The Basics of Decency: PHL

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Philosophical thinking is easiest when we are alone, but is most challenging and rewarding when we have others who are willing to discuss it with us. (My pictured above is my dear friend, Morgan Thomas–someone who is ready and willing to have those deep talks with me at any time.)

To study philosophy is to study our own existence and our knowledge of it. It’s never exact, it’s never black and white, and it’s not something that can be studied through quantitative results or actions. As a social species, we have rules. They dictate how we behave and when certain behaviors are permissible. Our rules help us survive with some sort of order. These expectation can range anywhere from international law all the way down to how one might talk to their parents. Some rules are clear and other are more taboo or just unspoken while just as clearly understood. While we strive to have this order and mutual understanding of what is acceptable or not and how to fix things that go wrong, there is conflict.

Different populations can have different ideas of what to do or not to do based on knowledge, experience, or a combination of both. From entire nations down to a small family, there can be conflicting views on what is wrong, permissible, or obligatory. The Leadership Institute claims that we are becoming ethical leaders. In order to do so, a student in this program must study this idea of ethics and a great place to start is in PHL 118, Philosophy of Moral problems. In other words, this class revolved around the branch of philosophy that focuses on the argument of morality and ethics in communication, judgement, and values. Our class didn’t agree on the extent to which certain things were right or wrong which made for powerful conversations and challenging discussions.

Questioning what is right or wrong to an individual may be easy as they know their own morals and values. Once we consider what might be right or wrong to large numbers of people, it becomes ethics. One of the final papers that we wrote in PLH 118 was to be about something that was morally or ethically debatable and take a position on it. I chose to discuss when murder was permissible in the form of justifiable homicide. If this topic sounds interesting at all to you, this is the actual paper that I turned in- PHL118 justifiable homicide paper.

As leaders, it is important that we consider view points of all sorts. Being apart of this class and the talks that ensued proved to be a great place to become more aware of what may or may not be considered ethical. Doing the right thing isn’t always an easy path and to make matters more interesting, what one might have thought to be obligatory could turn out to be hardly permissible to others. These considerations and debates prepare our cohort to be those ethical leaders that the world seems to need.

To Be a Mentor?

I recall those that I have looked up to throughout my life. Many of whom were adults. However, the ones who helped me grow into particularly positive directions and realizations were those who could grow along with me.

If you’re a reader that is familiar with any of my previous posts, you are most likely aware of how dearly I hold both my past and current sensei. They held tittles of authority, yet surpassed their duties as teachers and became mentors and nearly family figures in my life. Their influences have spanned across areas of my involvements such academia, sports, hobbies, relationships, and jobs.

“Train your brain. Build your Body. Strengthen your spirit.”

Although I haven’t said those words together out loud since I was in elementary school, I never forgot this wisdom bestowed on me by my first sensei. For me to remember this, after all these years, has meant that I am not so easily lost in times of adversity. The weight of these words is immeasurable and I had someone in my life determined enough to make sure I remembered them.

As much as I can thank them for everything that they have done for me, I am also indebted to many people from my own generation and friend groups that I look to for guidance and positive examples.

I mostly feel young and inexperienced when it comes to simply living life. I’m a novice at this living-independently-thing at best. With that being said, I was extremely anxious about taking on what we at the CMU Leadership Institute call a “mentee” (or as I prefer to call them- padawan,  young cricket, apprentice, or protégé). This meant that, come summer 2016, I would be some poor soul’s mentor through the scholarship program that I am a part of here at school. Based on my nervous behavior, some may have thought I was about to bring another human into this world. I won’t go into detail on how I found who I wanted to mentor, but I will describe how impossibly perfect the match is becoming.

logan
photo credit to Dan Gaken

 

Logan James Palm is currently a freshman in the CMU Leader Advancement Scholar program. He is known for sharing funny videos, geeking-out over some definite geek-worthy things, spreading the joy of dank memes, being a fantastic performer, and loving/praising all things Disney. He will be known for making people laugh, ensuring other’s comfort (even at the cost of his own), and being a big name in the entertainment industry through working for Disney. I am blessed enough to be challenged as Logan’s mentor.

The weekend of September 10th , the Leadership Institute took the freshman and sophomore classes, or, more notably, the mentee and mentor pairs on a overnight retreat to Eagle Village.  We spent merely a day and a half on this little trip and those few hours are already proving to have had an endless impact on our relationships. We filled our time there with constant communication and exciting activity. Sometimes we were physically challenged to points requiring intense trust. Other activities pushed us to come up with creative alternatives to help each other complete puzzling tasks. I could go on and on about the specifics, but I would much rather recommend that you watch a video that was created from moments captured over the weekend.
A talented young lady in my cohort, and an amazing roommate of mine, Riley Bussell, created a heart warming compilation of us students being cute. You can check it out here!

