Have you ever felt like you never realized how much you were capable of, because, simple as it may seem, no one told you along the way? Despite the fact that I went to a magnet school, I never strived to be a leader in high school or to discover the unique imprint I could leave on the world, mostly because I just didn't realize that I could be on the same level as the high achievers.
And yet, somehow we assume the US is going to retain a leadership position in the world over the decades to come, even though we really don't spend much effort at all on leadership training.
Sure, we have lots of leadership problems. The top of every class get special awards, plaques, and wind up on lists, but how many of those students are actually getting the leadership tools they need to impact cities, states, countries, even the whole world?
What's worse, how many are being told they can?
What passes for student leadership these days is often pretty lame. Lead a club that had been on campus for generations. Get elected to the student council and run a new program. This will put you in the top 10% of your school in terms of leadership, but that's a pretty low bar, since we all know most students don't try too hard to be leaders.
The difference between that and being one of the top 30 under 30 years of age in your profession is huge, and most people don't know how to teach or motivate for that. In fact, I'm not sure they even try, because much of that level of achievement involves reaching across institutions and changing the way things are done, something most schools aren't even good at themselves.
Imagine, for a moment, what the top 30 people in your profession under 30 years of age are probably doing. Or the 25 under 25. Maybe your industry actually has that list . Maybe you need to create it. Identifying standout performances could help motivate yourself and others by identifying just how high the bar really is.
Many people don't strive for leadership because they don't want the pressure and responsibility that leadership comes with. What they fail to realize is that it's actually much easier to be a leader than being the low person on the totem pole. Leadership brings with it the flexibiliity to do more on your own terms, and the support of others who follow you who can help lighten the load because they believe in your vision.
So if you're a college student or in your 20's, think about what you need to do to be recognized as one of the top people in your field at such a young age--part of a 30 under 30. If you don't know what that would entail, go ask anyone and everyone that you know who is involved in the industry what it would take.
Publish the answers, strive the the goal, make an impact, because who really wants to ride in the back seat for this lifetime?