I’m a firm believer that the forces that shape individuals are not internal, but external—that, as Nietzsche observes in Twilight of the Idols, “(t)he highest type of free men should be sought where the highest resistance is constantly overcome.” For me, this manifests in setting challenges, conquering them and making them your own.
The biggest challenge that I set in front of myself during my undergraduate years had its origins in my first semester as a SigEp. I had the privilege of watching Daniel Knoll, American ’13, be selected for and attend the Tragos Quest to Greece, and I decided at that moment that this would be the bow tying my college career together. But, there isn’t really a roadmap for how to go about that—there is no Phi tracker for leadership.
I ended up applying as a sophomore and when I didn’t even make the cut to be a finalist I turned my sights back to my home chapter. I decided that my role was to help develop the D.C. Delta Chapter into the best Fraternity it could be. Without realizing it, though, I spent the next year in a whirlwind of SigEp programs and events. I facilitated an EDGE, attended Carlson, became a Ruck Scholar and participated on committees at Conclave in my role as chapter president—all in the hopes that I could be a better steward of my chapter.
That itch to go to Greece came back, though, around application time in fall 2013. I decided, with some urging from many of my mentors, to throw my hat in one last time and to set this as a force to push against. This decision would prove to be one of the best that I made in college.
I was fortunate to be selected as a 2014 Quest Scholar, and I can say without reservation that it was the highlight of my collegiate career. Those 10 days I spent in Greece were some of the happiest and most reflective that I’ve ever had and I attribute that to my brothers’ ability to challenge me while we were there.
It isn’t often that people ask each other why they can’t be better, but that’s exactly what the Quest 2014 set in front of me: a call to be a better brother, son, student, leader and man. While the sights are breathtaking and the food is sublime, it is this driving force that I highlight when I explain the value of the Quest.
To me, this is what makes SigEp different—it provides for its undergraduates the chance to be more than just faces on a dusty composite. The Tragos Quest to Greece epitomizes that spirit. However, like all challenges, the value isn’t transferred if you don’t test yourself against it.
It is the value of success and not the fear of failure that should compel everyone to apply. If you really think that men will be better for having been a member of our Fraternity, this is your opportunity to display that.
Everyone ought to apply because the application, while short, forces you take inventory of your own strengths, weaknesses and virtues. This practice of self-reflection will serve you well for years to come, but only if taken seriously. Fortunately for all of us, SigEp takes our undergraduates seriously enough to provide this amazing opportunity.
But, you don’t know anything if you don’t try.