Logan and I already had so many things in common. It wasn’t until the retreat that we birthdaylogandiscussed our differences and found out more ways to be there for each other. School has been going for almost three weeks and Logan and I have already proclaimed our sibling-like bond to the entire world. Or at least on various social media accounts. I cannot stress enough how important this young man is to me.

I have been putting an immense amount of pressure on myself to be someone perfect for Logan to look up to. I want to be able to answer all of his question. I want to help him through all his problems. I want to always make sure he’s having a better experience in this program than even myself. Despite all this, I have to remind myself that we are in the same boat. I only have one year more of college experience than he does. I have to remind myself that I can only do my best and hope for the best as a result. This is when I think back to all of the peers that I have looked up to over the years. They weren’t perfect either. They were just what I needed at a point in time to help me grow. I have to remind myself that what Logan needs from me is that same help to grow in positive directions and realizations. I want to be the perfect mentor for Logan, but that doesn’t mean I have to be the one to give him all the advice and all the help he needs. I have to remind myself, that just like me, Logan will have an endless supply of inspiration and support from everyone in the leadership program.

So on that note, I’d like to thank a few people. Angie (my mentor), thanks for always being  someone I can fall back on. I know I don’t usually admit when I need help but I think you can always tell and easily step in to help before I reach another level of crazy. Roommates, thanks for always making me laugh and reminding me of who and what is most important in my life. My cohort, thanks for all your unsuspecting wisdom that you casually drop on me at any given time of day. Keep up the good work, please. Thank you to my parents for raising me in a way that enables me to be so resilient. And finally, I’d like to thank Logan for being so open and honest with me. I see that you trust me, I see that you are willing to lean on me, and that shows me that I am doing at least enough right to allow you to feel comfortable with me. I feel like I’ve magically acquired a younger brother that I didn’t know I needed in my life until you arrived.  We have so far to go but with a start so strong, I can’t wait to see what the future may bring. I am determined to make you remember how great you are every day.

 

Situational Leadership: Applied Theory

I am a student in LAS. That may give me something in common with a few hundred students on campus right now, but not every leader is acting in the same interest (especially on one campus). Leadership is often looked at as a singular trait or feature in a person.

Oh he was just born a leader.”

“That’s what makes a good leader.”

“You have to step up and be the leader.”

Leadership takes on many faces and forms. It is flexible and fluid just as any day in this world. It is ever changing. Leadership can be both commanding and supportive in the same day and depend primarily on the situation. Situational Leadership Theory focuses on the adaptation of various leadership skills to effectively handle a specific situation. This theory works under the assumptions that the leader has the ability to read a situation and adapt their skills for the best, and that they will do so if they can.

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I was shocked when I was asked to dress as Jimmy MacElroy from Blades of Glory to entertain my cohort. 

Being in LAS has provided me with many opportunities for personal growth. The one thing that challenges me the most is being put into leadership positions that I have not yet experienced. Considering this is my first year away from home, things were already pretty uncomfortable to begin with. If I weren’t in LAS there would have been far too much free time on my hands. We do so many amazing things together as a cohort (required or not). If it weren’t for LAS, I could have spent far too much time letting my leadership skills wither and rust as I watched Netflix for hours.

I gain important experience through leading in very different situations. Without change and flux, a stationary leader doesn’t improve. Daily life changes and our futures are never set in stone so it is extremely important to have the ability to adapt. We can’t rely on just the depth of our leadership skills, there must be breadth as well to offer us wisdom in leadership situations to come.

The First Climb: Fresh, New View

Perhaps there is a reason that people refer to college as a higher education. I think of  all that I’ve learned from going away to school. When I reflect on this first year at Central Michigan University, I can only compare my education to the amazing new perspectives that I get when reaching the top of a mountain hike. The journey is equal parts challenging and rewarding.

From the beginning, I was never alone. There was someone right there with me the whole time to guide careful steps and to warn me of danger. Whether it was the person’s job to do so or it was just their desire to help me, someone was there from day one. With each day came learning opportunities. There were so many lessons handed to me that sometimes it got hard to remember them all or keep track of when they were useful. However, some of the biggest lessons were the ones that I had to learn on my own. No matter how much anyone tried to help me, experience was the teacher that trumped all in the ability to teach resounding lessons.

