Scoutmaster minute

Little to Big

pennantDo a Good Turn Daily.. That is the Slogan of Scouting.  It is a challenge to each of us to look for some way to be of service.  The slogan asks us to seek opportunities every day to do something… anything that will ultimately make a difference.
It is my belief that when we look at this challenge we feel it is to large.  It is a lofty goal to actually make a difference in this world.
What we need to do is think little.  Little things matter.
When we teach leadership in our Troop one of our principles is to “Focus on the Little Things.”  That principle is all about details and those things that add up to big things.  Little things like keeping your gloves out of the snow.  Just a little thing, but the big thing is cold hands, wet gear, and maybe frost bite.  Another example is ensuring that your tent is pitched properly.  Making sure your guy lines are taught and pulled in line.  Not a big deal, until it rains and your rain fly does not function properly.  Just a little thing that makes a big difference.
And so it is with the Good Turn.  Little things make a big difference.  Holding open a door or carrying a bag.  Little things that make a big difference for the person you helped.
A smile could change someones attitude or outlook on the day.
I think we get wrapped up in service for service sake and not for the difference we make.
Just think.. there are about two million Scouts in America.  They represent about 103 thousand units.  Those units represent Schools, Churches, Communities.   So if 2 million Scouts did their Good Turn each day, just something small, we could change our world.  That does not event take into consideration the Adult Volunteers that teach, coach, train, and mentor those 2 million Scouts.  Add about 1.2 million to that number.  3 million people doing a small act of service every day.  When we talk about little to big.. we can see that we make a big difference when and where it really matters.
In 2015 the Boy Scouts of America logged 1.53 million service hours.  Those were hours of service dedicated to building things, collecting food, and working for our communities.  That seems like a big number but at the end of the day we may not see the big impact.  A lot of our service is dedicated to our chartering partners and people directly impacted in Scouting.  That is great and I certainly would not want to take one minute of those hours away.. they make a difference.  But in snap shots.
Little to Big.. each of us.. every day.  Now that would leave a mark that could be seen from outer space.
Think little to big.  Do your Good Turn every day!

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Creating separation

4-PercentOnce a Scout meets the requirements for First Class the focus changes from basic skills development to discovering all that Scouting has to offer, service, and leadership.
The Scout will discover Scouting through the merit badge program, high adventure bases, Jamboree’s and being an active member of his Troop.  Often times his participation in high adventure increases once he has developed the skills and is a little more mature and taking on greater responsibilities in the unit.
But it is in leadership that the Scout starts to separate himself from the pack.  When a Scout sits with me for his First Class and Star conferences I explain to him that it is important to begin that separation from the crowd.  I am not suggesting that they leave, I am encouraging them to stand out.
Only 4 percent of all Scouts that stay in our program will earn the Eagle award.  Only 4%.  So it is important for a Scout that wants to earn his Eagle award to stand out from the other 96%.  There is a difference in those young men.  Not everyone is supposed to get their Eagle.  It takes dedication and effort and a willingness to serve and lead.  The Scout that does not separate will not stand out in leadership and service.  They need not go above and beyond.. they only need to meet the standard, but the standard [when kept] is high… by design.
While I want all of my Scouts to achieve the rank of Eagle, I find it more important that they have a well rounded Scouting experience.  I want to them to demonstrate sound leadership and develop the heart of a servant.  In the world in which we find ourselves.. that is a stand out person.  We can teach the value of merit and working for what you get.  We can reverse the cycle of “participation trophies” and meaningless activity. The Scout that learns about the value of setting goals, working hard, and making a choice to be better than average is a young man that is separating himself from his peers to be a better man.
Creating separation is an important part of achieving goals and being a better man.  It is easy to go with the flow and maintain mediocrity.  It is another thing to actually do your very best and make a choice to make a difference.
Encourage your Scouts to stand out.. separate from the pack.. be better.
Thanks for hanging out on the blog.. let me know what you think.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Guilt by association

