Journey to Excellence

104 and going Strong!

Back from Jambo!

Me and my sons at the National Jamboree 2010

Today marks the 104th Anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America!  And the BSA is going strong!  As I thought about today’s anniversary in preparation for our unit’s Red and Green celebration tomorrow I could not help but think about why the Boy Scouts of America is so strong.
It grows its strength not from the National Office.  It does get gain its strength from Council Executives or Professionals down at your local Scout office.  The strength of the BSA is not in District committee’s or Commissioners.  The strength of Scouting comes from its Scouts and the volunteers at the unit level.  Packs, Troops, and Crews are the strength of Scouting.  It is for them that everything else drives it’s purpose.  It is adventure found in Scouting that invites young men to join.  It is fun in the unit that makes them stay.  It is the learning that is discovered that one day shows itself and causes the Scout to reflect.
The Boy Scouts of America has found that strength for 104 years.  There have been rocky times and times of great celebration.  The BSA has been there in peace and in war and through it all, the membership, the strength shines through.
Controversy and differing opinion has not stopped Scouting and it never will as long as units stay alive and continue to deliver the promise.
Politics and Religion can not stand in the way of great program.  In an organization where everyone is welcome and everyone’s ideas and opinions are valid and heard.  An organization with a firm foundation built on strong values.. the values of the strength, the members that believe in being Trustworthy and Kind, Loyal and Obedient, Helpful and Friendly, Courteous and Brave, Thrifty and Clean, and of course Reverent.  We have these values that support a promise that we.. the strength of the organization… live out in our daily lives.  That is why it has lasted 104 years and will continue to last.
Scouting’s strength is in all of us.  From the Chief Scout Executive to the brand new Tiger Cub.  We are the organization that is a game with a purpose.
We know that when we follow the Vision of the organization great things happen.  There are no other youth groups like it.  Not in size, scope, or program.  This is Scouting and this year we celebrate 104 years.
I had the pleasure of celebrating the 100th Anniversary at the National Jamboree!  I am so glad that my son’s and I got to be at that extra special event.  The night of the big arena program left a lasting impact on me as a Scouter.  When we lit the candles and about 80 thousand Scouts and Scouters all pledged to live the Oath together I was moved.  Then in a flash, we blew out the candles on a great event, but the dawning of the next 100 years of Scouting in America.  The candles extinguished ushered in a fire works display that was so big it reminded me of just how big and great Scouting is.  And the fun can not be matched.
Lots of thoughts today about 104 years of Scouting in America… not one of those 110 or 125 type celebrations, but very significant given the climate of the country we are in.  The Boy Scouts of America is still the values based organization that teaches young people to be great adults.  Character, Citizenship, and fit for our future.
Happy Anniversary to the Boy Scouts of America!

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Training for the Parents

trainednewIt is often said that “Every Scout deserves a Trained Leader”… well.. sure.. Every Scout certainly deserves a trained leader, but do you really think that the Scout cares?
The saying should say, “Every Parent deserves a Trained Leader”.  Right?  After all, the training is more for the parents right?
The Scout does not care that you know the rules of the safety sandwich.  The Scout does not care that you have been to wilderness first aid.  The Scout does not care that you are climb instructor certified or that you have completed Youth Protection.
Ahhh… But the parents do.
They come to a unit and want to know that as they drop off Tommy Tenderfoot on Friday night that the guy driving the car is insured, trained, and will bring back their son in the same condition that he climbed into the Suburban heading to the camp out in.
Parents care a lot about the training that the Scout leader has.  I for one would not send my sons out with a Scout leader that was not trained.  I would not let my son go out into the woods with a guy that got his training by watching Survivor man on TV once.
Nope.  The parents deserve a trained leader.  I would go further to insist that every leader that goes near a Scout is trained, and if I were King for the day.. any leader that did not get trained or refused to spend the time, energy and money to get trained would not be allowed to be a Scout leader.
Boy Jerry.. that’s harsh…  Really?  Like I said, I would not let my kid go off for the weekend with a guy I don’t trust.
Training builds that trust.  At least it opens the door to trusting the leader.
I have talked a lot on this blog about leadership.  It goes not just for our youth leaders, but the adults too.
Think back to the 4 “C”s I discussed.
Don’t you want your adult leaders to be Competent and have Courage?  Compassionate and Candor?
Those are all things that come with training.
Our Troop goes climbing every year.  We have 8 climbing instructors in the unit.  Why?  Because it is the right thing to do.
We have multiple Wilderness First Aid certified leaders and First responders.  Why?  Because we go looking for  adventure and we are not near a parking lot.  It’s the right thing to do.
We go winter camping at least 3 times a year.  We have cold weather instructors and skilled leaders that know winter camping skills and stay up on gear and techniques.  Why?  Because we will never put a Scout in harm’s way.
The point here is that when a Scout crosses over into our Troop the parent knows that we care and are willing to do our very best for their son.  They can rest assured that we are trained and will take care of their boy.
Every one of the Assistant Scoutmasters, the Committee Chair, and me are all Wood Badgers.  Why is that important?  We all believe in life long learning and are committed to being better.  Wood Badge demonstrates to our Scouts and their parents that we are serious about training and taking care of their sons and more importantly, that we want to do Scouting right.
So every parent does deserve a trained leader.  Get trained or get out.  It’s that simple if I were King for the day.
On a side note.  I have been doing this Scouting thing for some time now and have served at the District level also.  Being the District Program Chairman and later the District Chairman, I had access to lots of reports that really don’t mean much.  The one thing that did mean something to me was the amount of units that struggle in multiple areas.  Membership, activities, etc.
The common thing that we saw in EVERY unit that struggles are UNTRAINED Adults.  You do the math.
Get trained for your Scouts.. and your Parents.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Baden Powell and his List of Do’s

