LeaderShape: Adaptation is Key
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LeaderShape: Adaptation is Key

Having a Healthy Disregard for the Impossible

LeaderShape: Adaptation is Key

If you had you told me back in November I was going to tear up at the last Family Cluster meeting and nearly break down when an On-Site Coordinator played the first verse of "See You Again" at our very scattered, almost, but not really, closing LeaderShape ceremony in January I would have laughed and told you I don't get emotional. But here we are, at the end of it all, and those words are pretty true.

Most LeaderShape institutes run for five nights and six days, but ours was ended going into the fourth day due to weather concerns. We, as the University of Kansas, made history for being the first ever LeaderShape to be marked "incomplete" in all the twenty years it has been around. (They even finished up one in Louisiana before Hurricane Katrina hit...) Though our time was cut way too short at LeaderShape, thanks to Winter Storm Jupiter, I still want to take some time to reflect upon this opportunity that college campuses nationwide should continue to fund for their present and future leaders.

The first thing that happens when you step off the bus is check in and make your bed in your assigned cabin like a small 10 year old ready for summer camp! After that you go to the Learning Center and sit down to prepare for the wild ride that is about to be your life for the next few days. They start with Cluster Facilitators dancing all about and you're confused and happy and still a little shy as you sit next to some stranger you'll find out you actually have a lot in common with. Then you are asked to stand up and essentially build a community by running around playing games for the rest of the night to make friends and create songs. (Never thought you would do that as a twenty year old, right?) The night ends and you go back to your cabin, and without a counselor, go to bed in a room full of bunkbeds.

The rest of the days are a casual blur of team building games, lessons, "warm fuzzy" notes to each other, delicious meals, and actual face-to-face/heart-to-heart conversations all summed up into perspective daily themes. To ensure that I don't give too much information about LeaderShape (because not knowing is half the fun, right?) I want to cover some of the greatest personal take aways that I learned in approximate 72 hours of "leading with integrity and having a healthy disregard for the impossible" Get it? It's their tagline. Anyway. Understand that each day was filled with great leadership lessons and viewpoints, but if you want to learn those, you'll just have to do this yourself.

A big take away that I received was the true appreciation for who I am as a person. Throughout the week we were asked to step out of our comfort zones (I know what you're thinking, "literally every conference/retreat tells you to do this". Right, okay but..) and really go against your grain. The first day made me realize that I love to talk, (just look at this article, so maannyy words) so I made it a goal to talk less and listen more, like literally stop talking in small groups. You know what I learned? I hate that. I also learned that there is a time to talk and a time to listen, and if others in your group don't want to (different than are afraid to) the floor can be yours. Its when you take their opportunities away does this reflect badly on you and hurt them. Thankfully my family cluster really started to see my struggle and allowed me to be who I am, thank you Delawalkers.

Another lesson learned was realizing how much I love warm fuzzies. We made mailboxes that were utilized to write messages to each other. Usually they were encouraging and uplifting messages--sometimes they were people commenting on your last name or riddles. This is probably the area I loved the most because I could write all these great compliments to others about their personalities and the amazing things they were doing. Always take advantage of telling people how you feel, an anonymous note about your authenticity will motivate you more than you think. Thanks whoever wrote about my beautiful authenticity and everyone else who gave me inspiring notes.

You know what better than colorful papers with warm fuzzies on them? Actually interacting with once strangers and now friends, and listening to their stories about life struggles, passions, and visions. Sitting down with these peers and really getting to know them has truly motivated me to step away from my screens and disconnect to connect back with those around me. All we wanted to do was talk with one another about past activities and about the themes of the day that constructed conversation topics. Never have I learned so much about the passions for environment and stigmas of mental health in one sitting than I did at one particular meal. Thank you everyone who shared their story and allowed me to share mine.

Because our time was cut short we ironically ended on a lesson about adaptation and how to succeed when challenges arise. At that point we had become masters of adapting, so the news of leaving in 14 hours was one we accepted and made the most of. In those last 14 hours myself and others put our heart and energy into everything we did. We ran out of paper for warm fuzzies because all of a sudden they needed to be written! We had the fastest rounds of heart-to-hearts in LeaderShape history because by golly, I was going to tell you what I admired no matter how many words needed to be spoken per second. We even adapted our sleep schedule so that four hours of sleep seemed like plenty. For those who kept with me to acquired hacky-sack skills, had delirious heart-to-hearts, and stayed up until late hours of the night, thanks for throwing every last bit of yourself into LeaderShape.

Speaking of throwing, ever been thrown into a group with seven strangers and told to talk about your life? Yes, no? Well, everyone should have a family cluster. Aside from our whole large group we were divided into smaller family clusters to allow deeper conversations and connections. You would think opening up to a handful of students your age and a facilitator is terrifying...it is. But don't let that hold you back! My cluster really taught me that being vulnerable is actually not a bad thing! By being vulnerable you allow yourself and others to feel every emotion on the spectrum as opposed to faking that you don't have feelings. (Don't believe me? Take 20 minutes to watch The Power of Vulnerability by Brené Brown) And on a superficial note, they also tell you great things about yourself and make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Again, thanks fam and my amazing facilitator.

When you're running around from 8 am to 11 pm you convince yourself that you cannot be a functioning adult. That's why I learned coffee should be available at every meal. It's a small thing, but oh man did I love this. Every meal was buffet style with a few pots of coffee ready to get us going again. This should be a custom everywhere. A large thank you is in order for the meal staff: THANK YOU!

"OKay girl, you've written a lot already, are we done yet?" Almost. The biggest takeaway I had the chance to learn is simply, YOUR VOICE MATTERS. Along the way of my/your/their life we've started to assume we were just noise. I heard the saying once, "speak only if your words are more beautiful than silence" and it stuck with me in a negative way. I began to question how worthwhile my thoughts and words were, and often believed my words didn't have meaning. But these few days taught me that everyone's words matter. Now this isn't intended to go into the social issues direction, but merely the be a decent human with listening ears direction. I met so many amazing people who let me talk before them and after them. I realized that everything these people had to say in our family cluster, and even in the large group, was greater than silence (also because silence in a group of around fifty people gets real awkward, real quick). Thank you LeaderShape for teaching me to never believe that my thoughts and feelings aren't worth a discussion, but to believe that my voice matters.

In a short conclusion to a long rant, ("Thank Goodness, Emily, you do talk/write a lot") this experience was amazing. I grew closer with coworkers I forced to apply to LeaderShape, I met really great new friends who allow me to shut up so they can talk and I can listen, I became a part of a new family (we're like a cool fitness family and walk a lot), and overall I learned how to take all these lessons and act upon them. These amazing few days wouldn't have been possible without all the volunteers and KU staff and faculty that drove to the middle of nowhere and devoted their time to let a bunch of college student, myself especially, dance around at 7:58 am, learn about our passions, and motivate us to follow our visions and be our genuine selves. Thank you to all the facilitators, onsite coordinators, guest speakers, behind the scene help, and staff that made our short LeaderShape possible. I look forward to meeting again (in melted ice) to finish this journey together.

When they sat us down for an informational meeting back in December they explained that when you ask past participants what LeaderShape was, they wouldn't be able to fully define the journey you go on. I hope I did other past participants the justice of confusing you, like they did me, and intruiged you enough to apply.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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