How the people around me shaped my past, present and future self
One of the things that I enjoyed most as a child was playing video games, and one of my favourite genres was Role Playing Games (RPGs), especially those along the lines of a fantasy adventure.
I really liked the journey, as the character I controlled met different people along the way. Because of his encounters with comrades, new friends, villains and other quirky characters, the protagonist grows stronger and more mature as a hero.
I’ve always believed that, in this journey called life, we are bound to encounter people along the way who help us grow as individuals. You could say we are the protagonist – or the hero – of our own journeys.
Some of these people will travel with us at significant points of our journey, while others may just be passers-by. Sometimes, we even encounter people who become challenges along the way.
Nevertheless, we can always learn something from the different people who cross our paths. Here are some of the things I’ve learnt from my journey with the people around me.
Lean on your family or close friends for support
One of my strongest pillars of support, since I was young, has been my parents. My father was a great man and I learnt tenacity and determination from him. My mother is a loving parent who sacrificed a lot before and after my father passed away.
Ever since my father died of a heart attack when I was 14 years old, my mother had to start working after being out of the workforce for well over 16 years. One of the greatest things she has done for me was to support me in all key decisions I’ve made in life and to trust me enough to allow me to see them through.
When I wanted to apply for a psychology course in college, extended family members discouraged me. My mother, however, told me that the decision was mine and that I shouldn’t be concerned about the opinions of others.
I think that the trust and support she gave me were key factors in my growth as a teenager. Most of all, I knew that she loved me and that I would always have someone to come home to when the challenges in the world overwhelmed me.
I am very fortunate to have such loving and supportive parents. I have met friends who may not have had the same privilege, and grew up without parents or sometimes even with abusive ones. I believe that though our families play a big role in our lives, we are not prisoners of our upbringings.
We have the power to choose and change how we live our lives. Even then, it is so important for us to have a few people who can become our pillars of support. I no longer live with my mother and, although I know that I will always have her support and love, I also have a few friends with whom I could share my ups and downs.
It is especially great when you can share your journey with people that have similar values and vision so that you can all support and encourage each other.
Daniel nurturing the next generation of leaders with the Leaderonomics team through DIODE Camps. Photo courtesy of Daniel Lee.
Ignore the naysayers
There is a difference between people who give their opinions because they care for you and those who discourage you simply because they have a habit of sharing pessimistic views. I’m not advising you to discount any-and-all opinions that differ from your own; but it is beneficial for us to be able to differentiate between people who are concerned about our well-being, and those who are not.
When I decided to resign from my full-time position to be a motivational speaker and pursue sports as a paralympic athlete, there were people who commented that, at the age of 26, I was too old to be pursuing sports.
Others said it’s probably not the wisest thing to do in the current economy. However, I was so determined in my convictions that I ignored all of them and am now six months into my paralympic journey. It’s still not easy but I have the support of my family and friends instead.
Naysayers have a habit of discouraging you for the sake of sharing an opinion or to appear “right”. When we spend less energy trying to please everyone, we are able to focus on achieving our goals.
Find a good mentor that will challenge you
When I was younger, I was never put into any leadership roles in school because of my disability. I could still remember that I expressed my interest in being a school prefect and the teacher told me that, although I had the right temperament for it, I was simply not a suitable candidate.
No other reasons were given to me and probably because of that disappointment, I never tried applying for any other leadership roles while in school.
My first leadership role came when I went to college. I was in the Christian Fellowship and the president at the time saw a potential in me and decided to assign me to lead a weekly discussion group. Her name is Wen Lin and she was one of my first mentors in life, someone to whom I owe most of my initial growth as a leader.
I remember telling her that I wasn’t good enough and that I needed more time before I could be confident enough to take the role. She assured me that I had the potential to grow but also pushed me to take on the challenge.
Daniel Lee and Wen Lin (bottom left) during a Christian Fellowship event. Photo courtesy of Daniel Lee
She would later become a great friend and a person who would challenge me in my views, convictions and motivations whenever I needed the advice of a good friend.
It wasn’t easy at times because I would often have a view that was coming from a lack of experience or insight, and she had to challenge me so that I could grow as a person and a decision-maker.
I could not be more grateful for her role in my early years of college that have laid the foundations to my leadership journey today. I still talk about the impact of her mentoring to the people around me to this day.
Since then I’ve had many mentors in life who have nurtured me along the way. I really appreciate those from my time working in the Leaderonomics Youth Team as well as my personal life mentors who have been there for me.
Help others in their journey along the way
I believe that there must come a point where we should start thinking beyond ourselves and begin thinking about our legacy even while we are in the midst of our journey. Just as how Wen Lin, the mentor I mentioned earlier, nurtured me early in my leadership journey, I have aspired to be a mentor to others and help young leaders in their own journeys.
Which reminds me again of the fantasy RPG games. The hero is not just someone who grows only in his or her own sphere while ignoring others.
A hero is someone who will recognise his or her own potential to impact others and proceed to make a difference along the way even while the person is growing and progressing in his or her own journey.
Are you currently working on your own journey as a leader? Whatever your goals and aspirations may be, know that you are not alone and, just as much as you can grow with the help of others, you too can help others in their growth.
Daniel is a former Leaderonomer who is currently embarking on a journey to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games in the sport of wheelchair racing. A small contribution goes a long way. Go to bit.ly/helpDaniel to help him realise his dream for the games in Tokyo 2020. To get in touch Daniel, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org