name. He lied to himself, he lost control, and he struggled. I cried at the end of the movie when he finally remembered his name and who he was, and yelled out, “I remember!” He found himself.

Why does a name mean so much to us? Because my name is a symbol, and what’s behind the symbol is so vital to us – that is who I am. Whenever I meet a challenge, I will question myself, “what is the meaning of life?” and “what is the meaning of being alive?”

I think life is a journey, where I can see a lot, make many choices, hold on to what I pursue, and get rid of what I hate, and in the end, I realize who I am. It is a really hard thing to realize who I am. There are so many things that can confuse me, there are hurdles and temptations that can blind me. So, whenever I am making a hard choice, I would think, how would I want to spend the last few minutes of my life when I am old. I wish that I can be proud of myself.

There are a few things that can make me proud of my life: love, success, friendship, and the realization of my dream. But sadly, being proud of these things needs some luck. I need some luck to meet the right person, to match a good career life, some fantastic and long-lasting friends, and to make your dreams come true. I do not believe much in luck, and there are a lot people do not have that kind of luck.

There is one more thing that can make me proud, which does not need any luck – be true to myself and insist who I really am.

I will be proud because after I am faced with great pressure and extreme temptations, after I am elbowed out by my own people, after I get beaten up and crying at night and doubt what I am doing, I am still who I truly am.

I will be proud of myself because insisting who I truly am in the right way makes me firmly believe who I am. Eventually, I can get what it is behind the symbol of my name, with my insistence and my reflection of humanity, and that is the right truth of MYSELF!

 

 

 

 

 

Stefan Moses is a transfer student from China and has been in the States for almost one year. He majors in Economics and Computer Science, and minors in Leadership. He works as an LSA in the LEAD-UP and a CA in Sanford Hall. He loves making connection and he enjoys his life-full of passions.

Don’t Doubt – David Hellstorm

I didn’t expect an old woman sitting on a bench to change my life, but hey, sometimes that’s how the universe works.

 

Last year I was lucky enough to travel to Amsterdam with my family.  I had never travelled outside of North America before so I was really excited but I was also a little nervous about being in a new place.

 

But in the Leadership Minor we have a saying “no growth in the comfort zone” so on the first day my son and I decided to just go explore the city.  We headed to the main station in the city where all the local trains departed – bought two tickets and then realized we had no idea how these trains worked.  

 

We saw an older woman sitting on bench by a platform – so we thought – maybe that’s where we go.  We stood there – the train came around the corner – stopped in front of us – but the door never opened.  There was a big blue button on the door and my son said “do you think we push that button?” and I said “I don’t know.”

 

We stared at each other.  We stared at the blue button.

 

And then the train left the station.

 

As it rolled away, the woman sitting on the bench behind us suddenly said

 

“Don’t doubt.”

I turned and looked at her and she said again.

 

“If you want the door to open you need to push the button.  Don’t doubt.”

 

Well that was helpful advice and we got on trains for the rest of our week but what the woman said really stuck with me as an edge that has been present in my life.  I don’t know about you but I am a person who hungers for certainty in the world. I want to know the right answers. If I am honest with myself I really struggle with ambiguity and worry about taking risks and making mistakes.  I worry that people expect me to be competent and strong and I’m afraid that they will think less of me if I disappoint them

 

But what has my need for certainty cost me?

What has been the loss because of I didn’t trust myself, or others, or that the world would catch me if I fell, or forgive me if I failed.

There is a meme I saw hanging in a friend’s office that said “Doubt killed more dreams than failure ever did.”   Ouch.

 

Metaphorically, how many trains have left the station on me because I was too afraid to act?  What adventures did I perhaps not go on, because before I took that first step I needed to be sure it was right.  What communities did I maybe not join, what work in the world did I leave for others to do because I wasn’t willing to be vulnerable?  As importantly, what lessons was I teaching my son as he watched me take on these issues?

 

Though upon reflection, maybe doubt isn’t the real problem

Given current times, being too sure of yourself isn’t the kind of leadership I believe in either.  My own identity, my masculinity, my whiteness has allowed me to step in and confidently take over spaces when empathy, active listening and holding back would have been better choices for me and the world.

