When Different Perspectives Come Together To Advance Our Understanding Of The World & Inspire Change

Inspiration, it seems, is quite an indescribable feeling. How do we find inspiration in things? How do we inspire others? Have you ever had an experience or opportunity to feel inspired?

Nine years ago from today, I had that chance.

I presented to an audience of over 150 individuals what would go on to be one of my most proudest accomplishments in life.

“The Definition of SPOP” (if you want to skip right to it, scroll down to the end)

This is a story of how that accomplishment came to life and my personal experience with inspiration.

What is SPOP?

Here at the University of California Irvine, there is a program called SPOP (Student Parent Orientation Program). Each year, incoming freshman are required to go through this program in order to register for classes, get accustomed to the campus, and meet new & current UCI students. The goal of this program is to help give the incoming freshman a comfortable and easy transition into UCI.

A staff of over 140 current UCI students volunteer for this program to facilitate this 2-day 1-night orientation. There are 10 orientations that happen during the summer.

From the beginning…

Initially, when I first applied to the program as a first time staffer, I had absolutely no expectations of any special kind of “life-changing-experiences” and what-not other enthusiastic staffers and prospective staffer applicants were constantly mentioning and even raving about.

I just thought it was a program meant to train staffers to orient incoming freshman to our campus and acclimate to new academic life.

That was it.

I applied mostly on that idea alone and the fact that participating in SPOP would look good as a volunteer/extracurricular activity on my resume.

I was also highly unaware of how competitive it was to be accepted into the program. In the end, this might have been a good thing.

Training

There was something about SPOP and its community that compelled me to challenge myself in ways I never thought I would.

As I progressed through training, days turned into weeks. Weeks into months. And before I knew it, the end was near.

Without going into too much detail, I can say this unique experience became a kind of journey towards self-discovery. Throughout the duration of this process, I uncovered a great deal about myself and others.

But most importantly, I found clarity. A clear sense of purpose of what I live for and what brings me fulfillment.

I realized that I love to help others.

I apparently had been doing all it along, but with no clear reason as to why I chose to do so. It simply was and still is a part of who I am. SPOP helped me realize this.

Here’s the interesting thing though—I wasn’t the only one. There were so many others who felt the same but couldn’t put their feelings into words.

From the outside looking in, you’ll never be able to understand it, and from the inside looking out, you’ll never be able to explain it.

These words could have never held so true.

The thing is, I didn’t want SPOP to be something that couldn’t be understood. I didn’t want it to be something that couldn’t be explained.

I wanted to share it. Let people discover it. Learn about it.

And so Project TDS (The Definition of Spop) was born…

This undertaking was completely self-conceived and 100% voluntary. I think I recall proposing this idea to the coordinators and insisting that they allow me to do it.

Of course I already knew that there was no doubt they would let me. This is SPOP after all. Considering all the shenanigans that is SPOP, going around interviewing people with a camera is nothing.

I had a new mission.

The goal, however, was never to seek recognition, praise or personal fame.

I did it out of a genuine desire to give back to a community that helped shape me into becoming the person I am today. And I did it with a belief that what I would ultimately contribute would leave lasting value.

Three months & nearly 10 SPOPs later…

Everything about SPOP, what it stands for and all the good it has done for myself and others—this was something I could not leave unrepresented.

  • SPOP—as a staffer training program—taught everyone how not just to be a leader, but a great leader.
  • SPOP—as a personal development program—brought out the best of everyone’s personalities. It instilled confidence and constantly challenged us to reach our highest potentials.
  • SPOP—as a community of diverse individuals—provided a unique environment to learn about other people’s backgrounds. To meet individuals we’d otherwise never think to talk to. A safe place with open people.
  • SPOP—as the orientation itself—inspired so many incoming freshmen to be excited for not only university life, but to also want to be SPOP Staff Leaders themselves.

YOU GUYS ARE ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!! | I loved spop! |You made me love UCI | The talent show was the best part of SPOP! | you guys are awesome :DD | I loved how personal the staffers were | I LOVED MY SPOP STAFF | Thank you all soooo much | I’m SO excited for the fall | I want to apply to be a staffer myself in the future! | …they inspired me to want to be a staff leader! | Thank you! P.S. I think I want to be a staffer too! | SPOP staff made the experience totally worthwhile | I want to become a staffer too! | I want to be a staffer myself | …definitely want to become a SPOP staffer | YOU INSPIRED ME IN SO MANY WAYS | …inspired me to get involved… | …now I feel inspired… | You guys inspire me to join the program | I wished it didn’t end. | I wish I was still there. | …wish that it lasted longer. | You guys are what UCI is all about. —Incoming freshman who attended SPOP (Student Parent Orientation Program)

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What purpose do we live for if it’s not to become a better version of ourselves each day and to improve the lives of others?

SPOP was a defining experience in my life. I would not be who I am today if it wasn’t for SPOP. It allowed me to help others in ways that I never thought I could. And it also gave me the opportunity to discover, learn, and grow with a diverse group of individuals coming from all walks of life—people that I would never think to encounter. I knew that after everything I gained from this experience, I promised I would not leave without giving back.

“The Definition of SPOP”, a short 15 minute documentary style video that I set out on my own accord to make, chronicles the personal insights and opinions of various staffers on their take of what defines “SPOP”.

Stringing together words from one person to another with careful video editing, the goal was to create a cohesive message that embodies what SPOP is all about—a movement to help others, increase confidence in one’s own ability to succeed, instill positive outlooks and most importantly to inspire change.

I presented this video near the end of the program, to all 140 staffers, including the program directors and coordinators.

For the entire duration, the whole room was quiet.

By the time the end credits stopped rolling, I was met with the biggest applause I had ever received. Some people with tears in their eyes. Others with smiles. There was certainly this undeniable sense of happiness, unity and love that had filled the room. All because of this video. Surprisingly, I realized I had created something that represented the very essence of what everyone felt—the intangible feeling of inspiration.

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