I have spoken about the five principles of leadership that we use in our Troop to develop both our Junior Leaders as well as our Adult Leaders.
To recap, those five principles are Learn to Lead Yourself, Focus on the little things, Model Expected Behavior, Communicate Effectively, and Be a Servant Leader.
In this post we are going to focus on the first of these principles, Learn to Lead Yourself.
Simply put, if you can not lead yourself you can not lead others.
To illustrate this point we talk often about the way you act. You set an example of what you would like in those that follow you. You, as a leader can not get away with the “Do as I say and not as I do” philosophy of leading. It just does not work if you are trying to be a good leader.
The way in which you carry yourself, your habits,and your skills show the follower that you are a leader that is worthy of following.
You pack your pack correctly and assist others in getting theirs right.
You take your promise to live the Scout Oath and Law in your daily lives seriously. This is important in showing those you lead that you do not compromise in your values and you are consistent in the way you act and expect them to act.
Thomas J. Watson, the former chairman of IBM, said, “Nothing so conclusively proves a man’s ability to lead others as what he does from day-to-day to lead himself.”
Learning to Lead Yourself takes work. The learning part comes in developing those skills, attitudes, and habits that make you a better leader.
This means that you spend time in the study of leadership. It means that you take extra time to be trained in skills and develop methods of instruction to help others.
It means that you never stop learning, this becomes a habit. Once developed you long for more learning and skills development.
This goes for youth and adults alike.
I know many Scouters that will do training because they have to and I know Scouters that do training because they want to. They see value in adding to their skill sets in the bigger picture of how they deliver the promise of Scouting.
I also have seen this in our youth. Youth that seek more adventure and know that they must develop that knowledge base before they can execute certain skills and tasks. On the other hand, leadership is just a block to be signed on the way to Eagle Scout.
This concept of learning to lead yourself is nothing new. It has been taught for years by leadership guru’s and is a foundation of leadership development. It is a means of focusing on the leadership qualities that we need in order to be effective leaders. Think about what you want to see in a leader.
You want the leader to be Trustworthy. You want the leader to be reliable. You want the leader to be accountable. The leader should demonstrate integrity. Well, if those are the things that you want in a leader, you need to focus your learning, habits, and attitudes to becoming that person… that leader.
Like I said before, if you can not lead yourself, you can not lead other people.
So how do we learn to lead ourselves?
First. Find out who you are. What kind of leader are you? What habits do you currently have? What are your skill sets that contribute to your leadership?
These may be hard questions to answer. You may not like what you hear, either from yourself or others. Find a leader that you trust and appreciate. Ask them to assist you with these questions.
Second. Find out what skills you need to develop to be an effective leader. Make a list and a commitment to mastering those skills. Take extra training and opportunities to learn and practice those skills. Make changes in your habits and attitudes to get better at leadership and skills.
Third. Commit to be a life long learner. You need to always stay a couple of steps ahead of those you lead. Get out in front with learning, practicing, and sharpening your leadership skills. There is always something new and there are always way to improve. Perfection is a curious thing. It is something that can be seen, but moves farther away as you get closer. It forces us to get better. Shoot for perfection in leadership with the knowledge that I can not reach it, but the closer I get, the better I get.
Be patient but persistent. Stay focused on making yourself better and those that you lead will be better.
The first step in effective leadership is getting the leader right. That leader is you. Learn to lead yourself and you will be on your way to being an effective leader.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Oath and Law
I have spoken about the five principles of leadership that we use in our Troop to develop both our Junior Leaders as well as our Adult Leaders.
I have been digging through my collection of Troop Pictures and wanted to find some good annual pictures of our Troop, you know, the Summer camp shots that show what a great year of Scouting we had.
As I dug through my collection I looked back on all of those young men that have enjoyed a great program at our Troop. I think about all of the young men that have come and gone. Some stuck it out to the end, some are still active with the Troop.
It has been fun to look at the guys and think about the funny stories that come with each of these pictures.
In light of current discussions on growth and membership, when I look at these pictures I see our program and why it works. I see great kids that want to play the game with a purpose. I see those adults that give a ton to the program. I see the place we have been and things that we have done and it makes me want to give more to these incredible young men that join looking for the adventure of a life time.
As I look back on these pictures I can’t help but remember those years when membership was booming and activities never seemed to end. I think back on our transition from a “Patrol Box Troop” to a “Backpacking Troop” and how that changed our adventure. It also changed our membership. It made us a bit smaller, not every young man wants that kind of adventure. I think about all the Scouts that we talked with on join nights and Troop visits that we suggested different Troops to. Those young guys that had that look that they did not want to join our Troop, but for us them staying in Scouting was more important. I often run into some of those young men and am glad that they stayed in Scouting. Even though we did not ‘get them’ Scoutingwon and so did the Scout. A look at the pictures bring back memories of attacking raccoon’s and awesome dutch oven cook offs. They tell a story of our Troop and the fun that we have had.
Doing an independent camp out in Eastern Oregon was a great adventure. A staff made up of our parents and Scout leaders. Trips to historical sites and learning to catch bee’s. Water skiing, horseback riding, and launching rockets. Hanging out in the stream and paddling rubber rafts across the pond with our hands. Catching fish and having an amazing fish fry, for some the first time they ever had Trout.
