Although I’m absolutely thrilled to be joining the Phi Delta Theta staff in a few short weeks, I’m currently in limbo. Like many recent college graduates, I’m back at my childhood home, sitting in an old bedroom that both looks and feels different from when I left it four years ago. However, my stay here is brief; I’ve got adventuring to do.
In the time between my graduation from Iowa State and the beginning of my career as a Leadership Consultant, I’ll be going on a whirlwind of a trip. I will have traveled through multiple states, taken a camping trip garnished with days boating on a pristine lake, attended a three-day music festival and visited three of the largest cities the country. All the while, I’ll be fortunate enough to laugh and reminisce with the people whom I cherish most, spending time telling stories and hypothesizing about what the future may hold for us. It’s the perfect way to use these transitional days, both fitting and rewarding.
Even though I’m not in the “real world” yet, I’ve already done quite a bit of reflection on my college days – the people I’ve met, the places I’ve gone, the experiences I’ve shared, the roles I’ve filled, and the growth that I’ve undergone. As I embark on my post-grad road trip and prepare for life on the road with Phi Delta Theta, I can’t help but think of some of the most important things I learned while in college and how they have led me to my current journey. They are lessons that I plan on taking with me everywhere I go; lessons that I hope each undergraduate Phi Delt learns.
Value Your Values
The Cardinal Principles: Friendship, Sound Learning, and Rectitude. As men of Phi Delta Theta, these are the values that we have sworn to hold true. As a fraternity man, a college student, and a gentleman, I hope that you adhere to far more: acceptance, honesty, duty, integrity, loyalty, modesty, valor, etc., etc. To be honest, I’m far less concerned with which values you deem most important, but more so on how you choose to live through them.
In the words of John Stewart, “If you don’t stick to your values when they’re being tested, they’re not values, they’re hobbies.” Make your values known to others and internalize them. When faced with a difficult decision, it is always worth the extra second to examine how your decision-making has aligned with what you deem most important. You’ll thank yourself for it in the long run, I promise.
Try New Things
Your world is only as big as you allow it to be. Fortunately for college students, you find yourselves in a position of limitless potential. While on your college campus, pursue things that sound interesting to you, shake every hand you possibly can, get involved early and immerse yourself in whatever world you choose to explore.
Eat new foods with new friends in new parts of tow and explore your city’s hidden gems and secret hideaways. Take a weekend trip for every reason and for no reason. Go abroad and learn to appreciate a culture other than your own. Grow your world.
Don’t Be Afraid
Don’t be afraid of life. It’s going to happen to you no matter what and there’s no stopping it. The only difference between being a driver and being a passenger is that drivers decide the destination and receive better view for the ride. Be a driver.
Challenge tradition. When others act in a way that defies your values or our values, stand up. Do not fear the majority, do not fear failure, and always take the tough road if you know it to be right. The things you’ll regret most are the things you don’t do.
You will never have a better opportunity to make mistakes in your entire life than right now. You are young, you have a strong network of brothers to support you and you most certainly have a lot of things that you’ll need to learn the hard way: staying up too late, under-preparing for an exam, breaking a friend’s trust and oversteping your bounds.
I’m not telling you that you should do any of these things, however, you’ll do them on your own. My advice to you is that when these things do happen to you, take the time to recognize your mistake and learn everything you can from the experience. Make these mistakes while you can still afford to.
Be honest with yourself and in your relationships. Be honest with your brothers. This was perhaps the most difficult lesson for me to learn. Don’t hide your emotions in an attempt to be “a man.” The best men I’ve ever met are full of honesty, emotion and life.
Your feelings, your past, your future, your fears and your desires are all part of what make you who you are. Not being open to them limits your potential for love and success. Love openly and love often. Honesty is easy to neglect, but sorely missed once gone. One dishonest encounter is enough to destroy a relationship that took years to build. Take it from me.
Love the Adventure
Learn to love the adventure. Chase the good, appreciate the bad and learn everything you possibly can along the way. Not every part of life is as fun or glamorous as a fraternity social, tailgating a home game or a post-grad road trip. Truthfully, many things in life are the exact opposite: summer jobs, trips to the DMV, study sessions, grocery shopping, conference calls, dusting, commuting to work, and filing paperwork, to name a few. However, only you are capable of determining how you feel about these other aspects of your daily life. Take time to appreciate the beauty and significance in every situation. Your happiness is always under your control.
By doing these things, I know that you will become a better and happier man. This advice is amongst the most valuable things I that I learned during my college years, and nearly all of it is directly related to my time with Iowa Gamma.
However, I write these lessons with no intention of suggesting that I have everything figured out or that I am a perfect model for my own advice. My practice is imperfect, and at times, I have found myself to be a hypocrite. Nonetheless, I have no doubt that my next two years with Phi Delta Theta will give me even more insight and even more advice to give. I don’t know how and when that will happen, really, but that’s just part of the adventure.