Jumpstart Cornerstones at Your Chapter

10 Actions to Jumpstart Cornerstones at Your Chapter (Active Members)

1 ) Have every member complete the Cornerstones Personal Development Plan. Schedule a time for the members of your chapter (& pledges if applicable) to complete the personal development plan template provided by Acacia HQ.  Or just share the url with all of your members & set a timeframe within which it is to be completed.

2 ) Post everyone’s personal goals in a public location, whether that be in your chapter house, or online through GoogleDocs, or ACACIAconnect.org, or individual blog sites for each member.   Knowing each other’s goals will make it easier to support each other, as well as reveal to each other what we consider to be the most important aspects of our lives.  Some may hesitate to make their goals public, and that’s ok.  Some may want to keep some goals private, and that’s ok also.  If members are not willing to share their goals, at least ask that they share their Values, as written out in the Values Clarification exercise in the Cornerstones Personal Development Plan.

3) Implement weekly Accountability Group meetings. Schedule times for 5 – 6  members with similar goals (or similar grade levels) to have a brief meeting, during which everyone has a chance to discuss their progress on their current goals.  In the book The Success Principles, author Jack Canfield calls this a “MasterMind meeting”, and recommends the following 7 steps.

Group at ALA '11

  1. Ask for Spiritual Guidance by Delivering an Invocation (use Bless Now Acacia, or this book suggests something along these lines: “We ask now to be filled & surrounded with light, and our hearts be open to receive guidance from the higher power.”)
  2. Share What’s New & Good (in terms of making progress toward your goals)
  3. Negotiate for Time (determine how much time each group member will have for the focus to be on them)
  4. Individual Members Speak While the Group Listens & Brainstorms Solutions (remember – in brainstorming there are no “bad ideas” – keep your mind open)
  5. Make a Commitment to Stretch (once each member gains feedback, ask each member to verbally commit to a next action to move him forward & the commitment should be a stretch)
  6. End with a Moment of Gratitude (go around and have each member express one thing he appreciates about each other person in the group)
  7. Be Accountable (at next meeting, simply ask “Did each member take action?  Did they achieve their goal?”).
  • (this content was paraphrased from pages 310 – 312 in The Success Principles by Jack Canfield, published by Harper Collins Publishers, 2005)

4 ) Implement an Accountability Partner system by which each member (that is interested in participating) has a partner with whom they “check in” each day simply to talk about successes they have had in reaching their goals and their plans for next action steps to continue to move toward their goals.  Also in The Success Principles, author Jack Canfield suggests that “The key to a successful accountability relationship is choosing someone who is as excited about reaching his or her goal as you are about reaching yours – someone who is committed to your success and theirs.” (from page 313 of The Success Principles, published by Harper Collins Publishers, 2005)

5 ) Survey the entire chapter to discover topics of interest for “educational/developmental presentations”, compile the results, then use all of your resources to schedule presentations that are relevant to the topics of interest.  You can use the Survey or Poll functions through your ACACIAconnect.org account for this purpose.  Simply navigate to the Tools menu from your ACACIAconnect.org Dashboard, select Survey or Polls, follow the instructions & share with your chapter members.

6 ) Discover opportunities hosted by university community.  Find out if your university (or the Student Union Board, or the Student Body, or the Campus Activities office, or the Career Center) schedules & hosts any expert speakers that would fulfill any of the above-mentioned topics of interest. If so, publicize the event to the chapter and encourage members to go.  Hold a brief discussion afterwards to hone in on key points made during presentation, by asking these basic questions that could be used to reflect on any development activity:

  1. “What?” – as in “What experience did you just have?”
  2. “So What?” – as in “How is this experience relevant to you?”
  3. “Now What?” – as in “What will you do now that you have this new knowledge, experience, mindset, or perspective?”

eNewsletter example

7 ) Publish an eNewsletter to send out to alumni in which you provide brief bios of each of the members of your chapter, including which of the members are currently looking for internship or employment opportunities.  Each chapter is encouraged to work with Acacia Headquarters to create eNewsletters to be sent out to you alumni – or you can take this into your own hands & just get it done.  If you are interested in creating & distributing eNewsletters, please contact Keith Bushey at kbushey@acacia.org

8 ) Use your alumni as resources.  Use the results of your earlier survey to discover topics of interest for “educational/developmental presentations”, and publish a list of topics in your eNewsletter (or on your chapter website) that the chapter is interested in.  Once you get this list published, recruit alumni members to deliver educational presentations on one of the following topics (or any other you’re interested in):

  • Time Management
  • Goal Setting
  • Job Search
  • How to Find a Mentor
  • Things I Wish I Knew When I Was in College
  • Financial Management
  • or any other topic that the chapter is interested in