 

So, yes, it’s okay to doubt.  But maybe not to let doubt lead to fear and then to let that fear paralyze me and keep me from acting.  I was remembering seeing in Margaret’s Wheatley’s book Turning To One Another this small little quote on a title page –

 

“Proceed Until Apprehended.”

 

That sounded like good advice.

 

So, what did the woman on the bench teach me?

To get out of my comfort zone.

To be adventurous.  To trust myself and the world.  

To not let the fear of failure and mistakes hold me back – in fact, to redefine what those words actually mean to me.

 

Here’s the good news.

Another train will no doubt enter the station.

I plan to get on board.

 

 

 

 

 

David Hellstrom works at the Leadership Minor, where he both teaches and is taught.  He continues to find almost everything and everyone interesting, works to navigate power and privilege and continues to record episodes of his co-authored podcast

 

“This was worth it” – Madyson Turner

I think we all could feel the unrelenting pressure and stress of the spring semester—from January until May, constantly rushing and never stopping to take a breath.

Almost everyone I spoke to felt as if they were constantly underwater, struggling to figure out how they were going to balance the myriad of things on their plate to get through the remainder of the academic year. With the mountain of obstacles facing each person, it seemed like there was a desire for a monumental shift to change the way we were feeling. We needed a moment large enough to shake us awake and to help us to begin swimming.

I found that, as the semester drew to a close, I was no exception to this feeling of being overwhelmed, unable to make a move without sinking a little further. The entirety of this year had been full of ups and downs and I found that I needed to do something drastic to inspire a change in myself, to be better equipped to handle the daily rigors of living, to feel like I was able to create change in the space I was inhabiting.

I had the opportunity to study abroad in Ireland for the May term. I thought to myself, “This is perfect.” I was creating literal distance between me and my normal environment and carving out time in my schedule to actually process everything that had been going on. It was the exact drastic change of scenery and experience I was looking for (and that I felt others were looking for as well). This experience would provide me with the resources I was looking for to make sense of the moments that coalesced into a semester that I felt had just swept me away in the current, rather than having me actively choose where to expend my energy to get one from place to the next.

 

But, of course, rarely when we plan things out do they work out as we wished.

This experience abroad was packed full of activities from dawn to dusk, sweeping students away into literature, culture, and the historical weight of what shaped a country. We woke up early in the morning and did not return until late at night. So, to say that there was no time for me to unpack my semester back in the States was an understatement, but I quickly lost the desire for processing after realizing what a small part of something larger I was. I was not there for me—I was there to absorb, learn, and take in the moments of day-to-day life in a place that graciously allowed us to visit.

A crucial aspect of this program included a large amount of time spent outdoors—and if you ask literally anyone who knows me, they will say I am one of the least outdoorsy people they have ever met. I was originally dreading these activities, but knew I wanted to dive head-first into this experience I signed up for—that included every single aspect and every single outing. The favorite outdoor activity was (because why not?) hiking up mountains. The first few days spent climbing and jumping and pushing past exhausted muscles were long, but incredibly rewarding. There was something that felt real and immediate about remaining present while climbing, making sure I did not misstep, and controlling my breathing (because wow I did not go to the gym enough to prepare for this program).

It was not until a week of these climbs, after an eight mile bike ride, a forty minute climb, and like three bottles of water, that I took a moment to process the clarity that these excursions had given me.

I had been under the impression when I began this trip that I needed something incredibly monumental to help me feel as if I was back on track, to process through the feeling of being pulled along without control, without a voice. I thought I needed time and space. However, standing on the edge of a cliff, with the ocean crashing against the rocks below, the wind zipping in from the edge to greet you, surrounded by the tired but proud smiles of the people who had made the same climb you did with their own burdens—I realized something.

I had been wrong.

I had been searching for something monumental. I thought that was the key—large, drastic strokes. But that is not what life is about. And these mountain climbs were too beautifully and symbolically in line with these realizations to ignore.

Each step I took, each breath I drew in, was intentional and focused on moving me forward. Everything was in the moment. Each joke made with my colleagues and each helping hand extended to one another aided in the feeling that we could climb this. And each time we caught our breath at the top, we would always say the exact same thing.

“This was worth it.”

