Sigma Tau

I remember walking into a meeting room in the Student Union at UCF. I think it was the end of my first year of college, if I remember correctly. I was there for another meeting of Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society. We were to vote on a new executive board.

I was the overachiever, the over-involved, I was young and had no need for full nights of sleep. I had just come out of community college, where I’d spent most of high school taking dual-enrollment classes. There was little to nothing that ever seemed to happen at the tiny Titusville campus of Brevard Community College (the honors English class I hoped to take was eventually cancelled after I was the only one to sign up for it). So, when I got to UCF, I decided to do it all. I went to work, padding my resume as much as I could.

Sigma Tau was part of my push to be involved in everything, but the little club was at that time a lot like the Titusville BCC. Nothing was really happening. I was active in other clubs and had just interviewed for a fairly important spot on an executive board of an established leadership organization. I thought my involvement in Sigma Tau would stop at attending meetings, maybe participating in a fundraiser here or there, and so on.

So, I showed up for the meeting. As I remember, it was me, Sabrina, and the outgoing president. Maybe our faculty advisor was there. Maybe not. I’m fuzzy on the details, but clear on one thing: Sabrina and I walked out of the meeting de-facto president and vice-president of the club. Sabrina was a clear choice—she was the only one who was actually doing anything in the club, probably more active for the chapter than the president had been. But I hadn’t intended to be part of the Sigma Tau leadership; I had just showed up.

As we left the meeting room, the outgoing president said to us: “Don’t bother trying to do anything with Sigma Tau. No one shows up, no one’s interested, no one cares. My best advice is to put your energies into other endeavors.”

Well.

He meant to be helpful. And he was more helpful than he could have realized. What he did was pose a challenge. A dying, derelict club with no influence, no prominence, and no member activity. And the guy in charge, telling us not to waste our time.

What you should know about Sabrina—and I hope she doesn’t mind my talking for her; I’m sure she will correct me if I’m wrong—is that she was more of an overachiever than I was. Not in the negative sense. She was, and is, the most intensely productive person I’ve ever met, and it seems to be part of her nature to accomplish more than the average human being is even capable of. Maintaining a high GPA while balancing work, campus involvement, and a thriving social life seemed like nothing to her. She’s the consummate multi-tasker, is absolutely brilliant, is a risk-taker. I swear she runs on batteries that never seem to need much recharging. What she wants, she makes happen. And she does it all while looking better than the rest of us, too.

We started talking about what was, and what could be. I ended up getting the position I’d interviewed for. I turned it down. I wanted to devote all my energies to Sigma Tau. Around this time, Sabrina and I were in a grammar class with Zea, and she hopped on board with the whole Sigma Tau experiment. We were going to make it great. I knew we could prove everyone wrong, that we could accomplish what seemed impossible.

And we did.

Those were some of my favorite college experiences. The club went from nonexistent to thriving. We were landing in the school newspaper, we were organizing lectures with standing room only, we were having a blast.

I miss that. Here is something I’m going to put on my desk, or on my wall, or somewhere I’ll look at it regularly: “What do I believe is impossible to do in my field…but if it could be done would fundamentally change my business?” I don’t know where it originated from, but Andy Stanley quoted it in his book, Next Generation Leader. (This from the same author as Visioneering.)

It made me think about Sigma Tau. That’s what we had to do. We had no other option. Continuing with the status quo meant death for the club, and we weren’t interested in presiding over a dead club.

For a while now, I’ve felt like I’ve been in a rut. There is a whole lot of status quo and not a lot of thinking about how to accomplish the impossible. And now I’ve got this group of leaders I’m responsible for, my Pod People, and we had kind of been going along at a decent pace, but it was just exactly what was expected. And nothing that was unexpected. So, I’ve been thinking for the past few months—what if? What is, and what could be?

What I told them at the dinner party this week is that the worst danger facing their groups is mediocrity. So, time to start practicing what I preach. (Now, if I could just figure out how Sabrina gets so much done…)

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