Discovering yourself through others

I used to think people could achieve more alone, that other people weren’t necessary. I thought everything was attainable as long as I had the discipline, and to some extent that is still true. In the realm of developing new skills: like doing more pushups, waking up without an alarm, and programming, these are things you can refine with practice. But I’ve come to realize that there are “fuzzy” things (not hard skills) that are difficult to discover alone. This year was my third and last year at LDC (Leadership Development Center), and while it’s name is essentially a buzzword to attract high schoolers for college applications, it was only through LDC this year that I grew to realize how important of an influence others have had on me.

My first year at LDC was as a delegate, where I participated in the actual camp. The next two I was a staff, where I planned and led the delegates at camp. I went into LDC each year with a predetermined goal I wanted to achieve. My first year, it was all about me. I did whatever it took to improve my leadership, to achieve a captivating charisma. I took every opportunity to stand in the spotlight, practice my public speaking. I was on a hustle every day to talk to as many different people as possible. And this wave of self improvement carried on throughout high school. I knew and believed that if I wanted to improve my social game, I could do it myself.

The following year, I came back as a youth staff. At that point in time, I felt being a staff was more of a social status. They were the confident people in the red shirts and cool sunglasses. All the delegates would talk about them, and now I could become a part of it. I fed off this social energy and it gave me confidence. I continued to take opportunities to improve myself, and in turn I become a pretty likable character among the delegates. However, something I wish I had done differently was pulling myself out of the spotlight. After all, the camp isn’t about me. It’s about the delegates that came here to improve themselves. Thet following year, I wanted to take a step back and just witness the magic that I had experienced my delegate year. Putting my delegates before myself and making sure everybody felt included and happy. Until now, I was more of the social hustler, wanting to meet as many people as possible (like superficial friends) over developing close friendships with a smaller group of people. I wanted to use this last LDC as a chance to watch other people grow, and I wanted to develop meaningful friendships with them along the way. Taking that step back allowed me to become more aware of how people were feeling around me. Like noticing subtle signs when people felt isolated or unhappy. Also celebrating others’ excitement with them. I came to realize how caring some other staff were towards the delegates, how they would always go out of their way to make the delegates feel comfortable. Watching this made me realize how much I valued having these caring relationships with other people. I also realized how to care for others. To have somebody share their story with you and develop a closer relationship with you, you have to first put yourself out there. So many people come back talking about how LDC is so magical because it can bring people so close together in just a couple days. We get to become so close to one another because we encourage everybody to push their comfort zones and put themselves out there. When we put themselves out there and become vulnerable, others can relate with us and grow closer.

So yes, while it is exciting to put 10,000 hours into mastering a skill, you’d have a much more fulfilling time experiencing life’s ups and downs with the people you care about. You may be the one who gives meaning to somebody’s life, and along the way, you’ll get to meet the people who’ll help you discover yourself.

This is my last clan, and its a clan I’m proud to end on.

Author: Sam Shih

Hi I'm Sam! I'm a recent graduate of Swarthmore College with a BA in both Computer Science and Asian Studies.

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