judged“You can judge a man by the company he keeps”-Euripides

Guilty as charged.  The company we keep, tan shirts, dedicated to being good Citizens, men of Character, and Fit.
I have heard this saying all my life.  You are judged, as unpopular an opinion as that is these days, by the company that we keep.  If you hang out with knuckle heads, you are viewed as a knuckle head.  If you hang out with good people, you are judged as one of the good guys.  This holds true in every case.  I can not think of one example where people who hang out with bad people are viewed as one of the good ones.. or the better of the bad.  Huh.. yeah.. I heard that one last week.  “He’s a good guy, just hangs out with the wrong crowd.. he’s the better of the bad guys”.. but you know, he’s still among the bad guys.  And yes, lets call it like it is.  If they are bad, they are bad.
Too many times these day’s we try to give the benefit of the doubt or try to find that silver lining.  Sometimes it’s just not there.  More times than not there are opportunities for behavior change and it is neglected.  I don’t buy the idea that circumstances create a lack of opportunity.  It’s there, it just needs to be taken.  I have known many people who came from bad circumstances only to find opportunity, take it, and make something good of their lives.
Here is the deal.  We have Scouting.  Scouting is available everywhere.  Now, it certain circles it may not seem “cool”..so explore the alternative.  Join our Scouting gang, or join a thug gang.  In both circumstances you will find support, belonging, and a set of values.  The difference is one leads to good, the other doesn’t.  It comes down to choices.
Parents have a lot to do with this.  As a young man growing they assist in creating the environment that will lead their son to hanging with the right crowd.  Generations of “good guys” typically lead to more good guys.  On the other hand the lack of want to.. the fact that the path of least resistance creates the easy road down a path which lacks character puts young men in the bad category.
I don’t mind calling like it is.  The people who I associate with are good.  I need not worry about their character.  I don’t have to worry about the values that they live.  I don’t have to worry about the impression that I leave with the friends I keep.
I see our young men.. they look for that easy road.  That road will never lead the right way.  As a Scoutmaster, it is my job to help the parents in creating that environment which leads to good character and values.  Being a role model in that endeavor is part of the program.
Too often we forget as Scouters that we have an obligation to create those conditions for the Scout.  We get wrapped up in making Eagle Scouts that we forget what we are really there for.  Citizens of Character.
Now Eagle Scouts that hang out with Eagle Scouts is a good group to be associated with.. You will certainly be judged by that standard.
I tell ever Scout of our Troop that attains the rank of Eagle that up till now they had completed and earned the rank of Eagle Scout, from that day forward they must prove that they are worthy of being one.
That is the company that they keep.  It is the company we keep.  We are judged in that company.  I am happy with that.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Seeing the Forest for the Trees

treesScouts that join our units begin their walk on the Eagle Trail through our program forest.  This forest of Scouting has much to offer the passer-by.  When you enter the forest the trail is clearly marked and a guide is provided.  This guide keeps the new Scout on the right trail while he learns about the forest and the skills that he will need to navigate the trail through to his destination.  The trail is long and provides many opportunities for the Scout.  There is a fork in the trail called First Class.  Once the Scout reaches this point in the forest, the trial gets a little less clear.  There are still markers along the way, but the Scout is challenged to seek the path and maybe do some bushwhacking.
The trail through the forest at times will seem to be very narrow and at times the forest opens up into meadows and the trail needs to be tried and new routes found.  A Scout needs to remember that the forest is full of trees.  Those trees represent the opportunities of Scouting.  Every four years a Scout will find a huge tree called Jamboree.  He can choose to visit that tree and learn about its opportunity.  He will also chance upon trees called NOAC (National Order of the Arrow Conference), he will have the opportunity to visit four trees called the National High Adventure Bases.  A trip to the Philmont, the Summit, Sea Base or Northern Tier tree will prove to be a high light of his Scouting walk through the forest.  There are merit badge trees and places along the trail to practice leadership and service.  The trails always need maintenance.  There are trees along the trail that the Scout will find other Scouts that need help finding the way.  He will make the choice to lead them until they can do the same for other Scouts they meet.
There is a big lodge near the edge of the forest.  This is where the Eagle Scouts hang out.  They are still close to the forest so they can hear the call of Scouting and spend time back on the trail.
The forest of Scouting is full of great opportunity, fun, and adventure.  But the opportunity, fun and adventure only comes to those Scouts that see the forest instead of the trees.  The trees are the things that we bump into as we travel through the forest, but they are not the reason we go through Scouting.  Finding the trees in the forest are the things that we do as we move forward in Scouting seeking the opportunities and fun that come with the program.  The name of the trail is called Scout Oath trail.  Along that trail we learn our laws and rules.  We develop a habit of service, and we become a person that has Character.  The trail is hard at times and forces us to stay physically and mentally strong.  The trail is long and full of adventure, but we need to keep the forest the most important thing and let the trees appear.  The Forest is the Scouting Aims and along the way you will bump into those trees that keep you moving in the right direction.
Loosing focus on the Forest and jumping right to the trees will eventually cause the Scout to turn around and leave the forest.  He will hit all the trees that he wants but will miss the whole trail through the forest.  The trees that are deeper into the forest are bigger and better, but the Scout that enters the trees and not the forest will miss out on them.
I have seen Scouts that have walked into the forest only to find a small stand of trees.  They provided lots of merit badges and rank, but never any of the exciting opportunities that lay ahead on the trail.  I also have seen Scouts that have immersed themselves into the whole trail.  They have seen the big trees, participated in the great adventures and when he reached Eagle Lodge looked back at a great time in Scouting.
As you mentor young men in Scouting and as you introduce young men as they join your troop, show them the trail head into the forest and remind them to see forest rather than the trees.  The trees will appear as you follow the trail.

