One of the reasons I so love the QLC is because I personally am not immune to the energy and messaging that seems to surge through the event. This year’s opening keynote by Northwestern Assistant Professor of Journalism, Andrew Mills, was particularly relevant for me. Mills outlined the reasons why it is important and life changing to move in the direction of your fears. His message was so close to the mark that I found myself shifting uncomfortably in my chair a few times. This guy had read my mind. This was my story!
People who know me are surprised when I say that I used to be one of the shyest people on the planet. I am in awe of most of the students I work with because I was so not like them! The leaps of faith that I have taken at critical professional junctures of my life have all been uncomfortable. The risk taking, almost without exception, was never intuitive. I have had to consciously weigh pros and cons, give myself pep talks, but most significantly I have had to work through a whole mental checklist of fears-fear of failure, obviously, but many other fears too.
I believe a turning point in my own, life-long journey towards leadership came in my mid-twenties. I was weighing the idea of going overseas to teach for the first time. I signed up for three recruiting fairs, and then I began to cancel them, one by one. With only one left, and wavering, I sat down and made a list of the reasons not to make this move, and the only thing that I could think of was fear. And at that moment I had to make a choice, either to let fear drive my decisions or to have something more positive drive them instead. I kicked fear to the side, went to New Orleans to my first recruiting fair, and found myself on a plane to Abu Dhabi five months later. That was a decision that changed the course of my life, and had I not been willing to move in the direction of my fear, I’d be teaching history at a public school in California, a lifetime of adventures never to be realized.
Back to the photo…My own journey to Doha has been punctuated with bouts of mind-numbing fear and apprehension, and the QLC is intimately intertwined with many of them. There have been a half dozen ‘stare down the fear’ moments in the last four years that have brought me to this place in time: giving up a job to save my dream, a conversation in the lobby of the Movenpick that would propel me to go for broke however unprepared I was at the time, fighting back ambivalence and apprehension to apply as the Head of THIMUN Qatar, agonizing over my changing relationship with OMUN, fear over what I needed (and still need) to learn to do this job well. Fear, fear and more fear. It was there at every turn, and at times, still is.
The point of this long-winded tale is this: none of this came naturally. I wasn’t born a leader. The only way I became one was to take calculated risks. And that meant identifying my fear, taking a deep breath, and forging ahead. If there is just one thing that I hope people take away from the QLC is that hanging out on the edge of your comfort zone is an immensely enriching experience. It can be downright exhilarating, as some of our QLC participants found out this month. But you can only get there by taking on the fear factor, and it is at that very thin line between comfort and fear that leadership is born.
I had a blast at #qlc14; it was one of the best weekends of my professional life! And I appreciate Mr Mills reminding me at the very beginning of this wonderful conference that yes, moving in the direction of my fear has indeed been one of the very best decisions I could have ever taken.
And now that I’ve shared my leadership story, I hope you will tell yours. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll share your story on the THIMUN Qatar blog. What inspired you at the QLC? What is your story?