Leaving an Order of the Arrow Sash at Chief Josephs grave marker was a special day and raising the flag on the flag pole we cut, shaved, and placed on the ranch property leaving the owner speechless with a tear in his eye is a memory I will never forget. Troop 664 shined that summer and did something that I never thought we could pull off. 5 hours from home and one of the best summer camp experiences we have ever had.
In 2010 13 members of Troop 664 went to the National Jamboree with Contingent Troop 720. I had the pleasure of being the Scoutmaster for that Troop and Rob, one of Troop 664’s Assistant Scoutmasters was an Assistant Scoutmaster in 720 also. The rest of the Troop went to Camp Baldwin that year and I do not have a picture of that group.
If you have never been to a National Jamboree you need to go. It is said that the National Jamboree is a once in a life time experience. Well, not really, you can go to as many as you want. But 2010 was a special year. Being the 100th Anniversary of Scouting in America, the Jamboree in 2010 was very special. It was very cool that I was selected to be a Scoutmaster. It was extremely special that my two sons were in my Troop. It was the only National Jamboree that the three of us would every be able to go to together. The young men of that Troop were very special and bonded quickly. Those bonds remain. That group will forever have a special place in my heart.
As you all know, Philmont has a special place in my heart also. I love Philmont. In 2012 our Troop put together two Crews and made the journey to Scouting’s Paradise.
It was a life changing event for many of the Scouts of our Troop. That group of Scouts that made the trek in the Sange DeCristo Mountains came home different. The other day we were talking about the guys that went to Philmont Scout Ranch. Of that group all but three stayed in Scouting. 5 are or will be in the very near future Eagle Scouts. The rest are still active in the Troop. One completely turned himself around and became our Scout of the Year last year. Philmont made a lasting impression on the life of Troop 664. Last Monday I sat with a Scout, he was my Crew leader at Philmont, for his Scoutmaster Conference for the Eagle award. We talked about Philmont and his impression of the experience. He shared with me that at first he was not to excited because he was the crew leader and was afraid that he would be to busy leading that he would miss the experience. On the contrary. It was his leadership and the way our Crew bonded that made the Philmont experience a special one. We talked about his experiences in the Troop and his growth. He talked about Jamboree, Philmont, and all the cool camping trips. Troop 664 delivered the promise to him and continues to provide the adventure of Scouting to the young men that keep showing up.
Last year our Troop went North to the Chief Seattle Council to Camp Pigott. It was the second time we have been there and the experience was once again fantastic. The camp is great, the staff is wonderful and the experience is always one that the Scouts talk about for year. In all of this, as I look back though, it’s not the camp, it’s not the staff, it’s not the time of year. It’s the Troop that makes these pictures come alive. It’s the Troop that as it grows and passes along traditions, stories, leadership, and fun creates the wonderful adventure of Scouting. That is the common theme that has run through the adventure of Troop 664 for the last 10 years and I am certain it will continue for the next 10… and beyond.
Finding that adventure in where we go and what we do. In our young men and the dedication of the adults that go along for the journey. As I look back at these pictures I can’t help but think that we are doing it right. The proof, they keep coming back. They learn, they grow, they become men of Character. All of that wrapped up in this game we play.
Delivering the Promise is a unit thing. Every unit needs to wrap itself in that promise and provide endless adventures for the young men of tomorrow. I look forward to seeing more and more pictures of Troop 664. I need to find the rest. It is fun to watch the growth of the Troop.
How’s your adventure?
Have a Great Scouting Day!
At the end of every Troop meeting our Troop circles up, joins hands, and sings Scout Vespers followed by reciting the Scout Law. This has concluded our meetings for years and has become a great tradition in our Troop.
A couple of weeks ago a young Scout asked why we sing that particular song, since we are not really at a campfire. He thought it was odd that we say “as our campfire fades away” when we are in a meeting hall.
I explained to him, and then the Troop that we always have the spirit of the campfire in us. It is Scout Spirit. There is magic in every campfire and we carry that with us every day.
The campfire within us burns bright showing the world that we are Scouts.
And that is why we say the Scout Law after we sing the song. As the campfire fades we need to add more fuel to it to keep it burning. As we send the Scouts away from the meeting each week we rekindle in them their fire. We remind them that they have a fire burning in them and that they need to live that Scout Spirit using the Oath and Law as their Guide.
So we sing and remind one another of the fire inside each and every one of us.
This is a great tradition in our Troop. I hope your Troop has similar traditions that make Scouting not only fun but meaningful.
What are some of your Troop traditions?
Let us know.
Softly falls the light of day,
As our campfire fades away.
Silently each Scout should ask
Have I done my daily task?
Have I kept my honor bright?
Can I guiltless sleep tonight?
Have I done and have I dared
Everything to be prepared?
Listen Lord, oh listen Lord,
As I whisper soft and low.
Bless my mom and Bless my dad,
These are things that they should know.
I will keep my honor Bright,
The oath and law will be my guide.
And mom and dad this you should know,
Deep in my heart I love you so.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
This weekend was spent rekindling the fire of the Order of the Arrow in me. I attended our Lodges annual gathering called Rendezvous. Our Lodge hosts three major events each year. The Native American Arts and Ceremonies Seminar, The Rendezvous of the Order, and The Leadership Development Conference. We also participate in the Section Conclave and many service projects throughout the year as well and four Ordeal weekends and a Vigil Induction annually. So, needless to say we have an active Lodge with ample opportunities to be an active member of the Order of the Arrow.
