14 Apr

Brigham Young was once asked which of all his leadership positions was his favorite, and he said that it was serving as a unit leader in Zion’s Camp, reporting on the welfare of his 10-12 men daily to the prophet Joseph Smith. It seems so simple, and it seems like a weird choice given his many incredible leadership opportunities, but Brigham would probably never have been able to describe what it meant to him to serve with those men and to be uplifted by the company of Zion.

On some smaller scale, I can relate to Brigham Young. I have had some outstanding opportunities in my life to be involved with truly great activities, but I will never be able to describe what it meant to me to serve with this group and to be uplifted by the company of Zion. It will be weird to not be surrounded by this fine Communications team every day. Our GroupMe conversation will die down. The quote book will gather dust in a memory box somewhere (which is actually probably best for everyone). The most important things I will remember from this year, however, are the many changes that these people & experiences have wrought in me. Especially concerning personal capability, I have started to see the BYUSA vision come to fruition in my life, and I am more excited than ever to carry it forward out of BYUSA and to spread the love and the elements of Zion that I have been blessed with. I will speak briefly about specific competencies within personal capability, and then I want to focus on what happens next.

Professional and Technical Expertise
I never would have seen myself ever knowing anything about advertising. Ever. Through training ACs, and through training the new advertising ED, I’ve realized that through continued exposure and focus, I have actually gotten to a very comfortable place when it comes to advertising policies, procedures, and resources at BYU.

Solves Problems and Analyzes Issues
I’ve been thinking a lot about how long it took for us to truly become a team. Our “storming” period was especially long, and I am actually really grateful for that now. It was a frustrating experience learning to get work with so many different personalities and responsibilities, but now I feel pretty confidently that I could face almost any atmosphere. I feel an indescribable love for this team and the people we served. That is the greatest example I can think of for learning to solve problems and analyze issues. Of course there were other smaller and more detailed experiences, mostly pertaining to advertising, but this competency immediately sparked a flood of experiences that all relate to our team.

Two heads are better than one. That is my new motto for innovation. I worked with Sarah, Brandon, and Tamara, as well as used feedback from the presidency & coordinators to develop an improved advertising program for 2012-2013. The progress we made together was beyond anything I could have ever done on my own, and I was so proud of the team effort. It was a struggle for me to be innovative because so much of my program was rooted in consistency and policy, but the challenge was fresh and very real to keep things interesting and progressing.

Practices Self Development
I got very low feedback in this area on my first 360, but in March the results were much higher, and I am proud of that. I can now take criticism much better. I more readily recognize that others want to help me, not hurt me. It’s made me less defensive to be around so much love. Practicing self-development is actually a really interesting concept because you have to find a balance between being humble and being proactive, and between placing the burden of critique on others and being able to recognize the personal need for change. In October, I definitely thought that practicing self-development meant asking for feedback and applying it. Now I realize that it actually means being self-aware and making constant adjustments to your leadership, making true progress, and being mature about feedback that others give. On that note, I just realized that there isn’t a single competency that is dependent on other people. This is alllllll me. It is about my choice to serve and my ability to make a difference, which can be inhibited by my stubbornness, pride, or negative attitude. Blaming others is how you sink.

What Now?
The nature of leadership is progress. I recently attended a fireside where Sheri Dew spoke about progress and the power to become. She said one thing that especially impressed me. “Our spirits are divinely programmed to want to progress. If you ever want to be depressed, stop progressing.” Most of the competencies I spoke about had to do with progress. That is significant. Olivia once said to me, “BYUSA isn’t the point of BYUSA.” She meant that we aren’t really only here to make an impact in a student service association. We aren’t just here to plan parties or print pretty pictures. The most important influence that BYUSA can have is what you take from it and what you do with the skills you learn. No one is meant to be there forever. You’re supposed to move on and up. Now that I know how to lead a meeting, train a new recruit, hold others accountable for responsibilities, follow up on assignments, love someone who just needs a smile, give and take constructive criticism, and especially how to direct others to the Lord through my leadership, I can apply those skills in future endeavors. That is the real point of BYUSA. That is what it means to me to “go forth to serve.”

