Archive for the ‘ Leadership ’ Category


– Topher Endress

So October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month – I know that involvement around Purdue was steadily increasing each of my years there, so I assume everyone was made aware and possibly donated some money to research.  Overall, I think the communities that I have been in have done a great job to not only raise lots of research funds, but have really changed the way that we talk about women’s health.  While breast cancer and heart disease are the two biggest factors for early deaths in women, it seems like it is no longer a strange and/or awkward conversation on the community platform.  Women seem to be more able to converse about mammograms, screenings, taking care of their bodies and helping men learn about the unique issues facing women today.  And this is a great thing that should absolutely continue.  However, October is over and November is here.  This means that basketball has finally started, plans for gorging oneself at Thanksgiving are being made, and National Men’s Health Awareness Month is here!

A group in Australia started a campaign to coincide with the college males’ favorite season – No Shave November.  Now, our laziness and unwillingness to buy a razor can finally pay off!  Dubbed “Movember” (as “moe” is slang down under for moustache (yes, I’m using the formal English spelling)), the campaign has raised almost $22 million so far this month to be donated to Prostate Cancer initiatives and other men’s health organizations (they have raised about $300 million since 2004, with their donations increasing almost exponentially since then).  So, yes, I am growing a moustache in support of men’s health awareness.  Additionally, I am embarking on a campaign (with help from a nurse) to create some dialogue about how to bring health issues before communities.  I think this is very important, because the main issue with men’s health is not a singular issue (nor is it for women, but the prevalence of breast cancer makes it one of the biggest single targets for research).  While 1 in 6 men can expect to get prostate cancer in their lifetimes, the biggest issue facing us XYs is that too many men refuse to seek medical attention until very treatable problems have become major issues.  Prostate cancer is almost never as aggressive as other cancers, but when left unchecked it can cause serious issues.  Realistically, many of the top causes of death for men could be prevented with a higher willingness to access medical treatment.  Part of that is economic, which is it’s own issue, but part of it is simply men being hard-headed.  I am asking each of you to remember the power of preventative care and early detection.

Now, I am creating this campaign within my school because I believe that my classmates and I have a voice.  Being in Divinity school, I will likely have the opportunity to stand before a congregation, and I would love to know how to best address issues like these.  And while my current position and community are different than yours, I think we can all learn from this years Movember.  At the end of the month, I will be hosting a Moustache Bash, where all of my classmates are provided with and encouraged to wear a fake moustache all day to help show to others the importance of understanding the issues.  I will be posting all of the notes from our discussions here so that you all can begin to think of effective ways to use your times, talent and positions to help men better understand health issues.  This is one great way we can be discharging our obligation to others that arises from the fact that we are fraternity men.

*I don’t have an account to donate to, but you should send your money to my buddy Anthony ( and for more information on Movember, please check out their site here.


Question/Answer #4

– Topher Endress

Mom asked me this while I was in town over the weekend, but this one of those questions that deserves a discussion.  So start commenting with your ideas.

Question: How can I live up my senior year?

There are several brothers about to join D-Rose and I as alumni after this semester (Campbell is not one of them – apparently he just wants to be very well prepared).  As someone who had 4 semesters of senior year, I feel that I can posit some advice.

It should hurt when you leave.

Seriously. There is a reason that things end, and appreciating the inevitability of moving on will make you a happier, more well-adjusted person. As Men of Character, we will be moving into newer and bigger stages several times throughout our lives. As our National Blog recently reminded us, the world needs us. We are needed to move the world forward while the culture around us seems bent on regressing. And that means that leaving Purdue will not be the last time we need to change our setting. So, consider this your Senior Year: Part 1.

But just because it is necessary doesn’t mean it should be easy. It shouldn’t be. Leaving your friends and all of your customs from the past 4/5 years is a psychologically and emotionally trying time. As it should be.

Life is hard. Losing people is difficult. Changing so much of your life had better not be easy. Which is exactly why you should work to make leaving even harder.