Along the way, I met incredible people. There were some from so far away, that I was amazed they made the journey just to get here. I loved to hear their past experiences and to be inspired by their plans for the future. When I am not certain where I can go next, it has always been handy to get ideas from other’s successes. It is easy to see why people come so far. Their amazing attitudes simply recycle and improve the welcoming and positive environment that already exists.

When things got tough, there were several options. But for some reason, I always wanted to handle challenges on my own. I have always found it hard to ask for help with personal struggles. I never wanted people to see me fall but I loved to show off what I could accomplish. Sometimes, it just wasn’t possible to make it to a point to show off without letting someone see me fall. Fortunately, the person who sees me fall was always able to help me up. Then, when I move on, we are both able to celebrate a point to show off.

In the end, it is humbling, breathtaking, and empowering to see how far myself and others have come. This is certainly a fresh, new view on the world around me.

I wrote out a quick reflection that roughly summed up how I was feeling after my first climbing trip:
Each time I reach the top,

every twisted ankle,

pain in my knee,

ache in my achilles,

breathless water break,

dizzy pause,

and drop of sweat

that had accumulated along the way

just dissipates

and blows away

like the clouds

as I watch them hit the peeks of the mountains.

 

on the mountain
Twin Sisters peak in Estes Park, CO.

Looking back on what I wrote now, I have a very similar feeling. My first year of college was hard. It wasn’t always easy to see the point in everything. Once I was able to collect myself, my thoughts, and my purpose, I could watch my worries dissipate and blow away like the clouds as they hit the peaks of  mountains.

If you are from CMU and you are reading this,
I would like to thank you. Thank you for every opportunity so far, every challenge I have faced, and all the help I didn’t really deserve but you gave me anyway. Life would have been a very different journey for me so far if I didn’t go to Central and if I didn’t receive the Leader Advancement Scholarship.

Retreating From the Front Lines to the Back Woods

Preparing for finals is the best time to reflect on the things that helped you through the semester so far. Think about what made you feel uncomfortable and what you did to feel at home again. For me, many struggles appear outside of the realm of classes. I would occasionally feel down about my involvement and not finding a club that I felt I belonged in. This often came with the reminder that having a job really gets in the way of being able to learn more about and spend time with those in my cohort.

angie and I
My mentor, Angie (wearing maroon), and I (wearing gold), getting ready to climb high ropes.

For this, I try to look back on the mentor and mentee retreat that the Leader Advancement Scholars of first and second year students went on. Each incoming freshmen gets and mentor (from the sophomore class) and sometimes a mentor gets two mentees. We go on a retreat in the beginning of the fall that brings together mentor and mentee as well as the two classes as a whole.

Unfortunately, my mentor couldn’t be there until late night on the first day. My friend, Derek, and his mentor, Garrett, made sure that I was able to work with them for group activities. Although another group could have done this, they were considerate enough to be the first to offer to take me into their group. I had my first sense of belonging since coming to school with all of LAS. I was fortunate that I didn’t need someone assigned to me to make me feel more comfortable. I love my mentor so much, but since she couldn’t be there, I felt so lucky to have friends already. retreat2

After some intense mind games and even some physically challenging games, we had time to relax. And by relax, I mean play basketball, volleyball, gagaball, and go for a walk. During this time, I talked with some mentors and mentees that I hadn’t gotten much of a chance to before. Somehow, by the magic of the retreat, we even turned into what student’s here like to call a “cuddle puddle”. The appreciation I feel for those sort of moments don’t come immediately.

mentors
“cuddle puddle”

Some time later is when realize the importance of these simple moments.

When night fell, over 90 LAS students gathered around a large fire. Despite my nerves for fitting in and being understood, I found myself comfortable. Around the fire, I could make out individual faces that were warmly lit by orange colors in the dark, cold, blue night air. Student began telling stories. No matter who it was, every other person at the fire listened intently. It was as if everything that came out of a person’s mouth fueled our gradually kindled spirits.

Out of all the social situations I have been in, I had never seen anything like it. After sharing a fun story, or something that we were thankful for about LAS members, we were encouraged to find specific people who have impacted us so far. Once we find each person, we thanked them for something that they have done for us. In my case, I thanked people for the things they had done with me. For me, shared experiences become more than just memories. These times become sources of growth and mutual understanding between hearts and minds. This is important in true connections which gave me all the more reason to be thankful and tell friends.

