Two suitcases, and two bags for general purposes - the 19 year-old Armenian student from Czech Republic was already full of regret for including every moveable thing he had in his flat in the one-month-in-the-american-south survival kit.
On the second thought, he was travelling to a country that is one of the leading economies worldwide and is home to millions of enterprising people that work hard every day to make their boldest, most innovative and creative ideas to come to life.
Did he need the umbrella, tons of clothes and a good half of the medical supply of the local drugstore he carried all the way from Prague? Later on, he would find out the european umbrellas were too weak to survive (what Americans call) a typical rain, the pills were useless as there was no time to get ill during 730.484 consecutive hours of being inspired!
One thing was sure though - the new dark violet notebook with crispy pages he hesitantly took during the traditional last-minute packing was to be used to its fullest.
Welcome to the US, sir - said the customs officer, guiding to the exit with a hand. That was it. A new adventure was ahead of me - an exciting emotional rollercoaster named Global Leadership Program - ingeniously constructed by thoughtful course supervisors - comprising inspirational ideas, people and the lean startup method to design the ultimate social enterprise to solve the world's most complex problems. Talk about being busy.
First week was the toughest for my notebook - the blue tsunami out of ink left an impressive imprint out of key takeaways from assigned readings, classes, workshops, networking events, teambuildings in forest or elsewhere and even a scavenger hunt.
/A very bubbly 4th of July/
/Getting prepared for action!/
Leadership exCHANGE planned a retreat in the woods for us - 10 students between ages 18 and 25 from all over the world - namely Armenia, Australia, Czech Republic, India, Mexico and USA - 2 guys and 8 ladies (who runs the world?). While battling against the laws of physics good 10 meters above the ground at the ropes, the first major takeaway came to me there. Even securely protected from gravity by a steel cable, I was afraid of jumping from one platform to another.
/GLPers against gravity/
After helpful staff members informed me that there was no way back and I had to cope with the situation and complete the path, I, sweaty and tired of hanging up in the air as living example of why it is a bad idea to skip physical education classes at school, jumped. I did not fall. With each jump, I started gaining confidence and, ultimately, returned to the ground safe and sound (thanks Preet for being the best climbing partner ever - we’ll do the Everest next time).
There were two lessons learnt back then:
1. Don't listen to fear. It lies every time.
2. You'll never know you are able to do something until you try.
Those two were by far not the only takeaways from the program. Here’s a small list of top takeaways from the program.
3. Learn the rules so that you can break them properly.
In the world of disruptive innovation, do not forget to stand on the shoulders of the giants before trying to challenge the status quo. Chances are high - there were a bunch of brainy people working on your problem before - use their knowledge before thinking of the next big thing.
4. An abyss of wasted time, energy and relationships lies between perfection and excellence. Choose the right side.
5. Self-reflection. Self-reflection. Self-reflection.
Treat your personal brand with the lean startup method. Collect feedback, take it into consideration, improve.
6. Entrepreneurship is not a hobby, it is not an occupation. It is a lifestyle.
For real, entrepreneurial-minded people who are lucky enough to find their passion happen to find weekends boring and are looking forward to Mondays each and every week!
7. For some people, it's better to be the shark in a small pond, than a tiny fish in an enormous ocean.
Words of wisdom by an intrapreneur from Stealz (hi, Jody!) that made me think over my promising white-collar future in the corporate world, causing a 180 degrees change towards entrepreneurship!
8. Ask questions. Shadow people. They love to talk about themselves.
Also, do not underestimate the power of networking - one of my favourite experiences in Raleigh!
9. Everything is an opportunity.
It is all about being resourceful - make use of the things and people around you!
10. Burritos aren't Mexican. Caesar salad is.
All those takeaways would not be possible without hard work of all the people involved in Leadership exCHANGE. 30 days of the program were positively stressful. For there are two kinds of stress. A toxic "i can't" and "i don't belong". Then there is "wow, i don't know how to handle this yet". Leadership exCHANGE makes use of the latter in a simple formula in bringing up the next generation of the world's leaders - 1. Handpick the brightest and most proactive minds from all over the Earth. 2. Gather them together in a totally different environment. 3. Put them to a stress and help them self-reflect, learn and grow. 4. Repeat.
/Self-reflection night at the HQ/
I was lucky enough to be involved in this immersive, transformative experience.
There was so much in the world I did not know I did not know about before Leadership exCHANGE. Not anymore. All in all, life is a sequence of before and after moments. Being a part of Global Leadership Program was definitely a major checkpoint in it.