Having personally had the privilege to meet, be inspired and influenced by so many amazing people, I can’t help but be thankful for all the incredible role models I’ve had in my life.
And while I initially used to think that any success I achieved was purely a result of my own talent, hard-work and determination, I realised more and more with time that the key stepping-stone was the great people in my life and how they in turn shaped me. After all, most of my learning has been through the people around me, which has proved a far more practical and experiential mode of learning than abstract ideas.
I for example often joke how if I had stayed in Rosmini College, I’d most likely be an imprisoned drug dealer by now. While probably a slight exaggeration, I was very near being expelled before I moved to Westlake Boys, and I still find it remarkable to see how much Westlake and the colleagues I developed there changed me.
Considering this, I felt the duty to start a series sharing what I’ve learned from some of my biggest personal role models to the rest of the world – so anyone else reading this can benefit from these incredible characters too!
The first is the inspiring Jade Leung, the woman they say never sleeps, and unsurprisingly so. With a list of phenomenal achievements ranging from the Prime Minister’s Award for Academic Excellence (i.e. top student in New Zealand) to having led NCEA Campus, Oxfam, the P3 Foundation and many other organisations, to a list of scholarships and public speaking engagements too long to list here, it’s no surprise that an aura of wonder glows around her wherever she goes.
While her achievements resonate loudly and clearly, what we don’t get to see is how she manages to do all of this. I’ve been lucky enough to witness this over the last two months though as part of an exciting new education venture a team of us have been working on, so I’ll share my reflections here.
First off were the superficial observations. Despite her busyness, no matter when I emailed or messaged her, at 10am, 3pm, 11pm, or at 3am, I always seemed to get an instant reply. I began to wonder when she slept, until I later found that she used to sleep about 3-4 hours a night! Only now after watching this TED talk on sleep has she started to “refresh” herself in the holidays with 6-7 hours, quite the contrast to my 8-9 hours haha.
Next up was her frightening work-rate. Creating a meeting agenda left me blown out of the water; by the time I had started typing, she had basically finished. But it extended to far more than agendas, where she seems to do any task at triple the speed anyone else can do it – examples include cranking out a full 5-page legal document on the bus ride home from a meeting, and regularly completing all her follow up actions just 2 hours after the meeting end.
And in terms of leadership, she managed to facilitate and lead a team far more effectively than what I had seen before, by combining respect and care for the team with speed and productivity, which led to seamless team discussions and surprisingly quick progress.
But these were all still superficial observations, none of which explained why she kept going in this remarkably extraordinary lifestyle. To me, what seemed incredibly unique was the rare combination of passion for equitable living and environmental sustainability with hard-work and perseverance.
I for example see many people with great discipline but a lack of true purpose – who work incredibly hard on things that stimulate them on an intellectual (or financial) level. And yet I also see many people passionate about a variety of worthy causes, yet lacking the discipline and the stamina to continue – I even noticed within myself a shift from being a well disciplined but uninspired med student to an inspired change maker who doesn’t get as much done. Jade however has proven that combining the two is possible despite being a difficult art, and stands as an example to us in blending both.
The big learning
This once again didn’t go deep enough though, and it was only when she explained it to me that it all made sense. She described very clearly her view of “doing good” as not only being a choice for us, but more of a global responsibility and privilege considering the connected world we live in, where every action we take has indirect interactions with the rest of the world. And she really does mean taking responsibility for all her actions, where she for example hasn’t bought a single item of clothing in the last 10 years! It became clear that it wasn’t simply a single trait which drove her, but rather complete integrity in her purpose – all her actions aligned constructively with her purpose. She also added her dream for more people to see work in the public and social sector more positively as a big motivator for her to keep going – something which she has definitely proven despite many (including myself) often being doubtful of the sector.
Jade, thank you for inspiring me and many others to take on this global responsibility for all our actions, to have integrity in our purpose, and to make full use of our abilities in improving the world. I hope to wholeheartedly live in a way that aligns with my purpose like you have shown, so I too can have such a positive impact on the world!