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How Optimism and Hard Work Lead to Success

Meena Krishnakumar's story is a lesson in resilience, hard work, and always believing in yourself—no matter what others tell you. Her optimism and determination carried her through tough times.

When she was struggling as a student, she also lost a close friend. After high school, she entered a program for students with special needs and said her teachers told her that "college is too hard for you." So instead, she entered the workforce, serving in cafeterias, cleaning tables, and sweeping floors.

She then obtained work through an employment agency for people with special needs called Project SEARCH®. She landed an internship at a hospital's Health Information and Management department scanning documents, mailing forms to patients, and sorting through medical records. 

Her work ethic didn't go unnoticed and she began a new role in the Emergency department, helping in customer service, cleaning rooms for patients, and organizing supplies. She was only one of five interns to have perfect attendance.  

From there, she accepted a job as a patient account representative. She brought her positive attitude and work ethic with her, earning a quick promotion as a refunds specialist. But she still wanted to further her education, despite those who told her she couldn't do it. 

"Never give up on your dreams. You always have to be positive. Then, you need to work hard and you’ll achieve your goals."

Develop Key Skills and Stay Smiling

Meena proved the naysayers wrong by achieving a 4.0 GPA at Arapahoe Community College. When she describes the steps she took to achieve this milestone, it's clear that putting your mind to something and being exacting in the details can get you anywhere. 

"I take meticulous notes. I always write down important facts. I also do practice tests before exams and I always start assignments early to have time to work on them. Accuracy is important."

She also notes that communication played a large part in her success. "The skills that I needed to achieve this were communication and attention to detail. I was struggling with some of the lessons and then I emailed my instructor for a step-by-step. That really helped a lot. For attention to detail, I check my work and take my time before I submit something." 

Though there were some people who didn't believe in her, Meena did have a strong support group. "My parents supported me, helped me, and gave me great advice. They told me to never give up, work hard, and always be happy no matter what happens. Just put a smile on your face." 

Some of the most successful leaders have faced incredible obstacles. The things they have in common are that they pull through, put positivity into practice, and never lose sight of their overall goals. Overcoming adversity is about redirecting tough circumstances, and in Meena's case, the harsh words.

She also gives the NSLS credit for keeping the pace. "The NSLS has helped me so much and my mentor has given me great advice. This is a wonderful program and I encourage new students to join. I joined last year and I have learned so much about leadership. It takes patience and hard work."

Meena's Advice for Future Leaders

Meena wants to leave future leaders with a bigger takeaway than just communication skills, hard work, and accuracy. 

"Be motivated and be bold. Never let fear get in your way. Just do it and you can achieve your dreams. I also learned to be happy for others and their success. Have fun and make friends along the way." 

Next, she plans on taking her positive outlook to Regis University to study computer programming and earn a master's degree in computer science. More importantly, she wants to use the skills she's developed to make a bigger impact on the world through servant leadership

"Leadership is about helping others and motivating them. I want to help others with special needs and I want them to be successful. I want to help them come out of their shell and to be brave and confident."

And we think she's the perfect leader for the task. 

There’s another leader who had to battle the naysayers and fight for his dreams. Have you checked out the NSLS Leadership Library? Read our official selection of A Promised Land by former President Barack Obama.