Chapter 30: Grant Lin

Chapter 30: Grant Lin

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Extraordinary Teens

Grant Lin

National Scholar and Student Leader

Quick Facts:

United States of America Presidential Scholar

National Merit Scholar

National AP Scholar

National Latin Exam Gold Medalist

Indianapolis Star Academic All-Star

Valedictorian of his high school

Received an International Baccalaureate Diploma

2007/2008 International President of the non-profit Key Club

Has led several academic teams as captain

Served as FIRST robotics visual team leader and webmaster

Achieved the speech and debate’s Degree of Distinction in the National Forensic League

Played the violin in the New World Youth Orchestras

World Taekwondo Federation certified 2nd Dan Black Belt

2006 Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Delegate

Facilitated various workshops and the Key Leader Program

President of Senate and Lieutenant Governor of 2007 Hoosier Boys State

Currently pursuing triple majors in Neuroscience, Mathematics, and Biochemistry at Indiana University

My family’s example has inspired me to achieve a lot in life. Watching my parents and my two older sisters doing great things—excelling at almost everything they did—has motivated me to follow in their footsteps and find my own path.

As the youngest of three children, it felt like I was always tagging along after my older siblings attempting to do what they were doing. Although slightly intimidated by the idea of being left in the shadows of my sisters, I was fortunate that they—along with my parents—always encouraged me. They always expected that I would do my best and succeed, and those expectations eventually developed into expectations I held for myself.

In addition to working hard in school, I was also blessed with a good memory that helped me maintain good grades. By the time I reached high school, my own expectations urged me to set high goals—probably higher than what others might think wise. One of the motivational tools I used to encourage myself along the way was a collection of wise sayings and inspirational quotes that I kept on my desk. There was one quotation that always pushed me to think bigger and face my fears: What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail? This one question really helped me focus on achieving rather than failing and, as a result, opened doors to unlimited possibilities.

In my freshman year of high school I decided to join Key Club, the oldest and largest high school service organization in the world. This club is a branch of the adult organization, Kiwanis. Key Club trains students to become capable, caring, and competent leaders while organizing and participating in various service events in the community and around the globe. One of my sisters was a high school senior at the time and she was already very involved and successful in the club. I almost didn’t go to my first meeting because I didn’t want to find myself in my sister’s shadow. I wanted to find my own way—my own path of success in life. But after thinking more about it, I realized I didn’t have to be pigeonholed by what my sister had done. In conquering that hump of resistance and doubt, I recognized that my own experience and achievements would be entirely different than hers.

With a lot of hard work I have been able to accomplish most of the goals I have set for myself, but of course, there have been times when I didn’t get the outcome I wanted. For example, in my sophomore year of high school, after being elected District Lieutenant Governor of Key Club, I set some really big goals for the division I represented and myself. There were a lot of things that I wanted to do to raise money for the club’s charitable projects. I’d heard stories of other lieutenant governors raising thousands of dollars in different service projects, so one goal I had set for myself involved having a big multiple-school soccer fundraiser. It was going to be an informal tournament with lots of games, gifts, and prizes. Just a couple of weeks before the scheduled date I realized things weren’t going very well and I was really far from where I needed to be able to accomplish my goal. For some reason, people were not responding or signing up to the extent I’d hoped.

The night before the tournament I realized that the event would at best break even. As you can imagine, I didn’t sleep well that night in fear of letting down myself and all of the others who served in Key Club within our district. It was a hard lesson and a heartbreaking time for me. I got really down on myself and needed others to pull me up.

In talking with my parents and an adult Key Club advisor after the event, I came to understand that even though I had failed to reach my initial goal, I had learned something valuable in the process—and that meant I didn’t “fail” at all. The tournament still brought together six teams for a fun afternoon, but more importantly, I had gained so much knowledge about how to put together an event and manage a large number of people that, even though this specific event did not succeed, I could use what I had learned to organize a better event.

Setting big goals is more about personal growth than personal accomplishments.

This realization became a metaphor for the way I live my life. I believe you’re better off aiming for big goals and missing the mark than settling for what is mediocre or “practical.” Even if you don’t completely achieve your original big goal, you’ve probably achieved some amount of it—and you’ve received an excellent education so that the next time you try, you dramatically increase your chances of success. One of my new favorite mottos became: Set big goals, not just for the sake of merely accomplishing the outcome, but because of who it will make of you as a person in the process of achieving it. Those have become the words I live by.