This weekend, I have to be honest, I was not entirely looking forward to. I did not attend last years Rendezvous because I am finding it harder and harder to tolerate some of the behavior that we have seen at some, not all, OA events. I suppose that I have an expectation that “honor society” means something and clearly that is not the case to some Scouts and their leaders.
Being elected into the Order of the Arrow is supposed to have some special meaning. Our Lodge Advisor said it best last night at the Banquet dinner when he summed up membership in the Order of the Arrow as a Journey, much like the journey Dorthy took in the Wizard of Oz. They (the principle parts of the the Wizard of Oz) sought a Brain, Courage and a Heart. We too in the Order of the Arrow seek Wisdom in the Scout Oath and Law, We strive to be Courageous in doing the right thing, and a Heart for service. And Dorthy.. she is the model of a Servant Leader, putting the other three needs above her own desire to go home. It is a Journey to constantly seek the path that leads us to be bound in that brotherhood that cheerfully serves.
And here is the problem I have been having and I guess this is a universal issue within me that expects more out of those that we trust are “worthy”. Whether that is a Scout that has earned his Eagle Award or a Scout that has been elected into the Order of the Arrow. I expect them to live that code that we promise. In addition to the Scout Oath and Law, the Obligation of the Order of the Arrow are tremendous guides for our lives. It is that yellow brick road that leads us to a life that is worthy of being called good.
I understand the need for membership and so I understand that there will be Scouts that will take time to mature into young men that we can trust to live the obligation. I get that. But where is the coaching and mentoring that get them on the path to doing right? This is my issue. When I see Scouts that are disrespectful, unkind, selfish, and run from service, I wonder how and why they are members of the OA. Or better yet, who is teaching them or not teaching them the expected behaviors that come with being a Scout and a member of the Order of the Arrow.
This weekend I attended for a few reasons. First I was asked to do some service. We cleaned out and sorted, repacked and labeled the bins in the Wood Badge trailer. Since I was the last Assistant Scoutmaster for support and physical arrangements I had a great interest in helping out those future staffers, making their jobs a bit easier. Second, I was asked to attend the Banquet Saturday night as I was “officially” being called to the Vigil Honor along with the rest of this years Vigil Candidates. I’ll get right back to that.
The third reason was that we are trying to get the OA members of our Troop fired up again about the OA and rekindle their fire in ceremonies. So I talked it up to the members in my Troop and a group of them decided to attend. Being a good example, I knew that I needed to be there also to demonstrate that I care about the OA and their membership in it.
And finally, I knew that a bunch of my Scouter friends from around the Council would be there and to be honest, I wanted to hang out with them. It’s always a great time sharing stories and catching up.
Back to number two. The Vigil Call out.
Throughout the day on Saturday many of my friends and other members of the Lodge approached me with congratulations on being elected to the Vigil Honor. Folks that I have not seen in ages and some that at other times have never given me the time of day, but the thing that mattered was their genuine attitude about what the Vigil Honor means to them. They all shared a little something about what the honor has meant in their lives, not sharing anything about the induction, but what that simple little triangle of arrows on their sash has meant as they apply living what I gathered as the gifts they received from membership in this organization. I kept thinking last night about this trip down the yellow brick road and that, even though I don’t know what is to come in the Vigil induction, I feel like it is that point in the journey when you finally meet the great and powerful Oz and much is reveled . This journey from Ordeal member to Brotherhood has taken me on a trip to find the arrow. That spirit of Cheerful service and living the Oath and Law fully in our daily lives… above and beyond that of just being a Scout. To truly understand being selfless and applying that attitude every day. One does not need the Order of the Arrow for this, but in the context of Scouting is a great life lesson that when demonstrated by those that have been selected to the highest Honor brings great credit to Scouting, this organization that we believe in and love.
I was looking through some of my collection of Scouting literature and found a small booklet that was distributed back in 1968 to new members of the Order of the Arrow. It is a basic run down of what the OA is, gives the Legend of the Lenni Lenape and discusses the membership Honors of the Order. There is a sentence in the paragraph about the Vigil Honor that I feel sums up my attitude about those Scouts that fail to live up to the expectation of membership. The converse I suppose can be found in this statement, “…members of our Order who give outstanding or distinguished service, or who by unusual devotion to Scouting…” Unusual devotion to Scouting, maybe that is why I don’t get some of the behavior or attitudes. I have an unusual devotion to Scouting. Yep… I love Scouting that is a fact and I constantly try to tell Scouting’s Story. The Vigil Honor is calling me to do just that… I think.
I’m going to go with that for now anyway.
I am firm bound in Brotherhood.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Yesterday I was listening to some talk radio and over the course of the day the recurring theme of child raising came up. I heard a fantastic quote on one of the programs that I thought needed to be shared here.
“We are not raising our children to be good children, we are raising them to be good adults.”
Yes, we are. I think that much too often we focus on keeping our kids children and not looking to the future and what kind of adults they are going to be.
There is a balance there. A balance between keeping our kids in a safety bubble and letting them run wild. Finding the middle ground and ensuring we teach them the right skills to negotiate life is where we will develop them to be those good adults that we wish them to be.
It is for this reason that we focus on Citizenship, Character, and Fitness in Scouting and not cranking out Eagle Scouts. While there are certain rewards for earning the rank of Eagle Scout is far more important that we see in our Scouts that development of Character. An Eagle Scout without Character does himself and Scouting a disservice.