These tiny shifts made the difference. This realization itself sounded like a big moment—but in all actuality, it was a small shift in perception, in the thought that each of the little things are actually what impacted the result. And this is because life in general does not exist in only big, earth shaking moments. It is about the small shifts, the moments in-between that make a world of a difference. It is about the times you realize your footing is surer because you have walked a path like that before and have learned from it. It is about the times when you finally realize you have made peace with the thing dragging you down, allowing yourself to feel that weightlessness.

And while not everything in life has to be tied back to leadership, I feel like there is a message here that fits into the very thought of what we are trying to learn as leaders—at least, what I am challenging myself to learn.

Leadership does not happen in bold strokes. It happens every day, in the small moments. The times where things feel the hardest because you are standing up for what you believe to be right in a space where you have not felt the need to take a stand in the past. The times where you feel pure joy because you realized, through a small moment, that you have learned and changed—and you like the person you are becoming. Leadership happens with collaboration, with learning, and with small shifts in time where you begin a different sequence of events.

 

It was a long, grueling spring semester comprised of small moments that I kept lumping into a large, looming weight constantly on my shoulders. Each step I took up a mountain, I realized I had to let go of a little more weight, and a little more baggage, until I could allow myself to climb. And it was then that I realized I could not drop the burden I had been carrying in one fell swoop because it was not one thing—it was many. And once I began to take it apart, I realized there was good tied up in what I had perceived to be bad. And I stopped thinking of all of this as baggage.

I thought of it as experiences. As things I may not be able to control, but I can control how I respond to.

 

 

And this was a small shift, a small moment that meant nothing to anyone around me, but would prove to have a ripple effect in the way I navigate the world.

We create change in the space we inhabit through the small acts of kindness and dissent we offer up, the moments we challenge a norm or support someone in their vision, in the moments we take charge and the ones where we support another person’s time to lead. And, by recognizing these small efforts that will build to feel like big change, we can look back at each place we placed our feet to move forward, each summit we had to climb, each moment of powerful leadership in their own way, and we can say—

“This was worth it.”

 

 

 

Madyson Turner is currently a senior pursuing her degree in Political Science and Sociology of Law, Criminology, and Deviance with a minor in Leadership.

She has been a part of the Leadership Minor and Enrichment Programs since her first year here at the University and has found it to be incredibly life-giving. She hopes to continue to learn from these classes and keep meeting people who are constantly attempting to understand leadership as it connects with their lives.

“You are a Gift”- Spring 2018 Graduation Speech

“Hello everyone. For those of you that don’t know me: ”  

  1. I am a lover of all things beautiful, I like surprising people with baked goods, and I am the person that genuinely gets excited when I hear the words “we’re going to do an icebreaker!” in group meetings.
  2. I pride myself in my planning abilities and find comfort in having plans made, and I am having a hard time deciding what I will be doing three months from now.
  3. I believe that our friends and family should always be prioritized in our lives, but am still learning how to take care of myself.
  4. I understand the work that needs to be done in this world to create an alternative future, but I have learned how to find joy in simplicity and use that to fuel my life.

“I have also found that it is much better when we do this work together, so I am so grateful that we are here today. To honor what we have learned and to celebrate with each other the joy of graduation. But I also believe that we are here to remember that we all hold contradicting truths about ourselves. Turns out graduating isn’t synonymous with figuring everything out. And that is okay. Because we have learned how to use our complex identities as the foundation of our leadership narratives. And we can use that to navigate through the ambiguities of the next steps we will take.”

 

“With my time today, I would like to share with you three lessons that I have learned that will help us all with our transitions.”

 

“The first lesson is that leadership is hard. And I’m not talking about back in the 3000-level course when we had the overlap between complexity paper and one community project hard. I’m talking about the push-back or skepticism we will face from future coworkers, bosses, and community members when we attempt to implement what we have learned and explain its potential for positive change. When we enter new environments and things aren’t running how we’d like we have two choices. We can tell ourselves “what the minor believes and what I have experienced must not be true.” OR we can say “Maybe they haven’t felt what I have felt and done what I have done, and I can be the one to show them.” And we know that being the one to create change is harder than adapting to the new system. But if you are choosing to take on the identity of leader, then you have to remember that leaders commit to taking on that work. You have to be willing to giving your time, energy, and intention to the places that need it most. Yes, leadership is hard. But thankfully, leadership isn’t too hard. And the good news is we have learned many skills to help us achieve change.”