First, here’s how. Life is all about relationships, so invest in the people around you. You have a finite amount of time to impact the people around you – let them know what they mean to you. This is the time to spend copious amounts of quality time with not just your brothers, but your classmates, other friends, roommates and professors. I challenge each of you to have a major, deep, open-heart conversation with at least 10 people that you haven’t with before. These deep conversations not only link you together as friends, but teach you about yourself.  (For more on this, check out a past blog here)

Also, live up the college lifestyle. Not in the “let’s party until our livers forcibly try to escape” kind of way, but in the eating pizza at 3 am, staying up late with study partners, going to college games, playing ball at the Co-Rec, volunteering during the day, taking funny pictures around the bell tower, going on fountain runs kind of way. The things that BGR told you to have fun with.  You have an amazing opportunity to use the time and space around you. Purdue is a world-class university with a unique culture and incredible set of opportunities.  Find something to do and keep yourself busy.  Anyone can sit around and play MW3; not everyone can walk through the Sidewinder (the weird stick-art behind Pao).  If you can use all of your time for something, be it growing closer to the people around you or throwing yourself in Purdue culture, you will build a Senior Year worthy of pining its loss.

Leaving will be hard.  Sure, you’ll likely be moving on to great things (like moving to Nashville – where you can always feel free to come visit/stay/live in my side yard) and you should rightly be excited by the next steps in life.  But I guarantee there will come a time when you get the urge to go see Bruce and can’t, to grab a quick Den Pop and can’t, to grab  a nap in the Union and can’t, want to run to Wiggins to chill for an hour between classes and can’t and it hits home that life has already been happening.  And not only has it been happening, but a section of your life has passed by, never to come back.  You may not cry, but you will assuredly lament the death of an era.  I urge you to take it all in now, while you have the chance to appreciate it.  Don’t let the fact that it will hurt to give it up keep you from putting everything you have into that year.  Give yourself fully, and let it be taken from you anyway.

And that will mean something. It will mean that you can take the gut punch of loss and still move forward. It will show you that there is a darker side to life – pain, disappointment, regrets. Because if we as Men don’t see the darkness, how can we spread our light where it is needed? College is a time of preparation. Prepare yourself for the inevitable loss that comes after doing a job well. Because I expect you to be needed elsewhere, and you have to be able to pull yourself away to get there. Make your impact, waste no moments, leave nothing on the table, then go forth and do it all again.

Knowing vs. Experiencing

– Topher Endress

So right far this summer, the camp Phi Tau count is: 3 Summer Staff, 1 Sweetheart Summer Staff (Becca, who gives the world’s best massages), 1 week-long volunteer, 2 day-long volunteers and 1 week-long Sweetheart volunteer. It is great to see so many guys (and the girls) out here living out what they profess to hold as important and supporting our philanthropy with their time. However, I do feel slightly awkward every time I meet a new brother – not because we aren’t each gregarious, but because I have not been clued in to things like the grip or answers to questions only full brothers would know. On the first day of training, a fellow Phi Tau asked me something that had a specific answer, which I of course did not have. Was it awkward? Yes. Uncomfortable? Yes. Demeaning, even? Yes.

I, as well as most of Lambda Colony, am a lowly associate. When I am put into a situation where I cannot connect to my brothers the way our fraternity intends us to, I am obviously and rightly put off. But while working with these men, I have come to realize that no secret knowledge will ever come close to the glue of experiencing daily life as a Phi Tau.

It didn’t matter that I hadn’t been through Ritual; once we got down to actually talking about who we were and what we were doing with our lives, our individual experiences illustrated a great point – being a Phi Tau is not based on a single event but is instead a daily walk as a Man of Character. The instant bond that could have been shared through common knowledge is nowhere near the level of intimacy that the bond of true brotherhood is. While throwing the grip would have been cool, it would really have had no impact on the relationship. Sure, I would have liked to properly respond to the question, but the immediacy of my connections to the other Phi Taus was enough to prove to me just how palpable to bond of brotherhood really is.

As we finish out our summer, let’s not fall into a trap of thinking we are not Phi Kappa Tau without the Ritual. Sure, it is important and an event to remember for the rest of our lives, but your experiences as a colony are in no way invalidated by lack of knowledge. Our experience puts us on par with any other chapter out there, so stay confident and proud of where you come from in the Phi Tau family.