Before I get into today’s post I want to thank every one for their interest in the review of Scoutbook.com.  Unfortunately I was only given three free subscriptions and they went to the first three emails I received.  But the response was overwhelming.  50 of you emailed for a shot at the subscription.
So the folks at Scoutbook.com have given me another offer… if you subscribe for a year of Scoutbook and put in THESCOUTMASTERMINUTE in the coupon code at check out you will get 10% off your subscription.
Thank you to Scoutbook.com and thank all of you for supporting me and them.
Now on with the regular scheduled blog post…

>A few thoughts to wrap up the day.

Baden Powell understood young men, he had a connection with the way they learned, developed and reacted to teaching styles and learning environments. In the following excerpt from the Lessons from the Varsity life by Lord Baden Powell of Gilwell he discusses the Scout law.

 “The Scout Law.
So the Scout Law was not framed as a list Of DON’T’S. Prohibition generally invites evasion since it challenges the- spirit inherent in every red-blooded boy (or man).: The boy is not governed by DON’T, but is led on by DO. The Scout Law, therefore, was devised as a guide to his actions rather than as repressive of his faults. It merely states what is good form and expected of a Scout.
 1. A SCOUT’S HONOUR IS TO BE TRUSTED.
2. A SCOUT IS LOYAL.
3. A SCOUT’s DUTY IS TO BE USEFUL.
4. A SCOUT IS A FRIEND TO ALL.
5. A SCOUT IS COURTEOUS.
6. A SCOUT IS A FRIEND TO ANIMALS.
7. A SCOUT OBEYS ORDERS.
8. A SCOUT SMILES AND WHISTLES UNDER ALL DIFFICULTIES.

9. A SCOUT IS THRIFTY.

10. A SCOUT IS CLEAN IN THOUGHT, WORD AND DEED.”

Scouting across the world adopted the law and modified it to meet the needs of the national programs in which they applied. But the rule of DO and not Don’t carried throughout. We learn through our Scout Law what we should Do and Be, not what we should not do or be. Unlike the 10 commandments that teach us what not to do and be, the Scout Law encourages a life of Service and ethical attitudes. It gives us a starting point from which we test our decisions and actions that follow.

I found it interesting that the other day I over heard a man talking about the “Say it out loud test”. This tested whether or not one should engage in something that may not be sound. The way it works is that before you do something, say it out loud.  If it does not sound right in your head… don’t do it.

Baden Powell encouraged us to DO the right thing. He did not want to burden us with a list of DON’Ts… DO be Trustworthy, DO be Loyal, DO be Helpful, DO be Friendly, DO be Courteous, DO be Kind, DO be Obedient, DO be Cheerful, DO be Thrifty, DO be Brave, DO be Clean, and DO be Reverent. Putting this positive attitude in our rules to live by makes it easier. We all enjoy it when we are given opportunity and latitude. When I am told that I can do something, I feel a lot better than when someone tells me I can’t.y it out loud. For example, if you are going to rob a bank. Say it out loud. It just sounds wrong… then don’t do it.