Really though, how do you sum up a year that has changed you? How do you begin to acknowledge the infinite differences between who you were and who you are becoming? No word document or blog post could ever hold or express everything that I have learned this year. Tamara, Brandon, Olivia, Mallory, and Sarah were five of the greatest blessings I have ever had. I learned so much from each individual. Seriously. I laughed every single day. I was challenged and stretched and pushed and grew because of them. I had to look closely, but I found Zion. 3400 was consistently the best part of my day, and I looked forward to seeing these people – some of my best friends – and serving alongside them. Although it certainly wasn’t always that way, that is definitely how it will stick in my memory. Like Brigham Young, I know that this will always be one of my favorite leadership positions, even though I’m sure that there are many other opportunities that will come.

I have been thinking about writing this final reflection since August. It has taken on much more significance now that the experience is over. We have been talking about the end for months now, but this is really it. I will always swear by my previous statement that applying for ED was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my entire life. I am positive that it will continue to shape me and be a catalyst for future opportunities. It will continue to bless my life in quiet, sometimes invisible ways that will always be precious and very, very dear to my heart, just like each of you.



14 Apr

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

-Rudyard Kipling

leading in the home

9 Apr

Please describe how you feel you can apply the leadership lessons discussed during this session as a leader in your family.
One thing that Vice President Scharman said really impacted me with regard to my future family. She said to not focus on leaving your mark, but to figure out what the Lord is doing. I love that she said “doing” and not “trying to do.” I will apply these leadership lessons by carrying out the Lord’s will and not trying to further my own agenda or playing to my pride, as well as setting priorities and sticking to them. Lately a lot of speakers in Church and General Conference have emphasized that in order to find any kind of success, family must come first, followed by the Church, and then all else will fall into place.

Recognizing that you will meet and likely marry someone who will come from a somewhat different background and family than your own, please identify what you will do as a leader in your home to insure that you have a unified and succesful family.
I have a “parenthood binder” where I stick talks and scriptures and insights about how to be a good mother and wife. I am obviously nowhere closer to that stage in life right now than I was when I woke up this morning, but I can still do my best to be prepared. The future of my family is not set in stone. We do not have to fail just because most of the families I am surrounded by have succumbed to the temptations of the world and allowed their trials to sabotage their marriages. I can choose success, and I can choose it today. That is my standard. I want to marry someone who is worthy to take me to the temple. Just because someone comes from a different background does not mean I should settle for a lower standard, and to seek out equal caliber is the challenge of Zion.
Having a unified and successful family, in my opinion, will be contingent upon our acceptance of a “new family”. Obviously we will both have backgrounds and ideas and traditions that will shape our approach, but just because my parents raised me to always have Christmas with just our family doesn’t mean that we can’t visit the in-laws for brunch. Just because I grew up doing whatever I wanted on Sunday afternoons doesn’t mean that my husband and I can’t set new traditions and new standards for what will be necessary and best for OUR family.

leading with love

20 Mar

I just realized that I forgot to publish this…I am taking WordPress down with me.

Describe three different ways that you have made your love for students you lead visible through work you have done.
1. A few months ago a few of us in Comms took the 5 Love Languages survey. That inspired me to be more aware of how other people receive and appreciate love. I have tried to pay attention to my ACs to recognize what is most important to them. Keeping the needs of others in mind in every interaction has helped me to see people on a more loving plane.
2. The awesome thing about my position is that every single thing I do is for someone else. It is a pure service rendered to others – there is no personal gain whatsoever in filling out EAFs and making plans for someone else’s event advertising. I’ve learned so much through being involved in such a selfless process and being driven by the needs of others. By extension, my ACs are having that same experience of being purely selfless. By playing a supportive role and helping them recognize their meaningful contributions, I hope that they have understood my love for them.
3. Mackenzie recently wrote me a letter of recommendation and said this:

