Project L.E.A.D. presents a soundtrack to success

Music and leadership have more in common than you might think, and March’s Project L.E.A.D session made that clear with the theme of “Music & Motivation.”

Project L.E.A.D. is a monthly series of professional development sessions led by Jack Nesmith, coordinator of student activities for the Center of Student Involvement. Each month there is a different “catchy, fun and engaging” topic about leadership that allows students to engage in a conversation. The program is low-commitment, allowing students to drop in and out each month depending on if the topic interests them, because Nesmith understands that Ramapo’s student leaders are busy.

Last Thursday, Nesmith discussed how students can use music to keep themselves motivated. Throughout his presentation, he connected leadership advice to songs from popular artists – including some of his favorites, such as Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar – to make it more fun and accessible.

“When you hear one leadership presentation, you kind of hear it all,” Nesmith said. “They tell some of the general things about self-confidence and making the right decision. I wanted to do that in a way that will catch people’s attention, particularly college students, and what’s one thing that college students all jam out to? Music.”


Motivating With Music


Nesmith first focused on leadership styles. He said that many students often are unaware of what their leadership style is, but figuring it out is as important as finding the perfect song or artist.

He also emphasized that students may need to shuffle their leadership, just like they do with their playlists, because every organization or group will require them to act in a different position or role.

Nesmith suggested that students use musical playlists to suit their moods and needs and to stay motivated, especially during tough times when circumstances seem bleak. He shared his own examples of how playlists helped him when he was a student.

“I had my sad days where I’m like ‘I need something to pick me up, or I need something to vibe with my sadness,’” he said. “I had a playlist that if I was working on a scholarship application or applying for a job or a position, it was kind of cool because it gave me some good vibes.”


Tips To Stay Motivated


Nesmith shared a variety of helpful tips, many of which come from his own toolbox, to maintain motivation and improve leadership. He suggested students make a vision board before each semester to highlight and outline their goals because visualizing and reminding oneself of goals is the best way to stay motivated.

Another suggestion is to reflect on milestones and positive achievements as a way to remind oneself of how far they’ve come and give a helpful confidence boost. Optimistic thinking is also vital when new opportunities arise, whether it be an internship, a leadership position or a scholarship.

“You want to make sure you believe the best about yourself and talk about why we’re working to be successful, so you’re talking back [to] that self-doubt,” he said. “I try to get a lot of people to change their mentalities [to] ‘Let’s talk about what can happen.’”

However, remembering mistakes and being honest with oneself to learn from them is equally as important.

“I am always very direct with my students when I supervise them in terms of, I can tell when they know that something sucks and I go ‘Okay, but what are you gonna do to address it?’” he said. “Because if you worry about ‘This thing sucks,’ that’s just your energy being wasted.”  

Nesmith summed the presentation up by encouraging students to focus on doing what works for them, setting realistic goals, letting go of past mistakes and planning ahead to maximize success.

“Don’t let skipped tracks take away from your next big hit,” he said.

Featured photo by Rebecca Gathercole