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The Fear of Joining Something New

Posted By Mathew Schlehuber, Expansion Consultant, Wednesday, February 17, 2016

During the first semester as a new colony at the Beta Mu Colony at the University of South Alabama, I was elected as the recruitment chair position. As a confident college junior who had many sales jobs, I felt confident in my ability to sell the benefits of an organization like this one. That being said, we pulled in a new member class of ten the first go around and we were excited. To be able to find other students on campus that were just as excited about our new found group of misfits as we were, was a rush to say the least. I couldn’t tell you how many guys we talked to that semester that didn’t join, nor could I tell you some of their reasons for not joining.

My time on staff as an Expansion Consultant has offered me the opportunity to hear these reasons once again. Except this time, I am doing it full time and talking to hundreds and hundreds of undergrads. I have heard reasons that span from, “My girlfriend said no” to, “I don’t want the fraternity to take up all of my time.” But regardless of what they say there is always an underlying answer, and if you dig into them enough some will tell you.

My recent project has opened my eyes to one of the major culprits of why people don’t join new organizations. They are scared of failing. Time and time again the students I have interviewed here have told me that they want to meet more of the guys before they make a commitment, they want to see how the group performs before joining, or they want to think about it some more. In my opinion, I feel fear plays a role in all of these responses.  They are perhaps afraid of something new or potentially afraid of stepping out of their comfort zone.

Obviously all of us are afraid of failing to some extent, but there is a difference in being cautious and never leaving our comfort zone. Of course total and absolute failure of a chapter is the opposite of what I want to happen, but a lot of young men are letting the fear of what could happen prevent them from taking chances. It is interesting to me because I see the fraternity as an avenue for undergrads to better themselves, to be given the chance to become something greater than what they were when they joined.

The most memorable time where this fear manifested itself was right here at Vanderbilt. I had just given a bid to a young man that I had been talking to for a couple of weeks. We addressed the time commitment issues, the dues, even when he said he wanted to meet the guys for a second, third, fourth time. When the time came he accepted his bid and shook my hand and stood next to me while we had our picture taken. The picture was even put up on Facebook.  Last week he pulled me aside and told me he was dropping from the group. Puzzled, I arranged a meeting with him the next day. As we talked, the only reason I could get out of him was that he wanted more time to think about the opportunity and to see where the group goes before he makes a commitment. Having told him that the bid acceptance was making the commitment, he told me that he had changed his mind. So in one last attempt I told him that if he really wanted to drop from the group he would have to return the bid I gave him. I was hoping that the act of handing his invitation back to me would change his mind. I was wrong. The next day he returned the bid, and after he left I flipped it over to see that he had vigorously scribbled over his signature on the card. He had been so unhappy about making this commitment that he felt it necessary to voice his frustration by scribbling out his name. As if to hide the person who signed the card, or to release himself from any contractual obligation.

I understand that there are legitimate reasons that keep some individuals from joining an org like this, but the note to take away from this post is more broad than that. Whether it is joining a fraternity, another type of student org, choosing a major/minor, taking a new job, or going to a different restaurant; don’t let the fear of what hasn’t happened keep you from experiencing something new.

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