9 ) Build your “Cornerstones Library”.  Create a “wish list for a Cornerstones Library”, then do whatever you have to do to bring it to life, and use the contents of the Cornerstones library for the personal development of chapter members. Do some research to find out about any books or training materials that meet the topics of interest (mentioned above) in terms of utilizing them for Cornerstones discussions/activities. If you’re having trouble deciding which books to select, take a look at a previous post for some ideas.  For example, let’s say you wanted to purchase copies of The Success Principles for all members of your chapter, and that you were able to do that.  Those books could then be used in the Accountability Group structure, by assigning the reading of sections of the book to Accountability Group members, then focusing on those sections during your meetings.  All you would need to do is ask yourself: “What did everyone discover in the assigned section?”, “How is that relevant to your life situation?”, and “What will you do now that you have this new knowledge?”

10 ) Take responsibility and ownership for your own development, bring along any brothers who are interested, and don’t waste time trying to motivate members who just aren’t motivated to work on their personal development.  This may be difficult to understand, but you cannot change another person.  Change only happens from within that individual.  You can do your best to inform your members of opportunities that are available, and inform them of what you are doing in your own life, and the benefits that you are seeing as a result.  Cornerstones is about commitment, not compliance.  We are interested in working together with other brothers that are committed to their own development.  We are not interested in telling brothers that they “have to” participate in Cornerstones, because that will automatically set up resistance in their mind, which will make it harder for them to commit.  Work on your own sphere of influence – your own thoughts, ideas, and attitudes.  Let your actions speak for you.  Let others see a change in you, and soon they will be asking how you are doing what you’re doing.

What is Cornerstones 2.0?

During the 2011 Acacia Leadership Academy, a new version of the Cornerstones Program was discussed with the attendees – and we’re calling it Cornerstones 2.0.  Check out the Video page on this blog for videos explaining the program.

Now – you may be reading this thinking, “I don’t even know what Cornerstones 1.0 is!”  That’s one of the reasons for a new iteration of the program guidelines & resources.  Another reasons that we need Cornerstones 2.0 is the resounding feedback received from undergraduate & alumni members alike, that the program is “too rigid, too extensive, not realistic.”

For the sake of clarity, Cornerstones 2.0 is a new perspective on our program, and is a step away from having a “rigid & overly-extensive checklist of required activities”, and a step toward “working with overall developmental principles to define personally-meaningful goals for each individual, as well as an action plan to achieve those goals.

The original curriculum of activities presented in the first version of Cornerstones is still relevant.  Chapters & individual members should NOT just toss those aside – they remain as good examples of activities that may lead you further down your own path of development.  However, those good examples are only recommended to you if they are congruent with your own personal values & goals.

So, in terms of Cornerstones 2.0, the most important activity is the completion of the Personal Development Plan template (available for download on the Resources page of this blog) for each individual pledge and/or member.  By working through this template, our members will engage in the following activities:

  • Clarify Your Values,
  • Write a Mission Statement (or Life Purpose Statement),
  • Create a Vision of Success,
  • Identify Personal Strengths,
  • Set Personal Goals, &
  • Define Action Plans.
Here’s a screencast demo of how to use the new website at www.ACACIAconnect.org to track your Cornerstones developmental progress: view video on YouTube.

Potential Questions: 

Is this simplified framework going to answer all possible questions or concerns regarding Cornerstones?

NO – since we are working on one of the most difficult & complex fields of human endeavor – human motivation – this new framework will not be the end-all, be-all for your chapter.  However, it will make the program more accessible, more simple to get started, and hopefully more manageable amidst all of the other competing interests in your life.

Is this more-focused framework going to get the members of my chapter to participate?

MAYBE – again, this new framework is focused on the member defining relevant, current goals that are personally meaningful to him.  If a member of your chapter doesn’t have any goals, or objectives, or “things he wants to do, be, or have in his life” – then you should probably be seriously considering why your chapter recruited, pledged & initiated him.

Is the Personal Development Plan template all that I need to do to be “participating in Cornerstones”?  YES & NO –

YES – in that if you complete this document, you will be fully prepared to embark on a journey to achieve your goals, and all you really need to do is re-visit & re-write your Values, Mission, Goals, etc. whenever any of that changes for you.

NO – in that you still have to take action to achieve your goals, reflect upon your progress, & re-set goals when their are either achieved or become boring to you.

