Methods

Discuss, Demonstrate, Show

scouthandbookWhen it comes to advancement in the Boy Scouts, it’s not really rocket science.  First, the Scout needs to want to advance.  Second the Scout needs to do the work.  And finally, the Scout needs to be tested.
This process can be easy for some Scouts while harder for others, but what I have learned in 10 years as a Scoutmaster is that it is all up to the Scout.  I have seen Troops in our area that place more value on advancement than in other methods and I have seen some that do not at all.  I think that we view it as one of the eight methods and my philosophy has always been that advancement will come when the Scout is actively participating and engaged in the Troop.
A Scout came to me asking for a Scoutmaster conference.   OUTSTANDING!!  Grab a couple of chairs and let’s have a talk I said.  So how have you been, we haven’t seen you in a while.  Well, I have been busy with other stuff says the Scout, and Scouts just kinda took the backseat, here’s my book, I need you to sign off a bunch of stuff.
Now, I am no drill sergeant when it comes to signing books, but there are some things that just need to be done.  Discuss, Demonstrate, and Show.  If that is what the requirement says, then that is what the Scout needs to do.
So, Tommy Tenderfoot, lets talk about these things that you have circled for me to sign off, I say to the young man.  You mean you are not going to sign my book the Scouts replies looking agitated.   No, that’s not what I am saying, I just want to make sure that you know what you need to know, this process is designed to progressively teach you the skills that you will need to be a good Scout and one day help teach other Scouts.  I went on, You see, here is says to Demonstrate how a compass works and how to orient a map. Explain what map symbols mean.  Did you bring a map and compass with you?  I’m sorry, but for tonight’s meeting I didn’t bring that stuff.  Frustrated, the Scout says No… but don’t you remember that hike that we did last year when we had the map out?  I know how to use it, can’t you just sign it?  No, I am afraid we need to sit down with the map and compass and work this out.  It’s not me being hard, it’s the standard.
Long ago I learned that most things in life can be broken down to three things.  Tasks, Conditions, and Standards.
There is a task to do like demonstrate how to orient a map and compass.  The conditions are that you have a map and a compass and you use them to determine your orientation.  And that standard is that once the task is complete, the map is oriented correctly.  And so it goes with pretty much everything, at least in Scouting in the area of advancement.  The Scout is given the task, the conditions are set, and there is one standard.  The standard is always to do the task correctly.  I always tell my Scouts that there is only one way to do things right and that is the right way.  This can be applied to everything in Scouting and in life.
When the Scout handbook asks the Scout to Demonstrate, he needs to demonstrate.  If it tells him to Show, then he shows, and if the handbooks instructs the Scout to discuss, well, that is exactly what it means.  These are the Tasks, the Conditions, and the Standards.  It is not rocket science, it’s just keeping the standards set.  It is the right way.
So why do I feel the need to share this?  Simple. I believe that we owe to our Scouts to make sure the standards are kept.  We owe it to the Eagle Scouts and Scoutmasters that came before us.  We always hear about “the good old days”  You know, how tough it was when we did it… well, it wasn’t that tough… there are standards that were upheld.  And we need to keep those standards.  It’s simple, it’s not rocket science.
So when the book tells you to do something… just do it, it’s the right way.  It’s the standard.
When a Scout needs a conference, give it to him.  Don’t be hard, just follow the task, conditions, and standard.  The Scout will benefit and so will the troop.  It is fair and consistent and the way Scouting has always done it, why?  Because it is the right way.
Demonstrate the standard.  Show the standard.  And Discuss the standard.  It’s the right way.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