“Karen also had the skill of genuinely making me feel welcome and needed. She conducted weekly stewardship meetings with me in which her primary concern was how I was doing not only with my responsibilities within BYU/SA, but also with my life outside of it. She would also make it a point to tell me frequently how much she and the coordinators at BYU/SA appreciated me and my efforts. That, to me and the other volunteers, was much appreciated and incredibly important. Karen would also organize meetings for the advertising consultants and those of other BYU/SA departments that we worked with to try and find ways to better the system. She would keep a notebook of all of our suggestions and she would implement them immediately if situations permitted. It made me and the other volunteers truly feel as if we had a voice within a community and that we were contributing to making it even more efficient.”

This was the most meaningful thing to me because that was the only thing I truly wanted to accomplish this year. I wanted to help others feel important. I still have a lot to learn about how to do that, but this is one example of how I attempted to communicate the love I had for the organization, the University, the gospel, and for my volunteers.

Dean Heperi talked about the importance of truly loving those you work with enough to help them improve. Please describe a time when you have had to help someone by having a difficult conversation about their need for improvement. Please identify what things you said that helped you in this experience.
Filling out 360s right now has made me reflect on instances throughout the year like this. I think someone has needed to have one of these difficult conversations with me on at least a weekly basis. The conversations I’ve needed to have with others have been pretty minimal. I’ve been blessed with volunteers who were pretty self-aware. However, my capacity for having these difficult conversations was pretty much nonexistent at the beginning of the year. In order for me to have the first one, I was forced in the first place. Sooooo. In one particular conversation, I had to hold someone accountable and learned that honesty is always the best policy. Being honest with someone, followed by an increase of love and highlighting successes and triumphs keeps everything in perspective and allows for everyone to continue progressing.

the path i had feared to see

6 Mar

I said, “Let me walk in the fields.
He said, “No; walk in the town.”
I said, “There are no flowers there.
He said, “No flowers but a crown.”

I said, “But the skies are black,
There is nothing but noise and din.”
And He wept as He sent me back;
“There is more,” He said. “There is sin.”

I said, “But the air is thick,
And fogs are veiling the sun.”
He answered, “Yet souls are sick,
And souls in the dark undone.”

I said, “I shall miss the light,
And friends will miss me, they say.”
He answered, “Choose tonight
If I am to miss you, or they.”

I pleaded for time to be given.
He said, “Is it hard to decide?
It will not seem hard in Heaven
To have followed the steps of your Guide.”

I cast one look at the fields,
Then set my face to the town.
He said, “My child, do you yield?
Will you leave the flowers for a crown?”

Then into His hand went mine;
And into my heart came He;
And I walked in a light divine,
The path I had feared to see.

-George MacDonald

keep the chain unbroken

20 Feb

When I think of the wonders that have come to pass in my lifetime–more than during all the rest of human history together–I stand in reverence and gratitude. It is all so miraculous and wonderful. When I was born, the life expectancy of a man in the United States was 50 years. Today it is more than 75. To think that 25 years have been added to the life of an average man in North America and western Europe is miraculous. And with all of this there has been the restoration of the pure gospel of Jesus Christ. You and I are a part of the miracle and wonder of this great cause and kingdom that is sweeping over the earth blessing the lives of people wherever it reaches.”

“…In that sacred and hallowed house there passed through my mind a sense of the tremendous obligation that was mine to pass on all that I had received as an inheritance from my forebears to the generations who have now come after me.”

“As I sat in the celestial room of the temple pondering these things, I said to myself, ‘Never permit yourself to become a weak link in the chain of your generations.’ It is so important that we pass on without a blemish our inheritance of body and brain and, if you please, faith and virtue untarnished to the generations who will come after us.”

“Stay close to the Church. Stay close all of your lives. It really does not matter where you serve, what office you fill. There is no small or unimportant duty in this Church and in the kingdom of God.”

