How can you encourage the lazy and disengaged? The short answer… roller skates, or their metaphorical equivalent. Stay with me as we flashback in time.
I was arguably the most disengaged and “lazy” sorority pledge at Wake Forest University. I had rushed because I was warned that nearly all social life on campus centered around the Greek system. I had never viewed myself as a “sorority girl.” I was more of the studious, madrigal-singing type. But there I was skipping “mandatory” events that felt to me like a colossal waste of time and blowing off the requirement to interview every “sister” about her favorite foods and secret fantasies. When my advanced biology class started to crush my brain, I was on the verge of quitting.
Brig, the President. pulled me aside. I felt instant relief. Ahh, I wasn’t going to have to quit. I was going to get kicked out, even better.
“Karin, you seem athletic. Do you know how to roller skate?” I laughed. My friend Sabine would visit from Germany every summer and we strapped on roller skates most days until dusk swirling, racing and making up shows.
“Actually, I do,” I confessed.
“Great, we need someone to do the roller skate leg of the relay around the quad for the Greek games (think high energy, silly, yet serious olympics).”
“Oh, I’d love to, but I didn’t bring my skates to school.” Off the hook again.
“Oh, I’ll find you some skates.”
“Well, I’d have to try them out and I’m so busy studying for this biology exam,” even I knew how ridiculous that sounded as the words spewed out. Clearly I was still trying to get voted off the island.
Brig persisted, “What time are you done studying tonight?”
“Midnight.” (Yeah, I really was being that jerky.)
“Great, meet me on the quad at midnight. I’ll bring the skates. The race is at 3pm tomorrow.”
As I laced up the skates, she asked me how I was liking the sorority. I began to confess. As I skated and she ran beside me around the moonlit quad, I shared my fears of losing my academic scholarship if I didn’t pass biology, my resistance of the silly interviews, and my feelings that this just wasn’t for me.
Brig listened intently and asked questions. “Why did you join the sorority? What requirements are making this seem impossible? Do you know why we require you to talk to each sister?”
She explained the “why” behind every ritual. And then we worked together to create a reduced schedule of obligations that I could commit to and keep my academic standing.
When she returned for homecoming a few years later I asked her if she remembered that night. “Of course I do,” she smiled. “Good leadership is never accidental.”
“How crazy is it that I ended up being President?” I smiled.
Brig looked at me full of confidence and pride. “Karin, I knew one of two things was going to happen with you. You were going to quit, or you were going to be President someday. My vote was for President.”