Word Up

– Topher Endress

Wordle: Phi Kappa Tau speech

I really like Wordles. Not just because they are visually appealing, but because they can often point out some pretty important trends in our language. In high school English, you probably moved on from grammar into studies of tone and diction. Much like your teachers, I find the words we use and how we use them to be incredibly important.

Wordles take the words and phrases in a given set and increase the size based on frequency. In the above, I put in my senior speech and looked at what terms popped up. Taking out those small, common words (and, the, a, it, an, etc.), it looks like “love,” “Phi Kappa Tau,” “remember” and “Man of Character” are pretty predominant. I can also see words like “risk,” “creed” and “relationship” scattered throughout. Sure, this looks nice – but the cake Wordle is a lie. I had to manually add more words in and take others out so that the words I wanted emphasized would be more frequent, and I had to delete some words that didn’t seem to fit.

I get a chance to go through and edit the language in posts like these, but none of us will have that same opportunity in the midst of a conversation. What we say to others matters, and we need to start thinking about how we come across to people in different contexts. I know some of you are already thinking of Fall Rush, but far more important than what events you have are the conversations you have with recruits.

If you were to make a Wordle of your last few conversations, what would be emphasized? What are the words you use – are they building up your brothers, inspiring recruits or teaching your Little? Or, are your words trivial, mocking or hurtful? Think about how you sound to others, because even a Man of Character can be undermined by careless language.

Hearing versus Experiencing

– Topher Endress

So as I wrote in my first photo gallery on this thing, I spent the week after Finals at a camp in Michigan.  Technically, I was working by running the rides (like the 80 foot giant swing), but I spent most of my time either hanging out with some of the people I knew up there or reflecting by myself.  It was a great time, and I’m really glad I got the chance to unwind for the week.  No matter what my experience was like, though, I won’t be able to bring you fully into it.

I have spent several weeks throughout the last eight years at this camp, and as I walked across the main field or into the dining hall, my memories of time spent as a camper, as a first-time leader/authority figure, as a college student taking a road trip and as a worker all combined to give me an emotional connection to each place at camp.  I remember freaking out in midair during my first blob experience, I remember learning how to kayak in the lake, I remember sitting with a seventh-grader as he cried about his family life outside of the snack shop, I remember trying to encourage someone stuck with fear on the ropes course.  I can’t separate the experiences from the place, and that made this last trip much more meaningful.

However, this isn’t limited to camps.  We’ve all spent years on campus and with our brothers, creating our own memories and experiences.  And while we can explain what has happened to someone else, we can never relive that moment in a way that includes them.  I remember my first experience with Phi Tau – helping a local baseball park open for the spring.  No matter how vividly I might paint that picture, even with the smell of the grass and the feeling of dirt in my hands included, the new brothers who were not there will never be a part of that moment’s brotherhood and service.

I love that camp in Michigan.  But if I want someone else to love my camp, I can’t just tell them about what I did while I was there.  I can’t just show them a picture or two of what the area looks like.  To love it, to know it, they need to be there and participate.  And just like my camp, Phi Tau is something that must be experienced.  The simple act of inviting recruits into something that we truly believe in – be it leadership, service or learning – will allow them to know what Phi Kappa Tau is and will weed out those looking only to party.

Having that service experience as my first Phi Tau event changed many of my opinions on fraternity life.  I feel that I grew quite a bit over the course of that day, not because the work was so incredible but because it was an invitation into the service of this group.  I didn’t care that our colony said they wanted to have a focus on service and philanthropy.  I cared that I actually served.  Resting on the fruit of our past work will attract no one but those who merely want to talk the talk without doing the work.  As we look forward to Fall Rush, let’s remember that actions speak louder than words.  And the invitation to action, to experience, is what will draw in the Men of Character we are searching for.


Very pleased to introduce Former President James Camanse to the blogging world!