I am not sure when things went wrong and I certainly do not want to sound like those folks did when we were growing up, you know… walking to School in the snow up hill.. both ways… Life was not rough when I grew up, and life is no rougher now. The difference was in our parents then I think. We stayed out till the street lights came on, we played outside all the time, bumps and bruises were part of life. Now we did have a lot less distractions then. We did not have 700 channels on TV, there was no such thing as the internet or cell phones, and once you mastered Pong on the Atari it was time to get back outside.
Our parents may have worried about us, but knew that we would be home when it was time to come home, or when we got hungry.. which ever came first.
I think our parents understood balance. They understood that we needed to have quiet time and we needed to have loud time. We did not sit in time out… we got spanked and it was over. We learned lessons and moved on.
Fighting and making up was a part of being friends. No drama, just growing up.
Our bikes were made of parts and I don’t think you could find two of the same color. We made tree forts and fell out of them more times than I can count. But my mom did not put me in a bubble and make every bad thing in the world disappear.
Balance. We can place our sons in a bubble and protect them, or we can let them learn about the world by living in it. I prefer living, knowing boundaries, and getting out there in life’s great adventure. That is how we raised our kids and they all turned out to be good adults.
We are not raising children to be children, we have enough adults in the world that act that way. This is why we have adults in the world that still wait for a hand out. That is why we have adults that are immature and live for the drama of a teenager. Just look at Facebook at what adults do on it.
We need to raise our young men to be men.
Finding a good balance and watching them develop.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
In an effort to “fix lazy” it dawned on me that one of the problems is that our young men, and I am not just talking about Scouts here, tend to get caught up in the obstacles rather than focusing on the objectives. This bogs them down and they feel defeated. They fail themselves in the mind before they can feel the success of completing a task.
In the last post I listed a few “rathers”.. they would rather freeze then change clothing, they would rather be cold and miserable than apply the training they have learned. This is lazy and it is an attitude that someone will come to my aid.
This is also an inability to get past the obstacle and get to the objective.
The objective is the skill or the task or goal. Lets take for example setting up a tent. The tent does not change. It is the same tent that they have set up many times, but insert an obstacle like snow and cold and now it is a whole new tent. NO, it’s still the same tent. The challenge is to get it set up.. the goal is to get the tent set up to get out of the elements, but in their mind they can’t do it because it is cold. I was talking with one Scout about what they would have done had we hiked in at night. Something we do 11 times a year.. but none the less. He asked what we would have done, so I told him that we would have set up camp… just like we always do. I asked him if he knew how to set up his tent, he said yes. Then I told him that it’s no different setting it up in the dark than it is setting it up in the day light. The tent is the tent. Same poles, same grommets, same rain fly, same guy tie outs, same everything. If you can set it up in your living room, you can set it up in the woods, the snow, the rain, and the dark. He immediately found the obstacle rather than the objective.
I am finding this more and more with the Scouts that we have these days. The look for the obstacles rather than focusing on the objectives. This is the wrong way to think.
If we focus on the objective, we will negotiate the obstacles to get there. The obstacles become the fun challenge that it takes to get the reward or success.
We have been talking about our up coming backpacking trip this summer. The younger guys are doing a 50 miler, while the more experienced guys are going to do about 80. When the PLC announced this immediately they thought about 50 miles of backpacking and not the adventure. They failed to hear the part about 10 days of hiking, breaking up the mileage into reasonable chunks, that anyone with a pair of legs could do. They did not think about 10 days of being out with their buddies in the Olympics.. nope.. just the obstacles that would make it hard.
This we need to work on.. but it is the first part of fixing lazy.
What are your thoughts on this? I’d love to know.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Here is a question for you… How do you fix lazy?
I do not intend this to be a rant, rather a real look into why are people.. in particular.. some of our Scouts so lazy. Yes.. I said Lazy, and if the shoe fits they need to wear it.
Well, Scoutmaster Jerry… you can’t call a boy out like that.. you may hurt their feelings… Really? If you don’t want your feelings hurt, stop being lazy. It’s really that simple.
Here is the situation.
We do a very good job of teaching skills. As is the case in Scout Troops all over our Country, Scout leaders have vested interest in making sure that our Scouts are trained in skills, both life skills and those skills that can be applied in the great out doors. In the case of my Troop, we have assembled a group of adult leaders that are the best. That is a pretty lofty claim, but true. We have multiple BSA certified Climbing instructors. Multiple Wilderness First Aid trained and First Responders. Medical professionals, skilled outdoors men. Trained and certified trainers for extreme cold weather activities, etc. Avid backpackers with years of experience and mastered skill levels. Leave No trace experts etc. We have made it a point to be over trained so the Scouts of our Troop will have the benefit of training that is current, relevant, expert, and will ensure that the Scout will gain the most of his Scouting experience.
Now, before I go on.. YES, we are YOUTH LED… BUT…
As you all know there are times that Adults with know how need to step in and not lead, but train. The Scout leadership is still leading and teaching basic skills, but when it comes to high risk activities it is important that Adult instruction from those that are qualified, skilled, and trained need to do the teaching.
So, we have assembled this great group of skilled folks that know what they need to know and are willing to teach and provide mentoring as the Scouts develop their skills.
I suppose it is worth mentioning that a Scout joins our Troop knowing what he is getting into. It is also fair to point our that we do not push participation. A Scout will get out of Scouting exactly what he puts into it. If a young man makes the choice to not participate, well then he will get that experience out of Scouting. On the other hand, if he makes the choice to fully immerse himself in the experience, he will have an outstanding experience while a Scout and more likely than not carry that with him the rest of his life.
