Drive, Integrity, and Communication. Anyone can have these skills, but their unique combination and implementation in my life experiences is what make them unique to me. Here are my top three skills.
In middle school, my mom wanted me to pursue a sport of some sort to ensure that I was physically active. I was determined to avoid tennis at all costs, so my sights shifted to cross country running. There was no particular reason, other than to get my mom to stop nagging me about it. Even with this initial disinterest, I always came to practice on time and took care of business, even making some friends along the way. During races, the thought of stopping, or walking, never crossed my mind. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t give 100%. After my first season, I had no reason to continue the sport – I’d already met the simple qualification my mom had asked of me – but I chose to pursue it regardless. 5 years later, after continuing to participate in the sport, I still hated to run in my free time. I participated in the sport because I relished it. In my sophomore year of high school, that all changed after I got the simplest taste of success. From that point onward, my drive propelled me to run faster and learn everything about running. Between that sophomore year and college, I ran my first sub-5:00 mile, ran 2 sub-5:00 miles back-to-back, and gained the privilege of walking on to my collegiate cross country team.
Even in personal interests, the turnaround time between a desire and a result is quick, thanks to my drive. I’ve always been interested in photography, and once Instagram came around, the social validation of taking good pictures definitely spurred me on. Eventually, I wanted to step up from mobile photography. Here, my drive played a different role, as I told myself I wouldn’t take a single picture with my father’s Canon until I learnt everything about the fundamentals of photography and how to work the camera. Within a week, I had purchased a book called Fundamentals of Photography and devoured it; by the following week, I was taking pictures and building my Instagram feed. In a similar vein to photography, I recently built a PC! I had little knowledge of computer engineering, the parts of a PC, or even how operating systems work. This past summer, I spent time learning about personal computer components, researching the popular brands, and finally cultivating a PC parts list! Of course, I did have a planned budget, but just to go the extra mile, I researched Black Friday sales and when new products were to be sold so that I could buy my intended PC for the cheapest possible price, or even purchase higher-tier materials. With both these experiences, my parents’ jaws were on the floor, surprised by the drive (and penny-pinching) that I’d shown.
Integrity is an important quality for one to have, and I deeply believe that it’s a personal choice that has to be made day-in, day-out. The true test of integrity is what you do when no one is looking, when there’s no prize, when the only gratification from your actions comes from their righteousness. I’m capable of doing the right thing and having integrity because I have the capacity to objectively view my decisions, stepping back from a personal investment and using logic, not emotion, to come to a conclusion. I’m capable of knowing what I don’t know, and taking the steps to find out. Whether it’s to keep my word, finish a project, or mediate an argument, I can always be trusted. The root of this trustworthiness is integrity. In a recent engineering class, I participated in a group project. While there was no assignment of team leader, during the initial discussions, the other teammates accepted me as the natural leader because they recognized that I had the team’s best intent at heart. For example, during a heated discussion regarding the direction of our project, I had the capacity to argue the merits of my idea, rather than putting down another idea. I was humble enough to recognize when my idea was not within the scope of the class, honest enough to recognize the flaws in my system, and open enough to provide constructive criticism.
At this point in time, I can talk about all the actions I’ve taken that have proven my integrity. But at what point can my word be trusted about my own integrity? The true test of integrity is when others naturally believe you have it. When I have to miss my cross country practice because of school, my coach doesn’t always require an email or a text from me detailing the specific reason. He trusts that I’m doing it for the right reasons, and balancing my workload. My parents don’t need to ask me for my grades when we talk on the phone every night, they trust that I am taking the steps necessary to be successful. Similarly, they trust that I am applying to jobs I find necessary, and that I’m being honest with them when I talk about conflicts, events, or any other issues. My group members know that if I shoot down an idea, it is because I have sound reasoning, and not just because of any personal issues. If there is an issue with the group, or work needs to be done, my group members can trust me to go above and beyond to ensure the group’s success. Trustworthiness in an individual is representative of their integrity. Without my integrity, my drive would be ineffective and irrelevant to my parents, teachers, and group members.
When I was in high school, I taught chess classes to young students at my local temple and coached grade school kids in running and fitness. At this young age, being able to communicate and teach a game as complex as chess was an incredible experience. I learnt how to simplify a topic, explain its significance, and provide examples of its application. Coaching was an equally important exercise, as I was able to work on being a verbal mentor, and learn how to speak softly while being firm. I had found my own voice.
I used to be the kid who’s thought process ran at a million miles a minute, but I could never distinguish the noise from the substance. This resulted in rambling, an inability to articulate an idea, or just flat-out discussing an irrelevant topic or providing the wrong answer. I’d answer a question, just not the question asked! After participating in debate at Gonzaga Debate Institute and taking a public speaking class in college, I have improved my ability to speak clearly, create sound arguments, and have organizational flow in my speeches – performing these skills successfully in a time-intensive environment.
As a kid, my mother and I would always work on my creative writing assignments together, whether it be poetry or creative fiction. After hours upon hours of work, I would be able to recognize that “it wasn’t me.” After less than an hour of working by myself, I would write my own poems that my mother was proud of, and even wrote a creative fiction paper that placed second in my middle school writing competition! After years of writing technical lab reports or dense literature essays, I’ve honed the skill of writing papers limited by the rubric or class. Without limits, I want to pursue my old creative voice, and write introspectively to consider the lessons I’ve learnt and pass them on to others. Without integrity, this wouldn’t be a viable path for me, but I’m certainly glad it is. After embracing the culture of open creation, I look forward to developing my own voice once more.