Final Word: 

You don’t need to “know everything about Cornerstones” in order to take action.  You just need to identify what is most important to you, make a plan to achieve it, take action, and demonstrate results (whether positive or negative).  If you’re not sure about what is most important to you, write something down anyway.  As your mind goes about your days, those areas will come into better focus.  A quote by a past U.S. President is appropriate to cite here:

“There are risks and costs to a program of action, but they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”   – President John. F. Kennedy

3 Pillars of Cornerstones

Three pillars

The “Three Pillars” of Cornerstones define “what you must have in place in your life in order to participate fully in the program.”

So we could just as easily call the “Three Pillars” by another name such as:

  • the Three Non-Negotiables of Cornerstones, or
  • the Minimum Standards of Cornerstones, or
  • the Basic Working Parts of Cornerstones
* image used by permission of this license

The “Three Pillars” of Cornerstones as related to an individual member of Acacia are to have :

1. A Growth Mindset (aka growth attitude, growth perspective, or growth paradigm)

2. An Organized Plan

3. A Demonstration of Your Achievement/Efforts (in some form)


  • Pillar One:  A Growth Mindset

In the book Influencer, by Kerry Patterson, he and his co-authors describe the importance of having a growth mindset, as opposed to a fixed mindset.

  • Growth mindset – to learn how to develop a set of high-level learning skills and techniques, to strive for continual learning
  • Fixed mindset – if one believes they cannot improve, then they won’t even try, and he’ll create a self-fulfilling prophecy, and as a result will not grow
  • these definitions come directly from the book Influencer by Kerry Patterson, which you can check out here.

In our usage here, “mindset” could also be interpreted as: “attitude“, “perspective“, or “paradigm“.

Each member either has a “growth mindset” or a “fixed mindset” when it comes to his own personal development.

To paraphrase the definition of a “growth mindset”, it is “learning how to developlearning skills“.

Brain mechanism
Having a growth mindset is the first step in realizing that there is a whole world of learning & discovery out there for you, but you must have the awareness and the humility to readily accept that fact, then go about the business of learning what you need to learn in order to get where you want to go.

* image used by permission of this license

Here’s a couple of examples of what a “fixed mindset” might sound like:

  • “Dude, I don’t need to do that Cornerstones stuff, I’m already learning as much as I can in my classes.”
  • “No way, I’m not spending even more time learning skills, I’m already totally swamped with academics.”
  • “All that personal development stuff is just fluff.  There’s really nothing for me in those lessons or activities.”

  • Pillar Two:  An Organized Plan

Organized Planning only happens if you already have a Growth Mindset.  You now have the attitude and ability to learn new skills and techniques.  Now it’s time to talk about your Goals and your Plan to reach those goals.

By completing the Cornerstones Personal Development Plan, you will identify and state your personal Strengths, Values, and Life Purpose/Mission/Definition of Success.  Once you have clarified those aspects, it is your responsibility to identify Goals/Objectives to work toward in the short-term and long-term.

There are many methodologies, guidelines, or frameworks within which a person can complete this sort of reflection and planning.  The framework that we are going to use in this document is based on exercises in the following books:

Once you have completed this introspection and reflection, it is your responsibility to transfer your plans into a format that will be useful to you, and that will be helpful to you in pursuing your goals/objectives.  One might consider using:
Atmail6-Calendar

    • a calendar (online or print)
    • a planner
    • an online task manager or to-do list manager
    • a Word document or Excel spreadsheet

Get the point?  Make it your own.  Do it your way, just make sure you do it.


  • Pillar Three:  Demonstration of Your Achievement / Efforts

The mission of Cornerstones states “The resulting outcome (of program participation) is graduating seniors who are able to articulate the positive impact of Acacia Fraternity in their lives, as well as their plans for staying involved as an alumni member.”

The whole point of Cornerstones is to prepare you to be able to articulate, or explain, or demonstrate the journey of personal development that you have been on in your life.

The whole point of Cornerstones is NOT to get you to complete a checklist of activities, but rather to “get you in shape to be the leader whom you are becoming, or the leader that you want to be.”

At some point, you have to demonstrate your participation and engagement with the program by creating something external that other people can experience.

Once you have completed your development activities, it is your responsibility to document your achievement and reflect on your progress in a format that can be communicated to others.  One might consider using:

    • your ACACIAconnect account
    • a Word document or Excel spreadsheet
    • a blog site
    • an ePortfolio

Get the point?  Make it your own.  Do it your way, just make sure you do it.

A Final Word on Reflection – Reflection includes taking some time to reflect on what you’ve just done, and reset for future action.  This could also be described as self-monitoring or self-observation.  This is closely related to tracking your progress in some way (GatesofSamos.org, on paper, on a blog, etc.).  Reflection can be done by simply answering the following questions:

      • “What?” – What did you just do, learn, or experience?
      • “So What?” – What is the relevance to your life?
      • “Now What?” – What will you now do with this new knowledge, awareness, or experience?