Why did I even go on this crazy trip? Most of it was for the views, to see other cultures, and push myself and expand my comfort zone. But I’d be lying if I said the leadership component didn’t compel me. I have been fortunate enough to been given leadership roles in college, have been called a leader, and I can confidently say that only a few know the University of Pittsburgh, from a club’s point of view, better than I do. Needless to say, I have learned a lot.
But so what? What does any of this mean if I am unable to transfer it to my life beyond school? Recognizing this, I enrolled in this program in part to learn more about leadership so that I can continue being a leader for the rest of my life. And after a trek and a whole bunch of discussions, I feel comfortable knowing that learning never stops, growing never stops, and I have tools at my disposal that I can use beyond Pitt.
So what did I learn that I am going to take with me?
First, I understand that I have a bigger ego than I would like to. After being physically carried by two men, though, I think that problem is solved. Moving forward I will definitely be mindful and do my best to exhibit humility both in thoughts and actions. This relates to leadership because, as a leader, it is best to put other’s needs or the organization’s needs before your own, which takes great humility. While I have done this in my life, it was not always my natural inclination. Working to make it natural is a challenge I will undertake moving forward. For example, I recently had a fantastic internship with a state representative of 20 years who gave me a great supervisor who gave me great work. In a week, I will be working for a freshman state representative with people who I may literally have around the same experience in this field as. While it’s natural for me to feel more confident going into the summer, I must remember that I am still an intern and my primary goal is to learn, and I worked only 2 days a week this semester while these people work full time and know much more than I do both about the job and about the district. Humility will be key in me gaining the most I can from the experience. To further develop this, I should remember the leadership styles, especially servant leadership, and how humility factors in.
Second, I understand that I understand myself. This realization came to me very recently, that for years I asked the question “who am I?” and I think I have an answer. Of course, I can’t say the answer; like the eternal Dao, it is beyond words. But I know it in my heart and exhibit it through fantastic self awareness. I know my natural inclinations well, and I am starting to figure out my place among others and how I can impact the world around me. This is easily relatable to leadership in that leaders must understand their circle of control and their circle of influence, and must also understand their own leadership habits and how they may be perceived. I believe I have taken a huge leap forward in this regard. I will move forward with this by, when I work in teams, understand my place better, what tasks I should perform, and how I can help better the team. Like someone told me recently, rarely in life will I be working completely alone. Thus, my self awareness will be an asset. To further develop this, I can get a better sense of how this will play out in a work environment rather than a school environment, which will definitely take some experimentation and self-discipline.
Lastly, while this was not poor to start with, I feel that my tolerance for adversity and uncertainty has been strengthened. With a hurt knee, I was not sure if I would be able to finish the trek and the pain was often severe. Even now I am uncertain how I will do in Delhi and Agra and the airports. However, I feel like I am able to take on the challenge and do everything I want to do (within reason, of course). This confidence would not have existed without having suffered before. I can bring this to the workplace with each new opportunity, because each internship or job is full of uncertainty. My ability to respond and rise above will characterize my experience. Trying new things like I just did will help develop this aspect of leadership.
As I leave the Himalayas, I want to end with an answer to a question I was posed with weeks ago: why the Himalayas? Why come all the way across the world to study leadership? Can’t we do this practically anywhere? Well, yes and no.
Yes, leadership can be studied, even experienced, anywhere under the right conditions. But what are those right conditions? Are they not conditions that challenge a person yet make them feel just comfortable enough to learn and grow and try new things? And are these not the conditions set by the Hanifl Center? I believe that the Hanifl Center is the first primary reason for coming to the Himalayas to learn about leadership.
The Second is to suffer. Each of us on this program signed up with the intention of suffering at least a little bit. To travel across the world to a land where you don’t speak the language, don’t know the food, and is at a totally different altitude is incredibly challenging. To paraphrase Moana, the journey may leave a scar. But scars can heal and reveal just where you are and who you are. Traveling to India, to the Himalayas, and going on that trek was hard. I was stretched thin. I was in pain that literally made me cry a few times. And yet I rose above and learned a few things about myself, and best of all, had a great time.
I can’t wait for Delhi, for Agra, and I also can’t wait to go home and tell my friends and family about this experience. But perhaps most importantly, I can’t wait to remember this experience with a smile on my face. I can’t wait to grow and keep learning more. I can’t wait to keep wandering.