What Pleases Jerry

IMG_6206It is interesting to hear what our Scouts think and say.  At most of their ages, they have not yet learned to filter their conversations based on who they are around or what the circumstances may be.  On the way to our last camp out a younger Scout asked an older Scout what they had to do at the camp out.  The response from the older Scout was this, “What ever pleases Jerry.”
Now I know this young man and I know that he was being sarcastic to a point, and on the other hand, I know that his comment was directed at the fact that I hold the older Scouts to a higher standard and ask them to demonstrate leadership.  This Scout would much rather sit around and do nothing in most cases… and by and large, that is exactly what he and his buddy did during the last camp out.
What this and other Scouts fail to realize is that his response to the younger Scout is actually 100% accurate.  “Whatever pleases Jerry” is actually the right answer.
So what pleases Jerry?
1.  When the Scouts have fun.
2.  When the Scouts learn.
3.  When the Scouts demonstrate leadership.
4.  When the Scouts seek and find adventure.
5.  When the Scouts develop the bonds of a high performance team.
6.  When the Scouts have a sense of accomplishment.
7.  When the Scouts get the opportunity to see and do something new.
8.  When the Scouts practice leadership and find success in their skills.
9.  When the Scouts learn that winning is better than losing in life.
and finally…
10. When a Scout looks back on Scouting, smiles, and knows it was worth his time.
That is what pleases Jerry.
So Mr. Older Scout… you nailed it!  And guess what.  The Scout you told that to lived up to that expectation.
Thank You!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Setting your bar higher

I always tell the Scouts of my Troop that mediocre is never good enough.  Expect more of yourself and always do your best.  Don’t just do good… Good may not be good enough and if you start early in life expecting more you will achieve more later in life.
We see every day in the world around us people who expect little of themselves and don’t even try.  They live mediocre lives and get very little out of life.  These people complain a lot and expect every one else to be as unhappy as they are.
Last night I attended my son’s Track and Field awards celebration.  His last year in High School track.  Josh is a sprinter and part of the relay teams.  The track coach shared some thoughts at the start of the program that I thought hit the nail on the head when it comes to our discussion of doing your very best in life and never settling for mediocre.
He shared the story of a French pole vaulter named Renaud Lavillerie.  In February of 2014 Lavillerie set the World Record by vaulting an incredible 6.16 meters, that’s 20.21 feet.  HOLY SMOKE!!  Do you know what 20.21 feet looks like?  Take a tape measure and measure that out in your house.  Or lay that on your house.  As I listened to this great accomplishment I could not help but thinking about what it took to get there.
He had to start with the bar set at a certain height and once he cleared it, it was on to the next height.  But what made him want to keep pushing it higher and higher.  He is not mediocre.  He was not going to settle for less.

Not settling for less is what is important.  I often see Scouts and people in general that tend to settle for less.  They “Max the minimum” as one leader told me once when looking at a group of people that we giving less than 100%.  Allowing yourself to never to set the bar higher than you think you can jump will keep you from achieving your potential.  You have no idea what that is until you push your limits.
I watch our Scouts when they first attempt climbing.  They lack trust and confidence in themselves.  That is because they have never pushed themselves beyond their comfort zone.  They are comfortable keeping the bar set low enough to see one success after each other meaningless success.  Success is only good once for each task.  Once complete you should strive for the next level of success and so on.
Setting your bar higher will lead you to achieving greater things.  In our Troop we have the 5 leadership Principles that will make you a better leader.  They force you to set your bar higher.  Learning to lead yourself can be painful and uncomfortable.  It makes the leader see where the bar is and asks the question are you willing to move it up.  Focusing on the small things again force the leader to not accept mediocre behavior.  Like the pole vaulter the little things allowed him to run, plant the pole, and whip his body over incredible heights.  He could not have done the big thing without focus on the smaller things.  Modeling Expected behavior is hard.  It requires that you are your best all the time.  That is what we want.. the best.  So you must as a leader model what Best looks like.  Best then pushes us to raise the bar.  Communicating effectively too asks us to raise the bar in how we share our ideas and thoughts with other people.  It requires us to use multiple modes of communication and then evaluate that communication to ensure it is effective.  And finally being a Servant Leader.  In the world we live in today, where self if more important than others it is refreshing to see people raise their bar and become a leader in serving other people… at all times.  This is a bar that is higher than any one can leap, but a bar that can be achieved within the heart.  It is bar that needs to be set high and reached, and then set higher.  It is not till the leader becomes a servant that he will ever be an effective leader.  That bar needs to be realized in each of us.
Setting your bar higher will give you a better, richer, more full life.  Set your bar higher!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Delivering the scolding… or promise?