We are what we are we are not going to change that based on Lazy. We have made it a point to never cancel based on outside of Scouting choices. We encourage our Scouts to be active outside of Scouts also and we know that there are certain outings that lend themselves to less participation, but we will not cancel those based on the interest level of some of the Scouts taking away that opportunity for others. We would rather go with 5 that are totally into it than 40 that are not.
On one hand we preach that this is the Scouts Troop, and yes that is the case. They are the Scouts that made the choice years ago that they wanted to be a high adventure unit. And that is what we became. That is why boys join our Troop. Then some realize that we expect more from them individually than perhaps their School teacher do or their parents. We expect them to become self-reliant. We expect them to pay attention and learn. We expect them to develop skills and become proficient in those skills and at some point teach those skills. We expect them to push themselves beyond their comfort zone. We do not think that this is too much to ask, and when parents bring their son to us, it seems that it is not too much for them either. Parents by and large seem to like the idea that we expect much from their sons.
We see it over and over again though that some, not all, of our Scouts are just plain lazy. It would seem that they would rather freeze to death and starve before they took a tiny bit of initiative to do the right thing. They are trained, but have difficulty applying that training because they are too busy trying to take a short cut or allow someone else to do it for them.
They would rather be told 100 times to do something than just do it. They would rather be cold and miserable than to apply the training that they have learned from some of the best folks around. Simple things like keeping your gloves out of the snow or staying dry. This is just plain lazy.
They would rather have Mom and Dad replace gear than take care of it. They would rather crawl into their sleeping bag than learn new skills and develop their own level of expertise in those skills. They would rather… well, I think you are getting the point.
I do not understand this way of thinking. I do not understand Lazy. Now before I get one comment that tells me that kids today are different from they were 20 years ago… JUST STOP. They are no different. The difference is not in the kid, it is in how they are raised in the world around them. They have been wrapped in layer of bubble wrap and not allowed to explore. They have been force-fed pills to calm them down, they have been sheltered because of the boggy man and Al Qaeda. They are sat in front of a TV as a baby sitter and the world around them tells them that they don’t have to work for a living. Don’t worry.. the Government will take care of you and the more ailments you can rack up the more Uncle Sam will take care of you. You don’t have to get a good paying job, you can apply for hand outs.. so don’t work and you will be fine. I don’t understand this thinking. And it is happening. Citizenship used to mean making a contribution, now it means waiting for one.
Are their legitimate ailments out there?.. sure there are.. but c’mon.. When you are a 13-year-old boy, you need to get out and at it.
Lazy is a habit. It is formed early and reinforced often. Here is the thing. I don’t know how to fix it. Well I do, but in the process I will lose Scouts and upset parents. This is the issue I am dealing with. How do I fix lazy and maintain Scouts and get them on board? How do I do this and keep Mom and Dad happy?
I will be working on answers to this question.. I am curious as to what you have to say.
Please leave your answer to How to fix lazy in the comments section. I want to know what you do.. or do you just allow it. Either way.. share.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Monday night our Troop held its annual Order of the Arrow election and its six month youth leadership election. Our Troop elections are like most Troops in that we hold the elections for youth leadership. We may differ in this aspect, we only elect the “assistants”. When we hold our elections every six months we elect the Assistant Senior Patrol Leader and the Assistant Patrol Leaders. The idea here is that now the Assistant has six months to learn how to do the job, then he is more successful when it comes his turn to serve as the ‘Leader’. At the six month mark, the Assistant automatically becomes the leader and we elect new Assistants.
It’s pretty simple and works very well.
The OA elections are held just like everyone elects members into the Order of the Arrow. We do not announce the candidates until they are called out at Camporee.
After the meeting on Monday night a group of Scouts and I were talking about leadership issues and the OA. I shared a story about how my ordeal went when I was a youth compared to how they do them now. There are some differences for sure, but the spirit of the ordeal is pretty much the same. A couple of the Scouts mentioned that they wish that the ordeal was still like it was when I was a Scout. Now to be sure, I know that there is some form of “it’s cool if the Scoutmaster says it’s cool” going on here. Rest assured I am not saying this to stroke my ego, and there will be a point here I promise.
We talked about how sometimes it seems that some Scouts take things like the ordeal serious, while others do it to get a sash and pocket flap. I asked why they think that is. The overwhelming response was that it is cool to be in the OA, but members should be “worthy” to be in it. If they do not want to participate, they should not be in it.
I agree, but understand that to some the OA may be just another thing in Scouting and it certainly looks great on the Scouting resume.
One of the Scouts chimed in that he viewed it kind of like the different Troops we see at Camporee. Some take the wearing of the Scout uniform serious, while other look like slobs (his words not mine, although I agree). Some like to build the gateways, while others would rather hang out in camp around the campfire. I am not sure that there is a right or wrong answer here other than when we discuss methods, like wearing the uniform, but what I suggested to these Scouts was that it comes down to their unit’s culture.
And how is that formed? Well, I think that somewhere along the way we form our culture by the activities we do, the way we develop traditions, and our attitudes toward how delivering the promise of Scouting should look. The Troop’s program has a lot to do with that also in that it becomes the style of the Troop.