– Nalu Camanse

For starters this blog has been a long time coming.  I promised Topher that I would get it to him before he graduated…So in typical Nalu fashion I waited until the absolute last moment to get this blog out.  None-the-less it is not something that I took lightly.  This blog is something that Topher does care about and puts a lot goes into his written compositions.  For that reason, I wanted the one that I wrote to be not just good, but great.  Yeah, that’s pretty cliché but it’s true.

These past few weeks have been the most challenging for me as I continue to work with the present, whilst crafting a very fruitful future.  These thoughts all stem from the simple yet heavily loaded question, “What do you want to do?”  This question also comes in many different forms for example, “What is your dream job”, “What kind of career do you want?”  Either way they all stem from that simple question.  One could even argue that most times, our whole lives stem from that simple question.  Why is it, that, that one question is holds so much weight to it.  Well, I’ve come to a conclusion.  It all stems back to our age old want for money and to be “successful.”  Success too, has a very different definition to many people.  Sometimes it is defined by the amount of money that you have, some define it by how they’ve made a difference in the world, and some people may not even have a definition for it.

That train of thought always seemed to lead me to another train of thoughts.  I then started to ask myself why we came to college?  That answer also became pretty apparent.  We came to college to further our education so that we could then get our dream job that made us lots of money and we would then become successful.  That is what you have to do to become successful so you will do it.  You could also call going to college to get your “dream job” as being the social norm or the status quo.

As Topher normally does, you’re probably wondering how I am planning on tying this into Phi Tau.  Phi Tau fits into this by way of support.  I, along with everyone else that calls themselves a member of Lambda is here to support you 100% in whatever endeavor that you plan to partake in.  As long as you know what your definition of success is and that you are doing it for the right reasons that hold true to yourself.  If that means you are ecstatic going through college and getting a job then so be it and I am going to be there for you no matter what.  Or if it means that you are going to go through college, graduate, and then go back again for another degree that suits you better, so be it as well, I will still be there to support you in whatever you chose to do.  I will say this as my final words for the blog, define “it”.  If you have not defined what success is in your eyes, do it now.  Define what success is, and know that we are behind you!

How to Give Advice Like a Man

– Topher Endress

I have found some steps that I think allow us to be able to give advice like men.  It is something that we should all learn, because men of character will be looked to for advice in other people’s lives.  This may not be comprehensive or scientific, but I think it is a start.

A) Determine if you should really give them advice

  1. Ask yourself if the person in question actually wants advice (Protip: if it is a woman, chances are she just wants you to listen.  Refrain from trying to immediately fix all of her problems)
  2. Ask yourself if the person actually needs the advice you want to give.
  3. Ask yourself if you are really the best person to give that advice.
  4. Ask yourself how you know that the advice is right.

Now that you are carefully thought about whether you should be giving this person advice, it is time to…

B) Figure out the best way to say it

  1. If you should be giving them advice, you should be confident.  Not that you are completely right, but that you would act the same way in their shoes.
  2. Ask more questions before giving any answers.  Questions often lead people to the right answers anyway, and they are more likely to take their own advice than yours.
  3. You should work to come up with a solution with the person, not for the person.
  4. Make sure that you have the necessary knowledge of how to implement your advice AND the knowledge of potential consequences.

Congrats for making it this far!  You are now ready to…

C) Give the advice

  1. If they wanted you to control their whole lives, they’d let you know.  Stick to the single topic at hand.
  2. Be strong, but not overbearing.  You cannot control anyone, nor should you.  You have reason to be confident and strong (they came to you, afterall), but you have no reason to be overly forceful.
  3. Be understanding, but don’t pussyfoot.  “Well, maybe, if you thought it might work, it could be possible, maybe, that you might consider something like…” I don’t care what advice they follow that up with – if it isn’t good enough for you to state, it isn’t good enough for me to listen to.
  4. Step back after you are done.  Giving advice means that you are speaking into a situation that you are not directly involved in.  Therefore, any time you give advice you should know to butt out when your part is over.

Hopefully, these 3 steps (and 12 substeps) are helpful to you when giving advice in the future.  If not, I clearly don’t know what else to tell you.