There is quite a bit of controversy surrounding the Russian-American writer, Ayn Rand. She mostly relied on novels to explain her philosophy of Objectivism, which rejects the idea of altruism and implores individuals that selfishness is one of the highest virtues. She also talks a lot about the free market and the proper role of government. If you don’t think she was influential consider that the chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1987-2006, Alan Greenspan, was a close friend that attended her funeral. She receives far more criticism these days for inspiring impressionable college kids to mature into insufferable pricks. It is a valid criticism and many that do read her take away the wrong lessons.
Even though I am eight years removed from reading her books and hardly a strong adherent to her philosophy, I will never renounce her books’ collective influence on my life. They helped me to appreciate my own potential and how many different paths I could take to get there. Instead of taking the approach that I owed other individuals nothing, I assumed a new obligation to take more personal responsibility for my own failures and shortcomings. Given the typical image of Rand’s followers, it is certainly with some irony that I say that her books have inspired me to make charity/altruism/philanthropy/helping others a component of my life.
It all started when I got to college. Any freshman that goes away to college misses their home and can struggle to adopt to a new way of living. I found that a big part of my high school experience, competitive Lincoln-Douglas Debate, had left a void. I thought about joining the college debate team, but decided that any skills that I would develop had mostly been tapped out through my high school one. So I decided to make some calls and find a local debate team that would allow me to help give back, while also further developing me as a person. Eventually, I found the perfect fit in Mason High School. The school supported the program, allowing them to travel all over the state of Ohio each weekend to compete in the state’s best tournaments. The kids were ambitious students and, in the beginning, (and probably at the end too) were mostly doing debate for a resume filler.
Over the next three years from October until March, I would make the hour-long commute to Mason from Miami twice a week, running two to three hour practices. Several weekends I would travel with the team and volunteer my time further as a judge. Being able to be see them develop their skills and getting to know them as people was a priceless experience. I was their drillmaster, coach, friend, and pseudo psychologist all at once. We remain in contact years later. What they don’t know is that the experience helped me in many ways more than them. Getting a chance to hone my facilitation skills, cultivating a winning team culture, and learning how to teach others were all areas that volunteering my time really helped.
My experiences at Mason directly contributed to my desire to work for the Central Office. Helping others has become a passion. A society that helps each other out is a healthy, happy society. In many ways this mirrors our Alphas. Giving your time internally to help develop brotherhood will make your experience as Chi Psi worth well beyond what you pay in dues. I’m not telling you to run the next 5k for charity that you hear about. If you hate running, then you shouldn’t do it. I’m not telling you to start donating money to the next cause that knocks on your doorstep. You earned that money with hard work, and you ultimately decide how to spend it. What I am saying is that there are plenty of win-win philanthropic and volunteer opportunities for you to choose from. It starts with being a better son, a more selfless brother, or a more responsible boyfriend. It culminates in you helping others make the same transformation.
That’s my impact. What’s yours?