Character

The Great Non Negotiable

Adult Leader RolesI often talk about Character with our Scouts and on this blog.  To me Character is the Great Non Negotiable.  Character is that which once you give it away, you can not get it back.  Character can never be taken from you, but you can freely give it away.  We see examples of this daily, we need only to look to our Nations Politicians and how they compromise their integrity and Character when they fail to live the values that we all seem to hold true.  Being Trustworthy and Loyal, Brave and Obedient.  Our Governor here in Oregon seems to push the limits of integrity weekly.
When these “role models” give away their character while the public watches we know that they are willing to stretch their integrity to any limit.
They give it away and can never get it back.  We know what they are up to and nothing they can do will repair the damage done.
So it goes with our young men in Scouting.  Beginning at the early age when a Scout becomes a Tiger Cub we teach them Character Connections, themes that run through the entire program that set them on a course to develop Character and keep it.
“Character development should extend into every aspect of a boy’s life. Character development should also extend into every aspect of Cub Scouting.”   The core values that begin to make up a young man’s character in Cub Scouts are like a hand prepared for the glove that will be the Scout Law once he joins the Boy Scout program.  For this reason, I am happy with the change the Boy Scouts of America has put in place for all Scouts, no matter which program they participate will all learn and live the Scout Oath and Law.
In the Scoutmaster conferences I conduct with the Scouts of my Troop we often spend a great deal of time discussing character.  The skills portion of their advancement play a small role when compared to the way they act and grow.
Many times we direct a Scout away from certain behaviors during these discussions. Unfortunately, their school environment does not value the same character as we do.  I share the fact that Character is in fact a Non negotiable item in life.  Well, only if they want to have a good life that is full of meaning and value.
They have to understand that they can never negotiate their character away.  They need to know that the values that shape their character which we find in the Scout law are all good for their future and when lived will ensure character is kept. I find it disturbing that they are often willing at a young age to begin the compromise of these values.  It is not an issue of “cool” or even Scouting.  It is an issue of developing these young men.  I have said it before and will continue to say it… It is not my job as a Scoutmaster to produce Eagle Scouts, I am here to help develop men of Character.
There is an expectation that Eagle Scouts have Character, but in some cases the Scoutmaster valued the rank over the substance.  Their score card was compromised by the want to have Eagle Scouts and not good men.  The good news is that you can have both if you take the time to expect good character and never negotiate it away so a young man can feel good about getting rank.
If they are not ready.. they are not ready.  It is not for us to add to or take away from the requirements, but it is also up to the Scout and the Scoutmaster to agree on how he is “Living the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives.”  Now in that agreement my Scouts know that I will not negotiate when in comes to character.  I care less about how they feel and more about how they act.  Not a popular opinion in a day and age where every one gets a participation ribbon and trophy for having a pulse.  I want to see our Scouts go on and become successful, what ever that looks like in the future.  I never want to see them in the paper or the nightly news in hand cuffs or in a scandal.  I never want to see them negotiate away their character.  Selling their Eagle medal for higher pay or recognition, status or position.
Character is the Great Non Negotiable.  We need to teach that to our Scouts and expect it from them.. and yes, even if that means they develop a bit more before they are awarded the next rank.
If they don’t get it by the age of 18, we have more problems than merit badges and Eagle medals.
Just something to think about.. I do.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

The power of Why

Hey, it’s been a crazy week and now I am heading out of town for a little mini vacation with the wife.  So we will get back to blogging this weekend.
A couple things I am looking forward to this weekend (after our vacation),, We gave new Scouts crossing over on Saturday and then Sunday we have our annual Red and Green Celebration where we are not only celebrating our Troop’s achievements over the last year, but we are having our own Order of the Arrow 100th Anniversary celebration.
We will announce our Scout of the Year and recognize the hard work of our Scouts and some volunteers also.
So we are heading out of town.. a much needed break
To leave you this week at mid week with some good leadership content, take a few minutes and watch this video.  This is Simon Sinek, a great mind and speaker on leadership.  He talks about How Great leaders inspire Action.  Meaningful action that drives results.  I have said it many times as I teach our Scouts leadership.  Leaders provide three things, Purpose, Direction, and Motivation.  These three things can not happen unless the leader knows Why he or she should do those things.  Take a minute and enjoy some great leadership talk.
We will get back to the blog next week.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Why?

