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Christopher Mathey

c_matheyI believe in the impossible. There are definitive moments in life that lead to self-empowerment. The impossible is a special belief because it is defined by what we believe we can or cannot do. Something is impossible when it lacks definition, when it is regarded as being beyond our scope of comprehension. Within this perception of the impossible lies the opportunity for meaning to be derived from our strengths and weaknesses: There is the potential for empowering ourselves to overcome our perceived obstacles. It becomes a matter of learning how to accommodate our weaknesses in light of our strengths, and it is not simply a matter of compensating for them.

The Success Networking Team process has reinforced my belief in the impossible by serving as a bridge for transcending limiting beliefs. Limiting beliefs may be cast by others; but, we may internalize them. For instance, when I was diagnosed in March of 2001 with three specific learning disabilities (which are thought to be the result of two traumatic brain injuries sustained in my youth), my parents and I were advised that I may not "develop" or "excel" beyond particular cognitive levels. Since then, I have endeavored to overcome the odds and prove to myself that I could first (re)learn how to learn, and next apply these skills in a meaningful way. Part of this process included developing a support structure consisting of people who would be a positive influence on me, who I could share goals and aspirations with, and who could hold me accountable. (I also familiarized myself with studies in psychology and neuroplasticity, and eventually became familiar with the work of NSLS speaker Dr. Joe DiSpenza.) In effect, I had created an SNT without knowing it.

Since joining the NSLS, the SNT process has afforded me the opportunity to refine my support structure, so that my life has become an SNT in itself. It has given me the daily opportunity to make meaning by identifying the richness contained within life experiences. Specifically, as a NSLS member, I have used the SNT process to gain control of my blood-sugar levels; lose weight (I went from being 240 pounds to 180 pounds); develop an exercise routine that has provided me with physical, mental and emotional balance; understand and transcend my frustrations and intolerances; expand relationships with family members; develop and make manifest my graduate-degree program; expand my interests and hobbies; become a Gold-Level Servant Leader Scholar at my University (where I have contributed at least 300 hours to community service and received at least 30 hours of leadership training); and foster a greater level of self-respect and self-worth.

The SNT process has served as "living proof" for my belief that meaning is derived from leadership through service: Having been involved with the Boy Scouts of America since 1988 (myself being an Eagle Scout as well as a Vigil member of the Order of the Arrow), it has been a mainstay of mine to give back to Scouting and to the greater societal community what it has given to me. Whether it is through serving as a mentor or tutor for learning- or behavior-needs students, tutoring autistic peers, leading a cleanup crew through parks or schoolyards after natural disasters, or leading a hiking crew through washed-out, snow-filled, mountainous, or arid recesses of the United States, each experience has been an opportune moment to ask, "What may I do for you next?"

This simple question has afforded me the opportunity to become more active within my Chapter: In my second semester with the NSLS, I became the Chapter's first-ever Community Service Chair; I was voted in unanimously as Chapter President for my third and fourth semesters; and, now entering into my fifth semester, I have been asked to remain on the Executive Council in the position of Board Past President, serving in a role akin to being Chairman of the Board.

During my tenure as President, I facilitated Executive Council meetings in a fashion very similar to the SNT process. I firmly believe that this process, which grants a balance of autonomy with accountability, is the reason behind the achievements of our Executive Council and our Chapter at large: Our membership constituency has grown by 1000 percent; our "endowment" has grown by 3500 percent; our community service and outreach initiatives are expanding and overall interest is growing; and, we have become an integral component to student life at our University. Our goals were SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely), and we developed strategies to maintain our growth and expansion without compromising the integrity of the program. Without exhausting our resources (with my fellow Officers and our Advisor being our most precious resources, in this case), we facilitated 20 New Member Orientations, 15 Leadership Training Days, and we aired all live speaker broadcasts and corresponding encore sessions.

The SNT process implies that we should not forget where we have come from; it helps us to steer where we want to go. It is in this light that the impossible is a matter of turning thought into action: Knowledge is not power, but knowledge becomes powerful when it is applied. Therefore, matters that are impossible are really matters of defining success by perseverance.