Another example; “Hey lets all put a knife in the wall socket”… say it out loud… it does not even sound right, does it? Then don’t do it.

As Scouts and future leaders of America, we encourage you to BE, KNOW, and DO. You know what right looks like.. you have the power to DO it!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Scoutbook.com

scoutbookEvery unit has a method of tracking their Scouts.  Advancement, activities, special awards etc.  There are software programs and online resources for tracking, even an Excel spreadsheet can be used.  But I want to introduce you to a real cool way of tracking your unit.  Scoutbook.com.
Before I go any further, I should say in full disclosure that my unit does not use Scoutbook.com…. yet.  I was made aware of Scoutbook.com recently and thought I would review it and let you all know about some of the great features it has.  I should also say that as a Scoutmaster, I rarely get involved in any of this, but with Scoutbook.com your committee will be very happy to have such an awesome tool at their finger tips.
At first look I love the interface.  The ease of the program.  It is clean and requires no hunting to find what you are looking for.
tysonadvancement270Second thing that you notice right away is that the Scout has some responsibility for his advancement in this program.  Just like their Scout handbook, the Scout himself now has the ability to track and maintain parts of his record keeping.  Yes, he still needs to get the work done and Yes, he still needs to see the Scoutmaster or who ever signs the book.  But with Scoutbook.com, he has everything at his fingertips electronically.
I remember Former Chief Scout Executive Bob Mazzucca reminding us to take Scouting where the Scouts are.  Well, 78% of our teens have cell phones, and not just cell phones, but smart phones.  So put this tool in their hands and see if they get excited about this part of Scouting.
I love that Scoutbook.com is on “The Cloud”.  Pretty much the world that we live in.  The ability to have data on your tablet, phone, computer or other device is critical these days.
Ok, So the Committee has a role in this, the Scout has a role in this, and the leaders all have roles in this.  It is a total package deal.  Constantly updated to meet all of the BSA requirements, linked to ScoutNet, and easy to use.
As a leader, you can track and maintain your training records.  I am sure that the Training chair on your committee would love for your help on that.mytraining280
Printing Blue cards is a snap also.. right from your device.
Merit Badge counselors can track the Scout and report percentages of complete to the committee in real-time.
For the leader, you can track multiple Scouts with just a few clicks.  Monitoring those first year Scouts sometimes can be chore.  But using the tools in Scoutbook.com they have been made easy and right at your finger tips.
Troop Committees can print beautiful reports and even the 34403 form to purchasing awards and advancement for your next Court of Honor.
Scoutbook.com is 100% secure and allows the unit to decide who gets what access.  The Scout, the Leaders, Merit Badge Counselors, and the Committee all have functions suited to them.
There are many features of Scoutbook.com that I can’t write about here, it would take pages on the blog.
If you are currently using other tracking software or online programs you may be able to transfer your data, but before you do, check out Scoutbook.com and see all of this for yourself.  It is worth a look.
And here is something cool about Scoutbook.com… You can have it for a year free because you read my blog.
The first 3 readers that send me an email (tbirdironchef@gmail.com) and ask for the subscription will get an annual subscription to Scoutbook.com.  You need to check out the website to see all of the benefits that come with this cool program.
I think it is a resource that you and your unit need to look into.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Using Evernote ™ for Scouting

