The idea that positivity is more powerful than negativity seems like something most people can get behind. Words of encouragement mean more than subtle slights, and I know that I would rather be fueled by the good things in my life than by the bad.
This past week, a friend and former fraternity brother returned to campus for professional recruiting. As a senior when my pledge class matriculated into the fraternity, he knew only a handful of the current brothers, but he prioritized getting to know the younger guys. It’s meaningful to know that there are networks within Duke that will help you, but it’s an entirely different affirmation to see them so actively reach out. Stories were shared, football was watched and a few nights out left everyone involved feeling a little nostalgic.
This visit was not limited to casual fun, however. Our fraternity institutes a national character development and support program known as LEAD — a resource that aims to enhance the social, academic and emotional success of every individual brother. At our LEAD chair’s behest, our visiting alumnus led this year’s kickoff LEAD session, a pretty stark departure from the pamphlets and lectures the program usually consists of.
As I’m sure most students realize — and have likely experienced — gathering for a group wellness session on a Friday afternoon ranks pretty low on the list of priorities. Being asked to attend, participate and invest is no small order, yet LEAD only gives to its participants what they individually put in.
For all the skepticism some of the younger members might have had, last Friday’s session illustrated exactly the kind of effect that some prescribed introspection can have. Our friend spoke passionately about his journey at Duke, abroad and as a young professional, articulating many of the difficulties and successes that are surprisingly resonant. He reminded us that all too often we forget that the pressures and failures experienced at Duke and afterwards are the same ones that our peers experience too. Taking the time to look around and, more importantly, to talk about that reality produces more than enough evidence.
This column isn’t unique. Students both at Duke and across the country continually emphasize the idea that stepping outside the tunnel-vision a competitive environment fosters often yields a sigh of relief and a realization that, ultimately, things will almost always turn out for the better. Nonetheless, it’s refreshing to see that reality in action.
Since leaving Duke, our friend has seen success that we never found surprising. He did, however, cook up a new lifestyle motto, movement and manifesto: Strictly Good Energy (SGE). Derived between some mixture of his high school slang and international colleagues, SGE stands for everything the name might suggest. Yet, in his words, it represents something a little more: vigorously being your best self each and every day.
After he spoke, we had the opportunity to pair up and talk about three things that you really value or admired in your partner. In following the theme, the commentary was, strictly speaking, good energy, and having someone else paint a positive picture about yourself brings to the forefront many of things you think but don’t always believe. In summary, it’s nice to have your friends tell you how awesome you are.
In an effort not to recap all the mushiness that transpired last Friday, I’d emphasize only one last thing. Our distinguished alumnus also asked us to write down four things: something you enjoy following, one way you express yourself, something you want to do in the future and something you were good at in high school. The next step—and I promise it is the last—was to sit on those thoughts. This was literally prescribed introspection, but it led my mind to a few places it had not been in a while.
I have not taken Psych 101, and I will not pretend that I watch Dr. Phil, but I would recommend going through these exercises — particularly the last one. In order to vigorously be your best self, it helps to take some time and identify who you really are. It’s definitely cliché and almost always corny, but I had not thought about what topics I liked to follow in a long time, let alone what defined my high school self.
What might have been the best part of last week’s LEAD session was that everyone bought in. It’s not always easy to be real with your peers, regardless of how much you trust them. Breaking down those barriers brings out your best self, and your best self is the one most likely to spread good vibes. That, in and of itself, is what exactly it means to be SGE.
Caleb Ellis is a Trinity senior. His column runs on alternate Tuesdays.
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