Last night at our Patrol Leaders Council meeting we discussed the most recent camp out, or I should say camp out attempt.  To recap, the weather got real bad, gear got wet, we assessed the risk and bailed out…in a nut shell.why
Part of each PLC meeting is a training portion.  I try to keep it to about 5 or 10 minutes, but last night was unique in that I sensed that the young leaders were not happy with the idea that we had to bail out of the camp out.  No one debated the fact that it was the right thing to do, but why did we get in the situation.
There is nothing we can do to change the weather.  But what is that we do to change or effect our desired outcome?  In talking with the leaders of the PLC I kept hearing that “We did not do this or that..” “We took short cuts” “We got lazy”.  And by and large they, although being very tough on themselves, were hitting the nail squarely on the head.
The problem I have was their use of the word “We”.  The way it was being used transferred the responsibility from “I or Me” to “We”.  You see, that makes it easier to assign blame or point fingers and the issues.
So we went around the table and each member of the PLC had an opportunity to reflect on a specific thing that could have been better.  And no.. no one was allowed to say the weather.  They also had to start their sentence with the words “I could have…”  The results were great.  We can not go back and change what happened this weekend.  We learned a lot about our Scouts and about the skills that we need to develop.  We.. I… learned that we have a fantastic group of young men that want to be successful and want to be leaders.  I was happy to hear them start answering the question… Why?
Why did I make that mistake?  Why didn’t I demonstrate good leadership by being a better example?  Why didn’t I check on my Patrol?  Why did I take short cuts?  Why was I lazy and not focused?
Now this may seem a tad bit harsh.. after all, these are just kids.  No.. These are kids that want to be leaders.  These are kids that understand that they are there to lead their friends.  These are young men that now understand that decisions that they make have an impact on not just them, but their patrol mates.  These are Scouts that desire to get it right and as a result will have more fun and adventure.
These are guys that are starting to get the concept that for every action there is a positive or negative reaction.  Each decision, each skill, each interaction within their patrols will result in success or failure.  They do not want to fail, but are willing to test themselves knowing that we are watching out for them and are there to teach them and coach them through the rough spots.  They feel safe knowing we care about them and are cheering them on to be better at leadership.
It was nice to listen in as they discussed the leadership principles that they did not practice.  This tells me two things.  First, they know what they are and second they know what they are supposed to look like.
We have a fun month coming up.  The Patrol Leaders Council along with the Troop Leadership Corps have a great plan… this month, they are sharing with the Troop the answer to WHY?
They are going to practice leadership by sharpening skills.  They listed the things that they see as their leadership challenges and are going to answer why these are challenges and how do we fix them.  It is going to be a fun month.  In light of this, they also asked to push our annual Junior Leader Training to February as it will serve as a great finale to this month of Leadership development.
I can’t tell you how proud I am of these young men.
I too am working on answering why?  Yep, there are things I should have done also this past camp out that I failed to do.  Why?  Well, I’m figuring that out.
Leadership starts with why?  Why do we lead?  Why do we care?  Why is it important?
Great start to a leadership discussion with your Troop.
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!

Map and Compass

mapcompassHere is the Scoutmaster Minute that I gave to our Troop the other night… Hope you find it useful.
As you travel on the trail to First Class Scout you find that there are many skills that you develop.  You learn them and eventually master them well enough to use them in your daily lives, while on camp outs and even teach them to other people.
Learning to use the Map and Compass is one such skill that takes practice and hands on use.  Once you master the use of the Map and Compass you will always know the direction you heading and will be able to find your way.
The Map shows you the terrain.  It lets you know where you are and where you are going.  It’s colors represent what is on the ground around you and the obstacles that you will face.  As you read the map, you see the hills and valleys that you will be trekking on.  It shows you where you can find water and other resources.  The map can tell you where the trail is easy or hard or give you options for a detour.  Using you map, you always know where you are and a clear path to where you want to go.
The Compass is the other tool that when used with your map gives you clear direction.  Knowing how to use the compass properly will allow you to set your course in the right direction.  It orients your map and gives you an accurate picture of what is ahead.  Without the compass, the map is just a picture of the section of earth you are traveling on.  Add the compass and you have accurate and steady direction.  The compass is always true.  It can set you on the path that will get you to your destination.
These two tools are important in your life.  Yes, we have GPS now and that is very helpful, but the GPS will never replace a good map and compass.
We have another map and compass that get us headed in the right direction and keep us on track to our destination.  The Scout Oath and Law.
The Oath is our map.  It gives us a clear picture of the person that we should be.  It has features much like the map.  Duty, Honor, and being Selfless are some of the marks we see in Oath.  If we use it, we will know the landscape of our lives and will be able to stay the course.
The Scout Law is our compass.  It is the steady set of values, unchanging, that when used with the Scout Oath will be our guide on the trail of life.
The Law points you in the direction of our values that make you the person that you are.  Like the compass it has a steadfast needle that ensures your heading is true.
Using the Oath and Law together, like the map and compass these tools will set your course to being a man of Character, a good Citizen, and promote in yourself and other fitness in your mind, body, and heart.
As we have traveled that trail to First Class, weather is is recent or in the past, or if you are just starting that journey, remember that the skills you develop today are there for you to use for the rest of your life.  Focus on these skills they will make a difference not only on a camp out but every day that you wake up and look in the mirror starting your Great Scouting Day!
Set your azimuth to achieve your goals and keep checking your map to stay on course.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Alter your Thinking