Evernote_Icon_256One of my goals for this year and in particular in working on the blog is to use tools to be more successful.  There is nothing worse than a goal that is not attainable because of lack of want to or know how and sometimes tools can assist in making a goal more attainable.
A new years resolution to go to the gym only works while the motivation to work out is there.  Going to the gym and not working out because you don’ t know how only discourages you and you don’t go back.
I am one of “those people” that needs constant motivation to stay on track.  I do that by motivating myself and finding tools and resources that keep me focused and on task.
For example.  I am working on doing more to lift some of the burden of household chores from my wife.  She does and has done a fantastic job over the past 22 years and I know this is an area that I can do better at.  So I have picked up the responsibility to doing the grocery shopping.  I hate grocery shopping, but it is a task that I can do so I had to find motivation (other than just being more helpful).  So I dove into the task to find tools that would make grocery shopping more interesting for me and make me want to do it.  Enter an app for my phone.  I downloaded the Out of Milk app and started using it.  We make the grocery list on the computer and sync it with my phone.  Bingo.. we have a winner.  I am actually finding grocery shopping fun, walking up and down the isles scanning products and adding them to the shopping cart.
Apps and software have made much of what we do these days more tolerable.  They have also made managing tasks, lists, notes, and resources more accessible.  A few years back I started using an app called Evernote ™.  It was a cool way to take notes and have them available across different platforms.  My computer, phone, tablet etc.  Then I started using for Scouting.
Some of the cool things about Evernote ™ that I really like are the note taking and sharing of information I gather.  With Evernote ™ I can clip and save things right from the internet.  I can save PDF files for retrieval later and I can record voice notes.
Evernote ™ has all of this in one nice bundle.  I have many notebooks within Evernote ™.  This is nice to I stay organized and have everything right at the tip of my fingers.
evernotescreenshotOur Troop uses Troopmaster ™ to manage the Troop’s administrative functions.  But Troopmaster ™ does not have a corresponding app for my phone or a mobile way of accessing information from Troopmaster ™.  So I save the reports and most frequently used items from Troopmaster ™ as PDF files and drop them into Evernote ™.  I can’t tell you many times we have been at a Scout property and they need a roster with phone numbers, ages, etc.  I just open up Evernote ™ and there it is.  I can even print the roster from Evernote ™ if they have wireless printing available.  I had to do this last summer at summer camp.
Scoutmaster conferences are easily tracked and noted using Evernotes voice memo feature.  It is nice to talk with a Scout and then capture some of my thoughts right after we are finished without sitting a writing it all down.  Then once I get home I can transcribe the voice memo into a note for future reference.
Project planning is another great use for Evernote ™.  In 2012 I used Evernote ™ to plan and track our Philmont trek.  Everything from setting reminders to making checklists to ultimately making notes along the journey.  Adding pictures to remind me of tasks, people, places, and things we needed to do.
As most everything we get now electronically from the BSA comes in PDF format, dropping our reservations and other correspondence from Philmont was easy to save and retrieve.
I am still learning of new features and ways to use Evernote ™, but so far it is a great tool to make my Scouting life and my personal life more organized.  It is a way that I stay focused and on task and therefore more productive.
Some of the other ways in which I use Evernote ™:
workflowBuilding Packing list for Backpacking.  It is a nice way to make checklists and track weight and gear.
Lists for places I want to go.  Using the clip it feature on the web I can save maps, brochures, and information about places I want to go, in particular backpacking.
Saving ideas for future planning with the Patrol Leaders Council.
Recipes for Dutch oven or backpacking meals.
Using Evernote ™ Hello I save business card and meeting information.  That is really a neat feature and a fast and easy way to build and maintain contact lists.
That’s just a few.  I follow the Evernote Blog also.  It is amazing all of the different ideas shared there for use cases, tips, and what’s happening with Evernote ™.
Finding a good way to stay motivated and on task is important. It is critical if you are like me and have many irons in the fire and want to stay focused.  But like everything else if you don’t commit to using the tools then you as good as that new years resolution to go to the gym.
I hope that helps you find a tool that will help you manage your irons in whatever fire you place them.
Let me know what you use.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Mike Rowe.. Distinguished Eagle Scout

While I am camping with my Troop this weekend I thought I would leave you with some great entertainment and a message that is priceless.
I stumbled on this video on YouTube the other night while my wife and I were talking about our experience at the National Meetings that we got to attend.  It was a special part of my Scouting life.
We watched Mike Rowe talk at the National Jamboree in 2010 and he is a great example of just Scouting does.
Enjoy the weekend and this video.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Money and Scouting

