Being the Glue: Sticking to the Mission
Shana Lam shares her journey with the National Young Leaders Fellowship 2022
If I could be any stationery item, I would be glue. I’m commonly described as such, within the batch of NYLF 2022 Fellows. I love to bring people together, and I love hugs. I like to see the best in people, and the best in ideas. I connect them – and see how everyone can work together for a cause.
Of course, finding my place in the stationery box didn’t come easy. To me, the National Young Leaders Fellowship (NYLF) was not merely an event, but a journey of discovering myself and the world around me. It presented so many opportunities to learn and serve, led me to my community of 29 like-minded Fellows and connections, and exposed my worldview of knowledge and perspectives. All these parts of my NYLF experience were like several pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Looking back, I realised that there were 3 main components that helped me see the final picture.
Understanding and accepting myself
A huge part of my journey was learning to embrace myself. While planning community engagements with my Fellows, I became more aware of how my values, passion and working style influence how I lead. I realised that I tend to shy away from the spotlight and focus on back-end communication. While this seems contradictory to the worldview of a leader, I learned through Induction that one can also lead from the backseat. I learned that leadership is also about filling a gap with the skills and passion that one has, not just commanding the attention of the room.
These lessons were reinforced during my time managing a community engagement with 2 organisations in January 2022. Rather than being the delegator, I served as the bridge between the organisations and the Fellows, and discovered that I enjoyed reaching out and coordinating event details with the organisations.
Forging connections between people and ideas was also a key part of my NYLF experience. The NYLF Fellows are my family – each one unique, driven, and united by a common passion to make change in the world. Despite my introversion, their energy fueled mine, and I found that it was easy to connect with everyone, seeing them as friends and not colleagues.
It’s easy to forget that everyone is equally human and here to learn just as you are, and merely focus on their achievements. Ultimately, I went in with a mindset of getting to know people for themselves, which allowed me to form deep, interpersonal connections with each of the Fellows. Some of us even hang out outside of fellowship engagements! We were also able to meet many industry professionals and mentors, who gave advice through Lunch with Leader sessions and various Fireside Chats. I adopted a mindset of curiosity, and asked questions about anything and everything because they gave me a whole new perspective on life as adults and professionals.
It’s intimidating to talk to people with so much more experience than you. But over time, I realised that they were there to help me learn and grow, and that they were as passionate as us Fellows. I was even able to connect with a few of these speakers through Instagram DMs after their session, who were more than happy to send me advice and encouragement!
Sticking to my mission
Aside from the knowledge gathered from the people I met, my NYLF experience also taught me to stick to my mission. NYLF presented me with the resources and inspiration to start my very own passion project with a like-minded Fellow, which focuses on mitigating the stigma surrounding mental health concerns in youths aged 11-18.
When starting a passion project, the hardest part is maintaining sustainability and committing to it, especially when one is faced with the mentality that ‘nothing’s in it for you’. Dedicating time to the project amid my other commitments and even during exam season was not easy, as was finding the motivation to meet and plan for the project during the holidays. One consistent piece of advice from mentors and professionals has been to remember the ‘WHY’ of the project. Who am I doing this for? What keeps me going? For me, the answer is clear: the youths I am impacting.
It takes time to see the fruits of your labour. I volunteered for close to 6 months before gaining the trust of the youths, and being able to truly understand them. It’s hard, but if you keep at it and remind yourself of the ‘WHY’, sticking to your mission gets easier with time. Personally, I found that it was essential to surround myself with people and ideas that provided inspiration and encouragement on my journey. My core team had several bonding sessions to get to know each other better, and would cover for one another when one person faced burnout. The Fellows also played a huge role in supporting me, through sharing their personal experiences, hyping up our Instagram posts, or just checking in on me when I felt emotionally drained. The frequent NYLF engagements helped to spur me on, as we were provided with much advice and ideas on how to further our project, which always made me excited for the future!
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All in all, my NYLF journey was filled with many diverse experiences, people and ideas. It wouldn’t have been possible for me to find my passion, community and place without the people I met, just like how a glue stick is useless if it has nothing to bond. I believe that with the right perspective of open-mindedness, love and curiosity, everyone’s leadership journey will be as unique and fruitful as mine. I encourage everyone to keep at it, and never lose sight of why you started!
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Shana was a part of the National Young Leaders Fellowship 2022, a leadership programme that recognises and develops outstanding youths, and provides them with the resources to broaden their perspectives and hone their leadership skills. Find out more about the National Young Leaders Fellowship here.