BP“The Scoutmaster teaches boys to play the game by doing so himself.”
“The Scoutmaster guides the boy in the spirit of another brother.”
“The spirit is there in every boy; it has to be discovered and brought to light.”
“There is no teaching to compare with example.”
“To get a hold on boys you must be their friend.”
I know that it is bad form to start with a list of quotes, but all of these quotes are from the founder of Scouting, Baden-Powell.  They come to mind when I look back on this weekend and some of the things that I saw at our District Camporee.
The question is Why?  Why do some Scoutmasters feel the need to make Scouting a chore?  Why do they insist on not making it fun for the Scouts?  Why is there is a reason to yell or belittle a Scout?  Why?
I wish I could say that this is an isolated case and I am talking about one Scout Leader.  But I am not.
Here is the problem as I see it.  These leaders have no idea what Scouting is supposed to look like.  One particular Scoutmaster explained to me that what the Scouts lack is discipline and it was his job to make sure they are disciplined.  You see, I feel that is the parents job.
The same Scoutmaster yelled at his troop over a bent tent-peg.
Another leader explained to me that Scouting is supposed to make our boys gentlemen and respectful.  I asked if her example was helping as she screamed at a Scout for playing with his patrol mates.
Yet another Scout leader had a group of Scouts at attention as they were dressed up and down about not doing well in their uniform inspection.  The leader’s shirt was un-tucked and looked like he slept in it and instead of a Scout hat or Troop hat, he was wearing a hunting hat as he ripped a Scout a new one over not wearing his Troop hat.
Why?
And we wonder why Scouts leave.  I even talked with a Scout who would love to leave his Troop, but can’t because his Dad is one of the leaders.  Really?
This weekends Camporee was fun.  It was one of the better camporees we have had in a while, so why do the adult have to screw it up for the boys.
Again, they clearly do not understand what Scouting is all about.
We are not the Army.  We are not a boarding school for wayward boys.  This is Scouting and above all, the boys need to have fun.  It is that game with a purpose that will teach them the skills to deal with life’s challenges and develop those life long values that will guide them to be disciplined and self-reliant.
How can a boy discover that light when the adults around him are constantly looking to snuff it?  How can a boy learn to play the game, when the rules change or are unclear?  How friendly is the constant brow beating?
I think that some leaders need to take a look in the mirror and find out if they are delivering the promise of Scouting or just a good scolding.
The best part of the discussion I had with our Anti Powell was when he pointed to my Troop, at the time they were all playing Frisbee in a field between the camp sites.  Loud laughter and complete grab ass was in full effect.  He pointed out that camporee was not about playing.. it was about competition.  I explained that there is certainly a time and a place for everything.  He said, “Look at your camp site… no matching tents, no patrol boxes, no discipline.”  I explained that we are a backpacking troop and do not have patrol boxes or matching tents, and so far as discipline, we have plenty of that.  It comes with living the Scout oath and law.  Then in a moment of arrogance, I pointed out that what he was looking at was the Troop of the Year and we are doing it right.  With that, I bid him a good day and joined the boys in the game of Ultimate Frisbee.
Camporee was a fun time and a great experience for our Troop.  They all had fun and competed well.  It is unfortunate that there are leaders out there that just don’t get it.  If only they took the time and put in the effort to delivering the promise of Scouting, using the same energy they put into yelling, berating, and making life hard for their Scouts, they would have great Troops.  The boys are there and willing, they need good adults to have the heart of a Boy and do Scouting the way the founder wanted it to be.
If only.
I had a great weekend with the Scouts of our Troop.  It’s why we keep playing this game.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