“It is not the calling we have, it is not the office in which we serve, but rather the manner in which we serve.”

“Brothers and sisters, as President Clark said: ‘In the service of the Lord, it is not where you serve but how.’ Is there gladness in our hearts and joy in our lives as we reach out to bless others?”

“God bless you, my dear friends. Be faithful. Be true. Be loyal to the great cause of which you are a part. Never become a weak link in the chain of your family’s generations. Do whatever you are asked to do, and do it with a glad heart. Do not worry about office or position in the Church. Simply do whatever your calling requires, and do it with joy and gladness.”

-Gordon B. Hinckley, “Keep the Chain Unbroken” Nov. 30, 1999, BYU Devotional

leadership in the church

18 Feb

1. President Samuelson warned of the dangers of waiting to serve until you are less busy. Describe how you will make yourself available to serve, even in the midst of a ever-increasing schedule and responsibilities.
This semester has been the perfect practice for this. Between 3 jobs, 13 credits of demanding classes, my ward calling, BYUSA, and other commitments, I feel like I have been given the opportunity to define where in my life I prioritize service. I can still look for the minor opportunities, because those just as important, if not more important, than the more obvious ones, like volunteering at an event or being active in BYUSA. I can drive someone to the store. I can make a schedule for someone. I can walk with someone to class and just listen if they need to talk. There are opportunities EVERYWHERE! It reminds me of the analogy of the jar filled with rocks. It will look full even if it just has rocks in it, but then you can also add sand. Then it will look very full. And then you can still add water. Work, school, church, and BYUSA are my rocks, but the little moments of selflessness, inspired by the quiet whisperings of the Spirit, are the sand. They are found within the rocks as well, but I would bet money that there are a lot more grains of sand in that jar than there are rocks.
I don’t know what the water is yet…but it’s important too.

2. In sharing his experience in speaking at a funeral, President Samuelson encouraged those in attendance to have the courage to say what needs to be said, when it needs to be said. Describe a time when you have had to stand alone in your role as a leader. Please include how you will respond to future opportunities to stand alone as a leader.
Last night, there was an honor code issue in our apartment, and I was the only one who was really aware of it. I had to ask my roommate about it and we had a very short, very awkward conversation. It ended with a simple request to follow the honor code better. The entire situation was actually extremely uncomfortable, because her boyfriend happened to walk in while I was talking to her. Eesh. However, after he left, she came into my room and thanked me for encouraging her to be better about it, because she had known she was slipping lately. I offered her a cinnamon bear and all was well.
That was a first-hand experience that taught me that it only takes one person to stand up. People are willing to follow, but not unless someone is willing to be the leader. I think that is what a lot of my training this year has gone towards – I have become significantly more confident in my abilities as a leader.
At Adventure Experience, in the letter my dad wrote me, he talked about taking advantage of opportunities. He then said, “That’s what leaders do, and you have always been a leader.” I didn’t really understand that, because I had never really felt like a leader before. I am coming to understand, however, that leadership is a much broader concept than I ever imagined. Taking risks in order to do what is right is a principle of leadership that takes a whole lot of courage, but it has never failed me yet.

3. President Samuelson shared an important lesson he learned about making assignments in his role as an Elders Quorum President. Please identify what you believe made the difference in the outcome he described going from having to complete the assignment himself to having others take accountability. How will you apply this concept to leadership roles you have in the future?
Accountability was a completely new thing to me this year, and I’ve had to learn it the hard way. I have definitely come to understand that people are invested as you give them opportunities to be. If I do everything for my ACs, there is no reason for them to be here. But if I show that I trust them, support them, and love them, they are much more invested in their work. I think I did that better with certain ACs, and not as well with others. I wish I had taken more time to express my love for them and to give them opportunities to shine instead of assuming that nothing would get done unless I did it myself. In return, I have learned how to be invested in the success of others – I find joy in seeing other people reach their goals and accomplish great things! In the future, I look forward to rejoicing in triumphs instead of waiting for failures. It’s just a better way to live.