Still, doubt and failure are things that rear their ugly heads in everyone’s life, and I am no exception. There have been many times in my life when I have had to find ways to overcome both of them, especially when I have set very high goals for myself. As a rising junior in high school I had to face an exceptional amount of doubt. In this instance, my goal was to run for International Trustee of Key Club. During the preparation for my campaign I remember writing a few pages in my journal saying, “What happens if I don’t succeed? What happens if my plans don’t go through? I have planned my whole junior year around acquiring this office. If I don’t get it, what will I do?” My doubt was creeping in and my focus began to fade. When I should have been excited about the progress I was making, I was actually scared of losing everything I was working towards. I began putting more effort into planning an exit strategy in case I didn’t win than planning a winning strategy.

When I went to the convention where the election would take place, I became reenergized by the wisdom imparted by the conference speakers, as well as the tales of accomplishment by the other students there. That enthusiasm helped me to change my thinking and I decided to just break through my fears of losing and move forward with my plans to run for office. Once I took that first step, I had fully committed and there was no turning back.

Three days later, the votes were cast and I won the election. Taking that first step is always hard (it doesn’t matter who you are), but that initial commitment turns into one of many first steps which always lead to a new destination. I can honestly say that taking action is what has helped me to develop the habit to keep trying no matter what the outcome.

Sometimes, though, I find myself struggling to take that first step and begin working towards my next goal. One thing I can do is to remind myself of the things that motivated me, and try to attend a convention—Key Club or something similar. Every time I go, it’s like recharging my own batteries. Not only is the social networking with other motivated and optimistic people invaluable, but also the inspiration you can get will take you to new heights. Talking with other students and hearing what they have done and what they are doing encourages me to stay focused and dream big. Even if I’ve already heard what the speakers are saying, hearing it again creates new mental habits—ways to direct my thinking away from the negative—and reminds me to stay positive.

There is one specific example I heard from a Key Club conference speaker that I have never forgotten. It has helped me a great deal in achieving my goals. During his talk, the speaker talked about a toy wind-up kangaroo he kept in his office, and described how every time he wound up the kangaroo, it would pull off a few back flips before winding down. Then the speaker said, “If you wind the kangaroo only once, it will eventually wind down, but if you want to keep it going you have to continue to wind it up again and again. You, like this kangaroo, need to remain ‘all wound up.’”

In the past if I had heard the expression “all wound up,” I would have thought it meant being stressed out. But that speaker made me see that I needed to keep winding myself up in order to do what I wanted to do in life. If I wound down without keeping myself ready to spring at the opportunity of any given moment, I, too, would eventually stop and accomplish nothing.

Since that conference I attended in 2006, I have accomplished so many more of my goals. Some that I am most proud of are academic goals. I received a perfect score of 36 on my ACT, and have been recognized as a National Merit Scholar, a National AP Scholar, and a United States Presidential Scholar, and graduated as Valedictorian from my class of over 600 students. But one of my biggest achievements is becoming the International President of Key Club. In that position I have had the opportunity to travel all over the world to speak and serve others who are in need.

On one particular trip with Key Club, I was privileged to visit a village in Uganda with other Key Clubbers to help build a primary school with the $30,000 in funds we had raised two years previously for Building Tomorrow. Participating in that project, as well as many others, has made me appreciate my own life more, and made me want to reach out and give as much as I can to others.

I always continue to remind myself to keep a positive attitude because how we see the world is how it becomes in reality. I also try to keep things in perspective by understanding what can and can’t be controlled. I remind myself to work hard on what can be controlled and not let the things I can’t control bug me and drag me down. Easier said than done, or course, but over time I have become better and better at spending the majority of my time on solutions rather than dwelling on problems.

Another way that I can work on conquering the problem of doubt is by following the example of the Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant. When General Grant was named Lieutenant General of the Union, his fellow general, William Sherman, congratulated him and attributed his success to the “simple faith in success [Grant had] always manifested, which [Sherman could] liken to nothing else than the faith a Christian has in his Savior.” Keeping this saying in my mind is a huge contributor to believing that the choices I make and the direction I’m going will lead to success.

Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned, though, is that the time to make a change is now—what’s in the past is done, and what’s in the future depends on the present. With that in mind, it is so important for me to continue to live the lessons I’ve learned and continue to aim high as I go through college and beyond. Some of my big goals for the future from here are to continue to excel academically through college and graduate school, including taking advantage of different opportunities that present themselves, such as undergraduate research or study-abroad opportunities. In addition, I also plan on staying involved in different service leadership roles, something that I have already begun doing by continuing my service with organizations I was introduced to through Key Club, such as Building Tomorrow, the March of Dimes, and of course, the Kiwanis Family.

Life is like a giant book with a lot of chapters that are continuously being written. To open the book you have to get started and get involved in what is currently happening. Once you get started, it’s a matter of thinking about the next chapter while understanding that, page after page, you will create the overall story. In other words, it is the little things we do each day that make up our life and that add up and make the ultimate difference. In that next chapter there is always something new waiting for you to accomplish and experience. However, the narrative, the main character, and the overall plot are yours for the creating. Make it memorable.

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