In 2009, many people were laid off and lost their homes. The market was upside down and desperation was through the roof. I was a new graduate with my master’s degree with new hopes and dreams. I didn’t know until I experienced the chaos myself that jobs had evaporated overnight. Recruiters didn’t want to talk on the phone. I think many recruiters lost their jobs too.

To sustain my family, I worked as a convenience store clerk for a year before I found a relevant, albeit temporary job. I had to survive. I learned some important lessons from this experience. One mistake can often make it hard to adapt to situations. It might be either because we are ill informed, or because we fear taking risks; however, it might also be because we do not dare to dream big enough.

Nowadays, I try my best to listen, but information can be overwhelming. Some people argue going to school is worthless. Others say it is the optimal path to success. The only way to stay on top of this is to be aware, step up, work and take responsibility. Like many, I agree the wave for leadership economy is here. Based on observation, I think leadership is the best way to prepare for the worst case scenario. It is the demand of this economy and there is no other way for us except to embrace and adapt to the change especially as students.

The technological revolution

In the age of the Internet, knowledge is free (or almost free). The only competitive advantage is the amount of time and effort one puts into learning, as well as the ability to utilize existing information and leverage it with imagination to create something new. Many experts agree the gap between tech and non-tech people is rapidly closing. We are moving toward a new economy driven by micro-entrepreneurship. Each activist in this movement is motivated with a mission in heart. This economy will be about one’s personal core responsibilities and objectives.

Machines will take over repetitive tasks. According to a 2013 study by Oxford University, intelligent machines will replace 50 percent of the jobs available today in the next 20 years. For example, the study predicts intelligent machines will replace 98 percent of bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks. A work-study clerk job at UTSA’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering has already been partially replaced with an app on an iPad.

The best way to stay ahead in this game is to be involved in student organizations with an entrepreneurial objective, take responsibility, be creative and lead the movement.

School As An Advantage

Many students view school as an avenue to stable jobs and lifestyles. Some of us are the first in our families to be pursuing higher education, but we should embrace one truth: going to school won’t make us successful. Instead, it prepares us for our future journey to success.

Regardless of what some people may think or say, I believe there is a great advantage to being in school. We have advisors and mentors to guide us; opportunities to learn with minimum or no loss, to start or lead student organizations with a purpose; an environment for collective learning. Here we can start to make a change we truly believe in. However, school is a gymnasium. We must go beyond the routine of  simply attending classes, (somehow) submitting homework assignments and passing tests.

World leaders for real world problems

The world is volatile. Human beings, are dynamic. We change. We get bored quickly. We move to different places, desire and acquire new things and cast aside the familiar. We change and grow old while new babies are born every minute of the hour. There is a corresponding effect from our collective behavior, toward the economy. Regardless, most of us hope the economy will be stable. We want to rely on that economy, but if we look at some of the most successful individuals, they were unmoved during the great recession. In fact, many organizations were launched or thrived during the recession. Some even made a fortune because of it (i.e. Lyft).

Throughout the past year there has been a rise number of millionaires in the world. There are more billionaires now more than ever. We can learn from economic history along with the present to shape the future. We must be able to utilize the tangible and intangible assets and be creative to craft ideas around any given situation. With so many newly established platforms, we have opportunities to be leaders, to leverage the democracy of education and to lead the democracy of human progress.

A Leader’s Mindset

I used to think entrepreneurship was about business. For many people, the word business bores them (including myself). But why is the word entrepreneurship so exciting while business is boring? Shouldn’t they have the same meaning?

Not necessarily.

Entrepreneurship is not limited to buying, selling and making profit. Rather it is about creativity, devotion, integrity, adventure and unending exploration. It is an exciting journey of sacrifice and success.

It’s leadership.

I have had the opportunity to lead a student organization on two different occasions. I believe I worked hard and tried to serve the best way I could. However, I conducted them at different times and with mindsets. At first, I worked to help people with existing protocols, took the authority and burned my energy. In the latter case, I knew I couldn’t do everything by myself, so I delegated tasks. Acting and appreciating my team members was the most important thing. I also came to understand how important it was to listen to others’ ideas and opinions. The main responsibilities of a leader are to motivate with patience and perseverance.

Leadership is a new challenge. Although leadership is not a new concept, it will soon become the new normal. Modern times demand more leaders like never before. I believe we must prepare not just for an economy similar to what we saw in the past, but for any economy.

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