Encouragement Roulette

When I walk into my Business classes, I always feel like I’m entering a model United Nations Convention.  All the leaders and players of major Berkeley student groups collide and conspire in Haas. That’s one of the things that makes UGBA such an interesting major – Haas tries to hone and chisel at the raw skills and abilities of natural born leaders and investment bankers; teaching is just the happy byproduct.  In this way, our experience at Haas is really a symbiotic relationship between our extra-curriculars and classes. Sometimes, what we learn in our classes seeps into our leadership, and sometimes it’s the other way around.

Last year, I was the manager of the Cal Band and I got to see that symbiotic relationship in action.  There are many things that I learned from my classes that came in handy in the field as a student leader: Accounting? Check. We have books to keep track of. Economics? Supply and demand, baby. Definitely useful when figuring out how many Cal Band track suits to order. Organizational Behavior? Heck yes. Working in any capacity involves daily motivating, empowering, and negotiating. Every day, I felt like I could take what I learned in class and directly apply it to my experience.

And the reverse functioned as well. The things I learned while leading, I brought into my classes at Haas. While there were a lot of practical things that I learned from being manager, the most important things are not easily translated into skills or knowledge.  The first thing I gained on the job was an incredible amount of respect for everyone around me. Especially in Haas, everyone is really involved deeply in a multitude of activities – it’s amazing to think how experienced and talented all my peers are. Daily, I get to be surrounded by so many people like that, and I have gained so much respect for everything they’ve done and are doing.

The other thing I learned was every day is a struggle for someone. Everyone is fighting their own battle.  In each one of your interactions, you can be either an ally or an adversary. Your choice. Some people call the ensuing behavior random acts of kindness; I call it encouragement roulette – it makes me feel like I’m living dangerously.  The idea is that you act kindly all the time to every person, with the hope that sometimes, kindness will land on someone who is riding the struggle bus, discouraged and disheartened. I really try to implement this in my life, to be overly generous, overly kind, and overly sympathetic.

So often, the world gives this impression that there is only room for one on the top and that each person has to compete to reach that point. However, from what I learned through experience and classes, it is much easier to get to the top if you can work with others, with respect and kindness. This may seem like common sense, and, truth be told, it should be! And yet, there are plenty of people who fall short and end up being enemies when they could have been allies. I feel all the more empowered by that – we get to be in touch with the people who will be leading in the world tomorrow, and we can start making the difference now.  That’s what I’ve learned in Haas and as a student leader; the important thing in day to day life is to be an ally to all those around you.Image

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