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!

Training, Nature or Nurture

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe other day I posted my thoughts on training.  I received some great feedback and feel that I need to address a couple of the comments, specifically a question that came up about the leaders themselves in the unit and how our attitude toward training is part of the reason we have great trained leaders.
Bob asked, “I’m curious as to whether you find that this “going the extra mile” is primarily something that a leader brings to the unit (nature), something that the unit brings to the leader (nurture), or some combination of the two.  Or, to put the question another way, do you find that the adults that volunteer for leadership positions already have that “going the extra mile” mentality, or that the culture of the unit inspires a new (or existing) leader to go that extra mile?”
Thanks Bob the answers is simple.  All of the above.
I believe that it is a bit of both Nature and Nurture.  First, I think that our unit has built a culture of trained leaders and an expectation that leaders are trained.  We ask a lot of our adult volunteers.  It is the nature of the unit that we expect the adult to be willing to “go that extra mile”.  Because it is a cultural thing or part of the nature of our unit, the volunteer knows what he or she is stepping in to.  It is not a surprise when they ask that they will be given a list of training courses, materials, and expectations of what training in our unit looks like.  If an adult leader expects to do the minimum, they are quickly encouraged to participate in some position other than that of a direct contact leader.
The culture of the unit dictates that in order to deliver the  very best program to our youth, keeping them safe, and instructing them properly we need to do better than the training that is provided by the Boy Scouts of America.
We agree that the training provided by the BSA is designed for the common denominator and not adequate for high adventure, advanced leadership, and activities that take you more than an hour away from a car.  This is all well and good, but in our opinion we need to do more.  Maxing the minimum is not good enough.
We ask of the Scout to “Do his Best”… so should we.
We also Nurture our adult leaders to want to be “Over Trained”.  Again, this is part of the culture of the unit.  Firm expectations of the training that allows our unit to function at a higher level.  When a parent asks to become a part of the adult leadership of the unit, the parent is invited to participate fully.  But training comes first.  Before an Assistant Scoutmaster for example can function as such, he must complete all of the BSA required training.  He needs to seek advanced first aid training to include CPR/AED.  We ask them to attend Wood Badge.  We take the time to instruct them on being a mentor, teacher, and coach to our Scouts.  We remind them that we do not lead, we assist.  There are not patches in the Boy Scout program for adults that say the word “Leader”.
This nurturing and development of the new adult volunteer leads them toward advanced training.
What this does for the unit is simple.  It opens doors.  We need not rely on any outside instruction or guides for our activities.  If we want to climb, we have certified climbing instructors to facilitate that activity.  Water craft, backpacking, shooting, Orienteering, Pioneering, First Aid, and more are all on the table because of the adult cadre of volunteers that have become the culture of the unit.  We also find that the adults stay active, even when the Scout has moved on.  This level of commitment has kept our knowledge base growing and stable.  The culture of the unit dictates that we do it all for the Scouts and we go the extra mile to make sure they have the very best Scouting experience.
So it is both Nature and Nurture.  It is a culture that expects the adult to set the example by giving more.  Being a model of the expected behavior of a servant leader.  One that reinforces our 5 Leadership principles in the Troop.
Leading ourselves, Focusing on the small stuff, Being the model of expected behavior, Communicating effectively, and being a Servant Leader.
Once that culture is developed and has a strong by in, the unit will flourish with trained leaders.
Allan and Alex, I hope that answer addressed your questions also.
If you have more questions, comments of concerns, please feel free to drop me a note.
Have a Great Scouting Day!