Friends of ScoutingI am going to tread lightly on this subject as I have some unpopular opinions when it comes to money and Scouting, but bare with me as I make an attempt to articulate my thoughts on this.
When we talk about money and Scouting there are always a couple of concerns.  First, the cost of Scouting.  It can seem overwhelming when a new parent is hit up with the initial cost of Scouting.  The uniform, the handbook, and the gear all seem to drain a family in the pocket-book.  Then there are dues, summer camp, and in some units the nickel and dimeing that is part of the annual program.  Yeah, that can seem a bit too much, unless your unit is aware of this and makes an effort to either reduce the cost or have programs in place to assist a new young man stepping off on his journey in Scouting.
Let me say at the outset that there is absolutely NO REASON at all that every young man in America can not be a Scout.  Money IS NOT an issue and at least in our unit will not become one.  If a Scout has financial needs, we will accommodate, but no young man will be left out.
How do you do that?  Well, let me share with you how our unit does it.  Your mileage may vary on this and I am certainly not saying that we do it best or there are no other ways to do this.. I know what we do works and it removes the excuses about money in Scouting.
I challenge any parent, no matter what your economic status to argue that your son can not be a Scout because of money.
So having said that…
Number 1.
Get a good plan and with that plan, a budget.
Just like in your home, you budget to maintain your financial health.  Your unit is no different.  Our Troop committee has made it a practice to never say no to the PLC.  If they plan it, the committee will figure out a way to support it.  Now, before you think that we are stepping away from Youth led.. no, we are not.  The Troop committee is responsible for  the budget.  They figure out how much the program is going to cost for the year and pass that on to the Scouts.  They figure out seat belts, rentals, and fees and provide the Council level fund-raising opportunities for the Scouts to participate in.  Once that is provided, it is up to the Scout to participate.
Number 2.
Announce the dues for the year and promise not to ask for another penny (save FOS).
This is key.  Once the program cost is set we divide it among the members of the unit and that becomes the dues for the year.  We never ask for another dime.
That number is typically around $200.  The parents are given a complete budget break down of everything that the money is for.  The Scout then has an option to make 3 payments to pay his dues.  Note that I said the Scout has that option.  The Scout is responsible for paying his way.
Number 3.
Offer the Council level fundraising opportunities.  Pop corn, candy sales, etc.  Our Troop also offers a Christmas Wreath sale opportunity.  It is up to the Scout to participate and the unit does not do mass fundraising.  It is up to the Scout to pay his own way.
Number 4.
A Scout is thrifty.  He pays his own way.  If the Scout chooses not to participate in the fundraisers, it is up to him to earn the money to pay for his year in Scouting.
Here is where the eye brows are raised and I catch flack from those not in our unit.
There are plenty of money earning opportunities out there.  Mowing lawns, raking leaves, shoveling snow, walking dogs, baby sitting, house sitting, painting fences, odd jobs will certainly earn a Scouts way for the year, and then some.  I am not expecting our Scouts to get a job in a spoon factory, I am just suggesting that they need to get off their butts and work for their year in Scouting.  If that is payment for their chores at home or hitting their neighborhood and mowing lawns, the Scout needs to earn his keep.
I can not tell you how many parents I have talked to that disagree with that.  As with most things in life, that which you earn you value.  So we ask that our Scouts earn their way.
Number 5.
Accountability.
If a Scout fails to pay his dues, he is given notice that he can not participate.  If there are circumstances which preclude the Scout from money earning we will talk.  If a Scout participates in the Council fundraising opportunities, he is given the benefit of the doubt and given more time or opportunity.  If the Scout has not made an attempt at money earning he will not.  It is that simple.  There are just to many opportunities out there not to at least cover basics.
Summer camp can seem to burden a family.  We again ask the Scout to pay his way.  If that does not happen, we find ways of funding the Summer camp experience.

Big money in Scouting.
I have heard many Scouters talk about not giving to FOS for one reason or another.  And I am not going to go to deep into that.  Lets just say those people for the most part are misinformed as to what that money does to have a direct impact on Scouts and Scouting.  So give to FOS.
A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of representing our Council at the National Meetings of the Boy Scouts of America.  I got to go to some work shops and meet a lot of the “heavy hitters” in Scouting.  At the big Banquet dinner on Saturday night, my wife and I sat as they presented the Silver Buffalo awards.  Someone at our table made the comment that those people purchased the Silver Buffalo and therefore it meant nothing.  I disagree.
The fact that 10 people who that year each had made contributions in the millions to Scouting, most going directly to Scout camps, facilities, and scholarships impressed me.  Scouting could not function without those dollars.  The fact that they pay so the rest of us can essentially afford great programs impressed me.  And I applaud them.
I am a member of the James E. West fellowship, and proudly wear my $1000 knot.  Yeah, folks joke about that too, but at the end of the day, it is paying for Scouting.  The James E. West fellowship endowment money is legacy money and will have lasting impacts on our Council.  I can not give the millions, but what I can give ensures that Scouts can go to camp and have a camp to go to.  So that too I would ask that you consider.
I am not going to debate how one Council or another manages their money, that is not my concern.  My concern is delivering the promise of Scouting… and that takes money.
So Scouts can pay their way and we adults can support their effort and their program.
Money and Scouting can work.  Have reasonable expectations, goals, and hold the Scouts accountable for being Thrifty.
Have a Great Scouting Day!