That night, everyone moved their beds out of their bunks and into the common room of the cabin. Small beds covered the floor where everyone slept in the warmth and comfort of old and new found friendships.

retreat
My mentor and I with my roommates and their mentors.

Fred Factor Reflection

Fred is a real person but also a concept that has changed thousands of people for the better. Mark Sanborn was inspired by a mailman to write a book about becoming your best self. The idea is that this mailman, named Fred, went above and beyond his duties as an employee and as a decent human being. He had  a way with making people feel better and valuable. You can watch this video that really captures what the book and the following movement are all about. As a part of our leadership class, we were to find creative ways to become a “Fred” and show the effects that we had. My team decided to spread positive vibes on campus and over social media. We handed out flowers to strangers with a note attached that read,

Step One: take a picture with or of your flower and post it on social media with #sharetheloveCMU

Step Two: pass the flower on to someone else who would appreciate it so that they can do the same”

After we recorded several brave flower exchanges and dissected the reasons why it helped us attain our goal, we put together this presentation that summed it all up quite nicely. If you would also like to see the wonderful people receiving the flowers, you can click here and admire the awkward building of connections that we made.

The project and the presentation may be over, but learning such valuable lessons and getting myself to go out there and do something definitely leaves a lasting impression. I will continue to hold myself and my group-mates accountable for being the best version of ourselves we can be.

LDR 100

LDR100This is the first step I take as a student minoring in Leadership. It also happens to be a very important step toward bettering my leadership
lifestyle. LDR 100 is a pretty simple class. It’s straight forward, it’s fun, and it offers guidance. And although the class also offers many challenges, it is not a  point of stress. The class not only teaches valuable leadership lessons but many management strategies for being a successful college student. Other students who don’t have the opportunity to take a class such as this won’t learn the ins and outs quickly (or some–not at all). By whichever path lead me to this point, I consider myself lucky.

As I continue on a path from LDR 100, I hope to take what I have learned to heart and apply it to my job, my classes, and my relationships. I may be a COM major, but I have yet to take a communication class that has taught me more about relationships–professional or personal. I look forward to the days that I really bring out the skills I have acquired so far. However, I am not perfectly well-rounded; I still have some rough edges. Up next is LDR 200. I usually wouldn’t be nervous about any leadership class but, then again, I usually know the majority of the people in the class. Next semester I will be taking the class with students I’ve never met before. This may sound normal for most college classes but it is certainly not common for students in the Leader Advancement Scholar program to take a leadership class without their cohort (especially this early into school). Wish me luck!

Leadership Safari: College Students in their Unnatural Habitat

Here at Central Michigan University, something occurs that challenges the natural conformity of the species I call my own. We, animals, are called college students. A special event was formulated to dissect, analyze, and contemplate what behavior is versus what should be considered “normal” for my kind. This week-long event enables us to step outside of what we’ve known for so long. It goes against all the tendencies that most on-campus students follow blindly. It’s a scary, loud, no-sleep-because-you-have-to-keep-dancing kind of trial; it is Leadership Safari.safari

As far as Leadership related events go, I considered myself a veteran. I thought I had seen it all after going to 5 training events each year (on average) throughout my high school career. Going into Leadership Safari, I expected all the same exercises with the only differences being the places and the
faces. So color me maroon and gold and call me an average teenager because, well, I was wrong. Safari was, admittedly, challenging to myself and other so-called veterans.  Some of the activities were very close to what I had done before, but even so, it was on a completely new level. The large-scale of Safari changed even the last day of safarimost basic of games. I absolutely loved all of my past experience however, that fateful week felt most relevant to reaching for a future that I am really digging. I developed family strong bonds with people I considered strangers just a few days before. I made connections to people who can help and guide me for the next four years, and maybe even for a lifetime. I discovered that, with each day, there will be new and exciting challenges that will propel me toward my goals. I realized that I am making an impact today and not just in the wonderland that is called tomorrow. But most of all, I found my place in this world is wherever I can be at my best. A song I dearly enjoy says, “They all say that home’s where the heart is and I’d know ’cause I’ve tried my hardest just to see if I left it behind but it was with me the whole time” (Alive In Standby). Because of the many feels and my constant, unstoppable, desire to connect with more leadership opportunities, I am going to apply to become a Safari guide during my time here at CMU.

There is an atmosphere here that is completely unique to our campus. I never walk to a class or to work without waving hello to several encouraging individuals. Central constantly attracts and provides you with people who you can always lean on when you need them. This environment is the healthiest habitat for my species. I am proud to say that I went to Leadership Safari because it is what helps to create this beautiful ecosystem I call home. 

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