So in the case of my Troop we have Traditions that passed on as the Scouts move through the unit. New Traditions meet the older ones and it helps shape our culture. Our Troop’s annual program goes along way in the shaping of that culture. Being a backpacking Troop, we do things a bit different and the Scouts of the Troop view themselves as adventurous and skilled. This adventurous spirit and skills are the personality of the Troop. They like the idea that they are different from most Troops, especially at Camporee and summer camp. They like to show up with nothing but their packs. This attitude is a big part of our culture. It is not right or wrong, it’s who we are.
Where does that come from? Well, certainly I had a part to play. Introducing the Troop to backpacking, but then the Scouts took it because they liked it. As a Backpacking Troop it lends itself to adventures like Climbing, Kayaking and Canoeing, Glacier hiking, snow shoeing and lots of other adventurous activity. It is not for everyone and we have seen Scouts come and go because of who we are. And that is ok.
We decided awhile ago that we would deliver the promise of Scouting and this would be our delivery method. The Parents of our Scouts see that what we do works and those Scouts that stick around and take an active part in the program get a lot out of it.
We find a good balance of Youth leadership and Adult interaction through Coaching and Mentoring. When our youth cross over into the Troop they immediately learn who is in charge, the SPL and their Patrol leader. They never stop hearing it. The endless stream of Scouts seeking attention is more often time met with “Ask the SPL”. The culture of the youth led troop balanced with the ability to know when the Scout needs more than just the Senior Patrol leader.
The Scoutmaster conference is a big part of our culture. More times than not, it is not an open book and signing session. It is far more frequent for that Scoutmaster conference to deal with “Boy issues”. Stuff that they just need to talk about. To the outside eyes and ears that may sound a bit creepy, but in our unit Trust is high and sometimes there are just things you need to talk about with someone who you trust. I have built that trust with our Scouts and their parents.
That trust is a huge part of our culture and comes from an unwavering commitment to the Scout Oath and Law. Those are the rules of the Troop and those are the only rules.
I told you that there was a point here. Yes, our Troop is not for everyone and often times our Scouts look to be arrogant or have a swagger about them. That is true, however it is not arrogance, it is confidence. We pride ourselves on skills development and staying true to the goals of Scouting. We wrap all of that in our adventure and fun program. I believe like Baden-Powell asked us as Scoutmasters to the heart of the boy and to be their friend. That is why our Scouts would have that feeling that when I suggest it is cool.. it is. I am not always right and do not seek the worship of these young men. I will tell you quite honestly that I love it when they want to be adventurous. I love to see them push their boundaries and step out of their comfort zone. I love to see leadership in action, no matter how ugly it looks at times. This has become our culture, this is our Troop. I am sure that your Troop has its own culture and its own traditions and its own swagger.
Watch a Troop as it sings its Troop song or yell. That will give you a peek into that Troops Culture.
This all started with a couple of Scouts talking about how they wish things were different. My answer to them was simply this, If you want it to be different, change it. Know my guys.. they will.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
I do not talk much about the Order of the Arrow on this blog, and maybe I should. I have not received a lot of requests for OA topics, but over the past few months I have been giving the Order of the Arrow a bit more thought.
As many of you know (that follow me on social media) I have been elected to Vigil Honor.
The Vigil Honor is the highest honor that the Order of the Arrow can bestow upon its members for service to lodge, council, and Scouting. Membership cannot be won by a person’s conscious endeavors. (From the OA website) It is a great honor to have been chosen to be a Vigil member.
Since I have been giving more thought about the Order of the Arrow, I thought I would share some of my thoughts on OA membership and what the Order of the Arrow really means [to me].
First some background on the Order of the Arrow. And rather than rediscover the wheel, I am going to use information found at the Order of the Arrow website.
The Order of the Arrow was founded in 1915 by Camp Director E. Urner Goodman and Assistant Camp Director Carroll A. Edson at the Treasure Island Boy Scout Camp. Goodman and Edson were looking for ways to recognize campers that demonstrated a cheerful spirit and service. In those days there were many camp honor societies throughout the Nations Scout camps. Some of those were the Gimogash, Ku-Ni-Eh, Nani Ba Zhu, Firecrafters and Mic O Say. Over time many of those camper honor societies merged and became local Lodges within the Order of the Arrow. Mic O Say is still active and recognized by the Boy Scouts of America.
The Order of the Arrow became a part of the National Program of the Boy Scouts of America in 1934. By 1948, the OA, recognized as the BSA’s national brotherhood of honor campers, became an official part of the Boy Scouts of America. Since then the Order of the Arrow has expanded to over 300 Lodges, most Lodges representing a Council, although some Lodges make up multiple Council areas.
The mission of the Order of the Arrow is to fulfill its purpose as an integral part of the Boy Scouts of America through positive youth leadership under the guidance of selected capable adults. The Order of the Arrow is completely youth led. A member of the OA is consider a youth until his 21st birthday.
The OA is more than just an honor society. It has a specific purpose and looks to gain members that loyal live up to those goals. It is for that reason that members should be chosen from within their units that best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives. If the Scout is willing to not only live the Oath and Law daily, but dedicate himself to service than he is a good candidate for the Order of the Arrow. Arrowmen are known for maintaining camping traditions and spirit, you will find that many if not all camp staff at your local Scout camp are members of the OA. They promote camping and Scout spirit daily making our Scout camps fantastic. Arrowmen serve promoting year-round and long-term resident camping, and providing cheerful service to others. OA service, activities, adventures, and training for youth and adults are models of quality leadership development and programming that enrich and help to extend Scouting to America’s youth. One of the great ways that the OA promotes long-term retention in Scouting is through ceremonies starting with Arrow of Light and Cross Over ceremonies.
