By Keith Brown
I recently crossed off an item on my bucket list that I didn’t know was there until I had completed it. I really didn’t have much of a bucket list but hiking to the Lighthouse at Palo Duro Canyon with my longtime friend Jim McManigal made me realize the importance of accomplishing something for yourself. I started out doing it for my Fraternity, for which I’ve done a lot in the last 12 years. I was doing it to raise money for The ALS Association; after all, it’s a dreadful disease, and I’ve known my share of individuals suffering from it and caring for those suffering from it. I was doing it because it was defined as athletic, and I felt like I’d really be accomplishing something since I’m not very athletic. What I learned is that not only was I doing it for these reasons but more importantly, I accomplished something that really only mattered for me.
I’ve never been one for setting a lot of personal goals. Sure, I believe it’s of utmost importance for an organization to have a plan and set goals, but I pretty well contribute to those organizational goals without thinking a lot about how I need to accomplish something. I do what needs to be done now, because I believe it needs to be done for the good of whatever organization I’m working with be that work, church or civic. This hiking experience made me realize that all of us need to do things occasionally because those things are good for us.
I got involved with Phi Delta Theta in a very roundabout way at the age of 32. Through a variety of circumstances, I agreed to be the on-campus adviser for the local chapter since I worked at West Texas A&M. I thought it would be a good professional move since I was WT’s director of alumni relations and there were many Greek alumni with whom I wanted to be more closely connected. And of course, if I was going to do it, I was going to do it all the way. So I “pledged” just like all the other new members, learning the history and traditions of not only the local chapter but the international organization as well. Yes, I even went into a dark room on a cold night and learned the secret handshake and obscure motto. I even helped the chapter establish a plan and set goals for achieving that plan. Then, all of a sudden, I realized that I wasn’t just doing this because it benefited me professionally, but I was gaining a great deal personally. I believed completely in what the organization stood for. It’s funny that some of the men who were involved with the chapter in my early days of affiliation (who were 10 and 15 years my juniors) are some of my very best friends. They accepted this old dude as one of their own and even listened to me occasionally when I had “sage advice” to share. I’ve been in their weddings, held their children and was there alongside his “contemporary” brothers when one buried both parents. Suffice it to say that I’ve gained far more personally in the way of relationships than I’ve put into the organization.
As is my habit, I continued to get more and more involved including serving in roles at general Fraternity conferences and events. That involvement led to my being appointed by the Fraternity as President of the Rho Northwest Province, which spans in Texas from Lubbock north to Amarillo and east almost to Oklahoma City. Basically, it means that I’m not just the adviser for the chapter at WT anymore but also responsible to and for the chapters at Texas Tech and Southwestern Oklahoma. And yes, on a regular basis, I discuss with those chapters and with the Fraternity as a whole what our mission is, how each piece fits that mission and what steps we’re going to take to accomplish that mission.
And, if you know me well, you know that Phi Delta Theta is not the only place I’m involved. I serve as the worship leader for my church, serve on the board of the school district’s foundation, am a Rotarian and try to support as many things as possible, because I believe that making a difference where you are is what makes our society run in general. All of these activities are more successful if we have a plan and work that plan. Just today, I put together a plan to create an endowment for my work that raise more than half a million dollars for student scholarships and that will be easily accomplished if we work the plan!
So why don’t I have a personal plan for what I want to accomplish? Well, of course it’s easier not to. It’s partly because I’m busy working the plan for these other organizations and not thinking about my personal plan. It’s some because I’m single and don’t have to be accountable to a spouse or children. But mostly it’s because I just don’t do it!
I’ve thought and talked about becoming an Iron Phi since the program began several years ago. I’ve researched how to go from “couch to 5K.” I’ve made a mental list of people I knew would support my efforts toward ALS. I even participated (walking!!!) in the Iron Phi 5K at last year’s Kleberg Emerging Leaders Institute, but I had never put it all together and accomplished becoming an Iron Phi. Never, that is, until the WT chapter set a goal of becoming an Iron Phi chapter (meaning they raised $10,000 for the program in 2012-2013 with alumni participation counting toward that goal), and when they told me they would contribute the money for me, I said “No, I’ll raise the money (what I considered the easy part) and I’ll complete my personal challenge.” Their deadline was June 30 (for which they had the money raised in April), and I completed my challenge on June 29!
Thanks to the many people who supported me in this endeavor, we raised almost $2000,and I got my Iron Phi Bond Number. I knew I had generous friends and family, and I knew, even though I’m not much of an athlete, that I could hike to the Lighthouse without much difficulty. What I didn’t know is what I would learn about myself in the process.