 

“I was once told, “when you start see yourself as a gift, everything changes.” If you’re thinking to yourself, “wow, that is vague, poetic, and sounds like David Hellstrom said it” you are right. After trying to make meaning of this, I decided that a gift was two things: something unique and something that is given freely with asking of nothing in return. Once you see your strengths, skills, and knowledge as a gift, your confidence to take action becomes simplified. By doing this you give yourself permission to offer everything you have without fear of rejection. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes. “Even after all this time the sun never says to the earth “you owe me.” Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky.” This is the second lesson: you are a gift.”

 

“I have one more lesson to share with you that will make leadership more possible. My favorite reading from the four courses was “Sacred Heart.” It beautifully articulates the abundance of opportunities for leadership in our everyday lives. And how we can choose to embrace these possibilities as we wish, knowing that the work is difficult. They conclude with, “May you enjoy with a full heart the fruits of your labor. The world needs you.” And it does. It needs your intention. Your time. Your care. Your passion. But it doesn’t need only you.”

 

“Which brings me to the third lesson: We must remember the importance of each other. And that everyone else is also a gift. We each bring a new light to the world. So go out and find the other people that care about the change that needs to happen. Margaret Wheatley’s book is not called turning to your textbook or turning to research. It is turning to one another. We have each other. The people in this space. Our fellow leadership nerds, our mentors, instructors, family, and friends. The people who love us and would do anything for us. And we will have many more people in our lives that we don’t know yet. Future coworkers, neighbors, and friends. But that’s only if we stay open to the possibility that they may care just as much as we do.”

 

“My hope is that you trust your intuition, knowledge and abilities to create a world you want to live in. And that you trust in people around you. That you remember you are a gift. You can be the sun that lights up the sky by being generous and kind. That you remember to find each other in moments of uncertainty and in moments of celebration. And perhaps above all, I hope that in your future endeavors, you remember to follow the joy.”

 

 

 

Tijen Petersen graduated in the Fall of 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and minor in Leadership.

She danced for the University of Minnesota Ballroom Dance Competition team for five years. She loves being a part of the Leadership Minor community and hopes to stay involved for years to come.

 

 

Swimming and Leading

I’ve never been a skilled swimmer.  I used to dread the week in elementary school when we’d load up on busses and trek to the district high school for swimming lessons.  I always tested into the “beginner group” and feared what my peers would think of me. Throughout the week, I remember feeling incompetent and embarrassed as I gobbled up water while trying to coordinate my arms, legs, and breath.

Lately, I’ve had recurring dreams (well, nightmares, really)  where I am back in the high school pool, and my elementary gym teacher is telling me to “go down and back” a few times.  Oh, and she will be timing me and everyone is watching, so I better do a good job. I wake up in a panic every time.

This semester, I am enrolled in a mindfulness course (CSPH 5807).  It is an amazing class, and I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone.  Through the course and having undergone subsequent reflection, I have steadily

increased my  awareness of a few things:

  1. I am not balanced nor centered.  I am constantly looking to the future and this only heightens my anxiety.
  2. I am not living out my values. I work in Leadership, but I don’t currently see myself as a leader.
  3. I routinely feel as though I am back in elementary school swim lessons, unprepared and embarrassed, gasping for air.

So, what do I do with this information?  It is not a fun place to be, and I constantly teeter between two dominant voices.  One voice tells me this is an important phase of my life. I am learning, growing, and developing.  Growth isn’t comfortable, so keep on keeping on. The other voice tells me to take care of myself and let things go.  It isn’t healthy to feel this way.

Who do I listen to?  Do I perpetuate this “always busy, efficient, and productive” type of behavior so commonly awarded in our society?  Or, do I take a stand and actively choose to drop something in my life? If I choose this path, what do I prioritize?  What do I drop? I know what I would tell a peer or family member, but it is so much harder to be objective with myself. (Also, is it just me, or do you find yourself having similar conversations in your mind?)

As I continue to engage in this conversation with myself, I realize leaders can “step off path” every now and then; it is a natural human behavior, after all!  The key is how one responds and reacts.