As Scouting’s National Honor Society, our purpose is to:
Recognize those who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives and through that recognition cause others to conduct themselves in a way that warrants similar recognition.
Promote camping, responsible outdoor adventure, and environmental stewardship as essential components of every Scout’s experience, in the unit, year-round, and in summer camp.
Develop leaders with the willingness, character, spirit and ability to advance the activities of their units, our Brotherhood, Scouting, and ultimately our nation.
Crystallize the Scout habit of helpfulness into a life purpose of leadership in cheerful service to others.
Just like the Aims of the Boy Scouts of America, membership in the Order of the Arrow solidify in a Scout of Scouter the drive to be of service and grow in Character, Citizenship and fitness. The Order of the Arrow is summed up in three words, often seen as WWW. Brotherhood, Cheerfulness, and Service. In other words, the OA is the Brotherhood of Cheerful Service.
The OA is Local and it is National. What I mean by that is simply this. Just like your Troop is local and the programs offered at the Troop level are planned and executed locally, you and your Troop are part of the National Council or organization. This is strength in program and resources. The OA has many great local Lodge and Chapter programs, but the programs offered through the National Organization demonstrate the strength of the Order.
The support of the Order of the Arrow for the National Journey to Excellence program is one such program. JTE for the OA replaced the National Quality Lodge program and gave the OA a better tool of measuring the Quality program it offered at the National and Lodge level.
The National OA Endowment was formed more than 30 years ago as means for the Order to fund scholarships and special programs. The national Order of the Arrow committee oversees the annual program budget which is funded using the earnings from the national OA endowment.
And there are more programs at the Lodge level that benefit the local Council, Arrowmen, and Scouts in general.
The Order of the Arrow has its own recognition programs also. You can read all about the OA’s awards at their site.
OK… so that’s the Order of the Arrow from the book But where the Sash meets the Scout what does the Order of the Arrow mean and represent.
I won’t go into the ceremony of the Order of Arrow other than to say from the beginning the Order of the Arrow, through its ceremony and tradition call on the Scout/Scouter to Find the Arrow.
The Arrow is that symbol that we use in Arrow of Light ceremonies to signify a journey. An adventure that is straight and true. A trail that leads the individual to find the right path in life. One of dedicated service to others and the living of the Scout Oath and Law. So in finding the arrow, we strive daily to seek that which is an honorable way of living.
The Order of the Arrow uses the legend of the Lenni Lenape Indians of the Delaware to start the members of the OA on that journey. It is a journey marked by service to others.
Personal Thoughts on the Order of the Arrow.
As stated above, the OA has high-minded goals and bases its foundation on service. This is why I initially started to like the Order of the Arrow. Well, lets back up for a minute… This is why I started to like it as a Scoutmaster. I was first introduced to the OA as a youth at Camp Freedom in Germany. The initial impact of Indians coming across a lake at night in canoes holding torches to light the way. A Great Chief that called his Brothers to seek those that were worthy to join the tribe.. those things as a Scout fascinated me. It was mysterious and cool. It was special. When I went through my ordeal we were given an arrow carved from a piece of wood. We had to wear that arrow around our neck and if we violated any of the rules of the ordeal a chunk was cut from the arrow. This tested us as young men to be disciplined and live that part of the oath that called us to be obedient. For what ever reason, that is no longer a virtue that parents feel important these days and the cutting of corner or chunk of wood is recognized not to reinforce expected behavior but that of offending or hurting the feelings of the person in violation of the agreed rules. But the couple of days that we worked hard serving our camp, quietly laboring cheerfully left a mark on us.
I had the pleasure of becoming a Brotherhood member of the Order with my oldest son. Again, we renewed our commitment to service. John later became a Chapter officer and served the lodge as an Ordeal master as well as a member of the Pre Ordeal, Ordeal, and Brotherhood ceremonies teams. Josh, my youngest son also sealed his membership in the Order of the Arrow as a Brotherhood member and served as an Elangomate during an Ordeal. Having my sons as members made being a member of the Order special in a different way. Watching them grow with an attitude of service was a great thing.
John, our oldest son continues his journey, even though out of Scouting now as a Vigil member. Those values or Cheerful Service carries with him in his daily life. Josh, our youngest, although out of Scouting now also does not stray from his commitment to live the Scout Oath and Law and be of service also. Both look back at their Scouting life with fond memories of time spent with the Order of the Arrow.
Me, in my role as Scoutmaster value the added emphasis that the OA places on living the Oath and Law and being one that goes above and beyond that of an “average” Scout. That may be that thing that is to set Arrowmen apart. We are all called to serve and live the values of the Oath and Law… but as Arrowmen we commit to taking it a step further and making that a life long commitment. Being a Brother in Scouting and to our fellow-man. To serve cheerfully.
In a perfect world that meaning and those commitments would resonate within every Arrowmen. Often times it is lost in a sash and flap and just another Scouting thing. As is with those Scouts that say the Oath each week at their meetings, but fail to live the standard of it, there are Arrowmen that fall short. But the Arrow is within them. The need only to find it.
That happens when the mature and look into themselves and see where their lives are headed. It happens when they see examples of Scouts and Scouters that truly live those values. The example of leaders that proudly wear the symbols of membership and share the meaning and journey of seeking the arrow.