One Life

Spirit of AmericaThe other night I had the pleasure of sitting in as an advocate for a Scout in my Troop at his Eagle Board of Review.
I enjoy the position that the Scoutmaster is placed in as the advocate, physically the Scoutmaster sits behind and out of the view of the Scout and mentally, it is a great place to learn from the Scout to know that you are truly delivering the promise of Scouting.
The first question the board asked this young man was if he had ever looked at the back of his Scout Handbook.  On the back cover are the Aims of Scouting.  The Scout replied that he had not looked at the back.  The board asked him to pick up his book and read it.  Then asked if he was aware that these were the aims or goals of Scouting.  He said that he did know that.  How did you know that they wanted to know.  My Scoutmaster does not stop talking about Character, Citizenship, and Fitness the Scout said in a matter of fact.  They chuckled a bit and then asked what he thought about those three words and how much they meant to Scouting.  His answer knocked me out of my chair.  He looked at the board and said “Those three words mean more to me than this award.  They mean that I am a good man and that I will always be a good man.”
From that point on I knew that this board was going to be interesting.  And it was.  He had an opinion when they asked for one, he talked about the great times that he had in Scouting and he shared what he had learned about being a leader.
As I sat behind him I felt deep pride in this young man and listened as he confirmed that we really are providing a program that the boys get.
To close the board, they asked about the Scout Oath and Law.  He shared his feelings, understanding, and practice of living the Oath and Law daily.  Not without challenge and difficulty but the bottom line was that he is that person every day.
This got me to thinking about comments I have heard from Scouts and Scouts all over.  It reminded me of an on going discussion that we have about being a Scout and living Scout like all of the time, the fact that we only have One Life.
We are what our Facebook Status says we are.  We are what our Twitter account looks like.  We are where we hang out and the people that we associate with.  We are what we say and what we do.  That defines our Character.
You are not just a Christian on Sunday, you not just a Scout on Monday nights, you are not just a Dad when the kids are around, you are not just a Scoutmaster when you wear the hat.
There is no separation.  There can’t be, that goes against the principle of Character.  Choose to accept that or not but your Character will be your guide and that is when you will have to face the reality of who and what you are.
I stress character all the time in our Troop, in fact I care more about character than anything else in Scouting.  I don’t care if a Scout earns his Eagle if he has not got the point about character, citizenship, and being mentally and physically fit.  If he did not get it, he just got another patch and the award will be meaningless.
We hold the Eagle award up on that lofty space for that reason, we all do it.  Every one respects and admire those that have earned this award and rightly so…if they got it.  If they make that choice to have one life and that is the life of Character.
I was asked by a Scout why I will not friend him on Facebook.  I make it a practice not to friend Scouts or any minor that is not family on Facebook.  It is not because of what I might put on the internet… it’s that I don’t want to be placed in a position to know what they are putting on the internet.  I would rather have them make good choices and discuss it during conferences.  Facebook is not where I want to build my discussion bullets for the next time I see the Scout.
You have but one life.  You do not get to split out your internet life and your real life.  You have the ability to maintain good character.  Once you decide to part ways with it, it can not come back.  Once the bell is rung, you can not un-ring it.
Think before you act, pause before you hit enter, read before you press send.  Character matters.
“Character is like a tree and reputation its shadow. The shadow is what we think it is and the tree is the real thing.” ― Abraham Lincoln
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Qualified, Trained Leaders