Additionally, leaders take what they learn from self-reflection, consultation, and meaningful action and continue to apply it in the future.

What I will do now?  I am still not certain.  But, what I do know is this is not sustainable and if I continue down this path, it is because I actively chose it.  

Writing this blog post opened up space in my mind to introduce and play with creativity.  I’ve found a solution (and there are probably 100 possibilities) I am happy with, and I am pursuing that path for now.  Oh, how helpful the process of writing can be! Thank you for allowing me the space to work through this, dear leader friends!

 

Find Your Fresh Start

 

Good afternoon, everyone! My name is Governess Simpson, and I will be joining the Leadership Team as the new Information Technology Specialist and manager of the blog. I wanted to introduce myself to the community on the blog page. It is a pleasure to meet you all!

I am currently a freshman in the College of Science and Engineering as a Computer Science major with a minor in Leadership. I am involved in my sorority, Alpha Sigma Kappa, and the Association for Computing Machinery – Women’s Chapter. My hobbies include writing and reading slam poetry, weight training, and watching movies on Netflix.

Now that introductions are out of the way, I wanted to kick off my first blog post by discussing something I’ve been reflecting on over the past few weeks.

As we progress through a new year, I, among many others, created New Year’s resolutions with the aspirations of achieving something spectacular and focusing on self-improvement and development. Honestly, who could blame us; 2018 is the start of a promising story we desire to write, whether it be reaching financial security or developing sturdy and healthy relationships.

Personally, 2017 proved to be a very challenging year for myself. With transitioning to college–which came with its own unique set of obstacles–enduring a painful breakup with a loved one, and losing sight of my passions and interests, I ended the year feeling hopelessly lost, defeated, and concerned for my well-being. I felt like I was making the wrong moves for my future professional career. My emotional and mental health were in shambles.

Of course, many of those struggles did not simply disappear the night of New Year’s Eve. However, rather than wallowing in my situation, I made a decision that I want to share with the community with the hopes of helping at least one person who experienced the same thing I did.

I devoted more time to myself and started to truly reflect on what I could change and what I needed to accept in order to move forward.

There is not enough people talking about self-care and mental health. Whenever we undergo depression, anxiety, or downfalls in any aspect in our lives, we indulge in things that can distract us from the now, the things that are holding us back. It makes sense: in the moment, it seems too taxing to confront the real issue. We believe there is nothing we can do.

We need to break free of that pessimistic, destructive mindset if we ever want to reach a place that promotes health and happiness.

On New Year’s Day, I spent the entire day reflecting on what went wrong in 2017. I truthfully acknowledged things about my behaviors or attitudes that I needed to adjust–which is easier said than done, but when you spend the proper time with just yourself, those realizations will start to surface. With my newfound knowledge, I wrote down every single goal I wanted to accomplish in 2018 that would fix the issues I identified, as well as feasible steps to achieve said goals.

At the end of the day, it is all about self-love and catering to yourself to do what you need to do to become stable, happy, and healthy. One regret that I had in 2017 was not taking enough time with myself to address things when issues began to emerge–until it was too late. I refuse to make the same mistake twice, and you shouldn’t, either.

Once again, it is an honor to be welcomed to this community. I am excited to assume my role as the IT Specialist, and I am excited for what may come. Even though we are nearly two months in, that doesn’t mean you can’t find your fresh start.

Try something new for 30 days

Matt Cutts

We’re on the look for posts! We would love to hear your leadership story – click here for more information and to submit one! In the meantime, enjoy this video from Matt Cutts on trying something new. What will you try for the next 30 days?

Matt Cutts is an engineer at Google, where he fights linkspam and helps webmasters understand how search works.

Click here for some forced inspiration!

Maria Versteeg

The idea of leadership that I signed up for is one of hospitality, connection, and love. And I just can’t help but ask… Why does this idea of leadership often leave me feeling alone, hurt, and tired?

Leadership has so much to do with being present and paying attention to the world around you, and yet, there never seems to be a day that goes by without hearing about a hurricane, an enraging policy change, or even a mass shooting. Every day I am reminded that being fully awake in the spaces around me is opening myself up to a literal world of pain and human suffering. Continue reading “Click here for some forced inspiration!”