Elections are held annually for membership in the Order of the Arrow. The Scoutmaster sets the ballot of eligible Scouts. Scouts that have met the requirements of membership and more importantly are those Scouts that have demonstrated leadership in serving their fellow Scout. I think also that we need to look at the Scouts potential to lead and serve. I have seen Scouts that met the requirements but fell short in the service area that really took to the OA. Becoming members of ceremonies teams and working for their troop and Council at camps and within the service opportunities offered through the Lodge. The OA can enhance a Troops program because of the higher calling of the Arrowmen.
Now, I don’t want to sound overly dramatic here, but it does work. You can see it in the faces of a Scout called to serve. Reluctantly at first he finds success and meaning in his leadership and service.
The Order of the Arrow is good for Troops. I know of many Scoutmasters that feel that the OA takes away from Troop programs. When used correctly, the OA can be a game changer in a unit. It is not meant to be secret or exclusive. It is meant to enhance service and leadership. It is designed to give incentive to Scouts looking for more. In my opinion it is a great way to focus a Scout in the direction of finding the Arrow.
Where is the Arrow? It is up to you. We know that the foundation is a life that is right and true, but the Arrow is within each of us to seek and find. Once found, a life of cheerful service becomes the norm and our society is better for it. It makes the good Scout a Great Scout. In turn making Scouting better.
This organization, founded to honor those that served camps has grown into an organization that is looked to as the Honor Society of the Boy Scouts of America. That higher calling to serve, what more could Scouting ask for?
If you are a Scoutmaster not sure that support of the OA is the right way to go, rethink that. Get it into your unit and watch the difference come alive.
For those of you that are in support of the Order of the Arrow.. Thank you.. keep it up.
I look forward to going through my Vigil Induction. I don’t know what is ahead, but knowing the journey that I was set on at Camp Freedom those many years ago, I know that it will get me a step closer to finding the Arrow in me.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
**A note about the picture on top of this post.. From left to right in the picture are members of my Troop doing a Cross over ceremony. First on the left is James, now an Eagle Scout and Vigil Honor member, Second is my Youngest son Josh. A Brotherhood member and finished Scouting as a youth as a Life Scout. Third is my oldest son John. He is an Eagle Scout and Vigil Honor Member. Forth is Parker, he is an Eagle Scout and Brotherhood member. Finally is Lucas, he is wrapping up his Eagle Award right now and is a Brotherhood member of the OA.
“Scouting is not an abstruse or difficult science: rather it is a jolly game if you take it in the right light. At the same time it is educative, and (like Mercy) it is apt to benefit him that giveth as well as him that receiveth.” Baden-Powell of Gilwell.
I have been digging into my copy of Aids to Scoutmastership once again. I find that the little book written by Baden-Powell in 1920 still holds water today. As BP makes clear in Aids to Scoutmastership, the book is not an instruction manual, rather it is a book outlining Why we do what we do in Scouting. And once we know why we are doing something it is easier to see the vision and achieve the goals or aims. I would encourage you to get a hard copy of this. Mine is full of notes and highlights.. a must for every Scoutmaster.
Seeing the vision and understanding the goals are an important part of the Scoutmasters job. I think that too many Scoutmasters get caught in the “game” that they lose focus on the goal. Now, “the game” may be different in each unit and dependent on the leader. Some pay particular attention to advancement, while others focus on the outings. In most cases there is a good balance, but there still is a missing piece. That piece is the Aims and the Why we are playing this game with a purpose.
It is nice to watch as a Scout becomes and Eagle Scout. As a Scoutmaster, I love to sit and talk with a young man who has earned the Eagle Award. Like the leader that misses the true goal of Scouting though a young man may only think that he has achieved the highest rank. He may thing that he is a the end of the journey because he is now an Eagle Scout. But that is not the case, he is far from done, he is just beginning.
In becoming an Eagle Scout he is starting to realize the vision and starting to grow in his manhood life long habits of good decision-making, life skills, leadership, and of course being a good citizen.
The other night I sat with a Scout in my troop for his Scoutmaster Conference. He has completed all of the requirements to earn his Eagle Award. Yes, he has completed all of the requirements, but he has actually become an Eagle Scout. In our discussion we talked more about the future and why he is going to be successful. He looked back at all of the challenges that got him to this point and I was happy to hear that instead of making them a negative thing, he looked back on them as learning points along his Scouting trail.
We talked about leadership. It has taken this Scout a little longer to develop into a leader, but he is there now and we talked about the different ways in which he developed those skills. It was important for me to remind him that in becoming an Eagle Scout he has demonstrated that he has what it takes to lead. The American public may not know much about Scouting other than helping old ladies across the street, but they all know that being an Eagle Scout is special. They look to Eagle Scouts to lead.
Where am I going with this?
We often lose the forest for the trees as they say. We make sure to teach camping skills and encourage Scouts to earn all the merit badges they can… but what of the Aims? What about the purpose of Scouting? I think that is what BP was reminding those leaders back in 1920 and he continues to remind us today… Stay focused on why we play this game with a purpose. It is not about Eagle Scouts. It is about Citizens of Character that are fit. The BSA reminds us in the mission statement that we are to teach young people to make ethical choices over their lifetimes. This is why we go camping, do service projects, earn merit badges and become Eagle Scouts.
I love digging in that old book. It gets me refocused on what is important.
Have a Great Scouting Day!