by Matt Mattson
I had this acquaintance in high school who I’ll call Nick. Nick was a decent enough guy, but he never really stood out. He was just kind of there… Mehhh. That was Nick. Just, mehhhh. He was kind of rough around the edges, a little messy, a little blah. Nick was a good person, got pretty good grades, and even played some sports, but he was never really anyone you noticed. He just kind of hung around the edges of our high school class, which was quite an accomplishment since a total of 79 people graduated with me from my small town school. Anyway, Nick was just kind of… mehhh.
After graduation, most of us went to colleges in the area, but Nick made a different decision. He went to West Point to become an officer in the United States Army. Then, the next summer, Nick came back to our small town to say hello to everyone.
Have you ever seen someone you know go through this utter transformation after they join the military?
Nick came back a different human being. Nick somehow stood six inches taller. He looked different, he acted differently, he talked differently… he was a different person — no that’s not right — he had become a dramatically better version of himself. His experience at West Point had turned him from a boy into a man. He had become more confident, more bold, more polite, and more (among other things) SOCIALLY EXCELLENT (read more on Social Excellence here, here, and here.)
I remember the mothers of my friends in town asking, “Who’s that gentleman?” My friends and I would answer, “Mom, that’s Nick.” Absolute shock would wash over the mothers’ faces, and then they’d give us sideways glances that would subtly suggest we should become more like Nick. Nick had transormed. Nick was someone we now looked up to as an example, but somehow it was still Nick… just a different, better version of Nick.
What if fraternities and sororities could provide this level of transformation for our members? This is what we believe a focus on Social Excellence can provide to the Greek movement. Once we return to our roots as social organizations, and choose to intentionally prepare our members, as our primary purpose, to become the best versions of themselves, then our value to members, communities, universities, and society will skyrocket.
The more cynical among the readers will point to hazing as the reason for a military person’s transformation, but I just don’t buy that we need to do that. I know this is a complex matter, but in my mind hazing that occurs in the military is meant to teach emerging military personnel how to follow, in strict obedience, before they can lead. How to not question authority. How to follow orders and behave. I don’t think any fraternities/sororities want to create follower drones in their organizations. Since we’re not leading people onto a battlefield, we have the luxury of preparing our members to become critical thinkers, immediate leaders, and empowered individuals. We have an entirely different purpose than a unit in U.S. Armed Forces. In fact, we should be focusing on one thing — increasing the self-esteem of our newest members so that a) they’ll stay involved, and b) they become seen as the most confident, bold, assertive, yet compassionate students on campus.
If we can provide this level of positive transformation in the lives of our members through a focus on Social Excellence, then one day… One day leaders of industry and politics will look at their pool of candidates for important vice president jobs. They’ll notice a group of men and women who seem to stand a little taller, who command a room a little more, who connect with other people on a deeper level. They’ll notice that group of people and say, “Those men and women are socially excellent. Those must be Greeks. Those are the leaders I’m looking for.”