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People with Problems are also People with Solutions

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People with Problems are also People with Solutions

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by Nikki Wang

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In June 2015, I attended the Leadership & Innovation Program in Beijing and Guangzhou, and underwent a transformative learning journey with teaching follows from Harvard and Stanford University. Thinking back to that experience, what still resonates with me is this quote, “People with problems are people with solutions”, which gave me boost I needed to find my future path.

My Dilemma

At the start of summer, I was a senior university student facing graduation, severely anxious about my future. I didn’t know whether I should take a gap year to prepare for a graduate program in the U.S., or enter the working world. It seemed all my friends already had a clear future plan, but I was afraid of both paths: what if I failed to get into a graduate program? What if I fail to get a job? I was suffering and needed some answers. I thought perhaps the Asia Leadership Institute Program might be able to give me a solution.

By the end of the program, I got my solution and so much more, but not in the way I had expected it. Adam Malaty-Uhr from the Harvard Graduate School of Education inspired me with a special teaching practice in his class. During the first two sessions, he removed the teacher’s authority and created a vacuum in the classroom, as a way of compelling us to exercise leadership. We were confused by in his words, “behaved like ourselves”. On the third day, he explained himself, using a series of questions to help us analyze our actions and even dig deep inside to find out the values that drove us to act. At that moment, I understood what he said at the beginning of his class, “I will not give you the exact answer to your problem, but I will help you to find it on your own.” I started to believe that maybe somewhere in my heart, I do know what I should do. I just haven’t realized it yet.

A Difficult, but Unforgettable Conversation

My journey to self-awareness was realized through an unforgettable conversation with Faton Limani from the Harvard Kennedy School. We sat down for one of the most difficult hours of my life, but also one of the most rewarding.

I explained my dilemma and asked him if he had any suggestions. He asked me, “What do you want to do for your career?”

“Finance, because my major and the payment; or education, for the happiness when I could help others to develop themselves.” I answered quite quickly.

“Why do you want to help others to develop themselves?”

“Because I want to see people become an independent thinker who can control their life.”

Then he asked a question I have never thought it before,

“Why does having others control their own life so important to you?”

I paused for about 30 seconds and realized I couldn’t find the answer. I started to feel nervous but I continued diligently. I reached into situations and examples from my experiences and observations of society, trying to be as honest and open as possible – although my answers were not so clear. The questions continued and became more and more difficult. Every single one of them forced me to think deeply, to explain something I used to take for granted, but surprisingly during this process, those answers made me understand myself better and better.

Finally his question came to this, “What would you do if you got everything you wanted?”

“I want to make world peace; solve the poverty problem, women’s right issues, and climate change.” I couldn’t believe that I actually said these things out loud. I saw a brave and ambitious girl who cares a lot about society and the world’s needs.

Then Faton smiled at me and asked, “Are you still confused now?

Silence.

“But, world peace is too big, it seems so far away from me.” I continued.

“Has the world ever had complete peace since the day it was created?”

“No,” I replied,

“But does that means you don’t need to work on that?”

“No,” I was beginning to understand.

He continued, “If you start on something that could be accomplished even after you died, but it was something you started, something that made a difference – would you be proud?”

“Yes, I would.”

“So if you leave the world with that little legacy you left, would you be proud?”

“Of course I would.”

I couldn’t hold back my tears as I realized the connection between every single step I take now and what really mattered to me in my whole life. It’s not even the particular work that you do that only matters – rather it is the manner in which you do something and the purpose that it achieves.

Listening to Our Hearts

After all this, I chose to be a paralegal, and applied for U.S. graduate school. I stopped being afraid of the uncertainties of life because I now understood my biggest dreams, and I accepted the sacrifice that it entailed. At the Leadership & Innovation Program, the solution to my problem wasn’t handed to me on a silver platter; instead I was the tools to find it on my own. I still do not know the answers to all of Faton’s questions, but I know that one day I will find them. Sometimes, those who are confused may actually already know the answers. We just need to find a way to listen to our heart.

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