trainednewWe often talk about having all of our adult leaders trained.  When we speak of training we are talking about the basics.  Has the adult completed Youth Protection?  Attended their Basic Course for the specific position?  And according to the Boy Scouts of America, that’s pretty much a trained leader.
You are qualified to be an adult that delivers the promise of Scouting.  Really.
Ok, now… everyone just take off your Scouting hat and put on your parent hat.  Now you know nothing about Scouting except that your son wants to be a Scout.  You know that Scouting is a great organization that reinforced those character traits that you are teaching at home and he and his friends enjoy going camping once a month.  But who is this “Trained” leader?  What qualifies him to take your son out into the woods?
A couple videos?  An online training session and a “suitable for framing” print out certificate?
That’s it.
Oh, but maybe the leader has been to Wood Badge.  So he knows the Boy Scout Program and is able to teach and reach his goals.  He communicates well, but what of the skills he needs to take my kid into the woods.
My point here is this.  In a world in which we bubble wrap our kids.  We don’t let them stay out after dark, they can’t climb trees, drink from a garden hose, or in some cases even push a lawn mower.. we drop off our sons to people we don’t really know, they hop into their trucks and vans and drive away for a weekend in the woods.
Say that out loud and it is a bit creepy.
We trust that they know what they are doing with our kids.  We hope to see smiles on their faces and that they are in one piece when they arrive back at the meeting hall.
Trust.  That is what we have in our leaders.  But it’s 2014 so what has he done to be trusted.  What skills does he have to gain my trust.  Who is this guy taking my kid into the woods?
I am a big fan of Boy Scout Training and take it a step further.  I am on our district training team and teach the Scoutmaster basic course.  I am a Wood Badge staffer and love to teach leadership.
So knowing what I know, I know that the Boy Scout minimum training is not enough to build that trust.  But the leader that goes the extra mile and gets more training, now that’s the guy I want.
Not to toot my horn, or the horns our leaders in my Troop, but we respect that trust and that is why we all go the extra mile.
In our Troop, all the Assistant Scoutmasters are Wood Badge trained.
We have Certified Climbing instructors.
We have Certified Wilderness First Aid First Responders.
We have Wilderness First aid trained leaders.
COPE instructors
White water rafting guides
Leave No Trace master trainers
Kayak guides
Cold Weather camping experts
Backpacking experts
Pioneering instructors
Leadership trainers
Everyone is CPR/AED trained
Everyone has done the supplemental training for Trek Safe, Safe Swim defense, Safety Afloat, and Climb Safely.
I know that I am missing something, the point is that we go out of our way to be over trained.
This is where the trust of the parents is gained and maintained.
It is an important part of protecting our youth and delivering the very best program to them.
So who is your Scout leader?  Do you trust him or her with your son in the woods?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

The Road

roadsI can not remember where or who I heard this from, but I recalled a quote the other day that I thought was a good way of illustrating our job as Scout leaders and parents.
“We are not building roads for our children, we are building children for the roads.”
Essentially it is saying that we can lay out everything to make life easy for our kids or we can prepared them for the road of life, which we all know is not easy.
When I thought about this quote, it got me to thinking about some of the ways we discuss our Scouting programs.  As you all know I am a fan of traditional Scouting and doing things the right way.  I am not a fan of giving everyone a trophy and I know that not every Scout will be an Eagle Scout… nor should they be.  If they have been properly trained in their young lives to work hard, then they will reap the rewards of hard work.
The road of life is difficult and only made easier by getting on it and traveling.  Know that it is hard, but stay the course.  The beauty of the road is that you get to pick your destination.   You can pick the path of least resistance and when you get there you will find that it took you to a place a fewer rewards.  You can get on the highway of success and its direction will lead you to the world of Success.  But you need to know that there will be detours and pot holes, but if you negotiate them, you will be successful.
So as Scout leaders and parents we need to encourage our children to take that road and prepare them for the detours and pot holes.  We do not need to drive them there with the knowledge of the location of the pot holes and hardships.  You can build the road, nice and smooth.  Pave it with gold and make it a fast lane for your child, but he will not get the most out of it and will fail to learn lessons along the way.
On the other hand, we can train him up to set a course, know how to go around a detour and take it slow on a pot hole filled road.  He will learn and develop and by the time he gets where he is going he will be a man who you will be proud of.
Last night at Round table I had a little chat with a Scouter about Eagle Scouts.  He made the comment that every Scout should be an Eagle Scout and that the sooner they get it, the better.
Again, I thought about the road.  Did we build the road for the Scout or did we build the Scout for the road.  I don’t know the answer in his particular case, but how many Eagle Scouts have we seen that are not prepared for the road.  I personally can tell you that I have seen many.  While I am proud of their accomplishment, I wonder if we as Scouters are not quick to reward and less enthusiastic to take the time and build that young man.
The road of life is a tough one.  We owe it to our children and our Scouts to build them ready for the road of life.
Have a Great Scouting Day!