IMG_2625I suppose this year has just been one of those times of reflection.  With our youngest son graduating from high school and getting ready to move away to college, our oldest son across the country in the Army and our daughter hitting the books in college, this year has really provided opportunities to reflect.
A look back at the last 20 years of fatherhood, 22 years of marriage, the ending of an Army career and getting closer to my 50th birthday has been wonderful, scary, and eye-opening.
I think that as I grow older and maybe a little wiser I tend to look at things a bit different and find myself looking for answers or solutions to some of the problems I see around me.  I have no hope for our political issues and see no fix in the near future and so I am focusing my energy on that which I can have an impact on.  The things, people, and places that I can touch and make a difference at and to.
One of the biggest problems that has been weighing on my mind lately is our young men.  Not my sons, but a collective of our young men that we are in contact with.  I try to understand them and learn as to what makes them tick.  What motivates them?  What gets them out of bed in the morning?  What is it that they will contribute to our community?
In looking at them it dawned on me that we have some serious issues with them just becoming men.
We as a nation are not letting them grow up to be men.  In Scouting we constantly talk about Character, but what about manliness?  What makes them men?
In thinking on this I am trying to define what that means or looks like.
Rugged?  Well, it does not have to mean that.  Self reliant?  That is a big issue.  Courteous and Kind.  Hard working.  Providers, hunter gatherers.
My Dad showed me what it is to be a man.  He showed me how to love his family, protect them and care for them.  He taught me to be a provider and never to let them down.  He showed me the value of working hard and being rewarded for hard work.  He demonstrated to me determination and applying yourself to get what you want.  He taught me how to compete and be a good sport.  He showed me how to be a faithful husband and loving dad.
There are many traits of being a man who I think get lost when a young man does not have that man to show them.  And then it was clear.  We are missing men… Dad’s.
I grew up in a generation that won’t be labeled great or unique.  My generation learned from parents that by and large stayed together.  The guys I grew up with were pretty much the same.  I grew up an Army Brat.  Moved every three years and learned to make new friends annually.  The guys I grew up with had Dad’s that went away to Vietnam.  We were all about 1-year-old when our Dad’s went away and left us with Mom.  Mom was still there when Dad got back.  We were Army families.  Everyone I knew had a Mom and a Dad.  I did not know divorced people.  It was not till I became a Cubmaster that I was introduced to my first single parent.  That was 15 years ago.  This revelation was mind numbing for me.  It was something that I did not understand.  Parents are just supposed to stay together.  My parents are still together after 48 years, why can’t other people make that kind of commitment?
Marriage is disposable these days and it is criminal to me.  I do not believe in “irreconcilable differences”.  If you have problems, work them out.  “For better or for worse” that was the promise I made 22 years ago and I intend to keep it.  Our marriage has not been all peaches and cream, but neither is life.  It takes work to make it work.  It takes an altering of thinking to change the result.  Our society needs to alter its thinking on the casual nature of marriage.
Being husband and wife is not a flavor of the month and when you introduce children to the equation it ramps the intensity of the commitment to another level.
This attitude of disposable relationships I feel is the single biggest issue in boys not becoming good men.  As much as I value Mom’s, they can not be Dad’s.
Dad’s make men when they are engaged in their lives and serve their son’s as a teacher and mentor.  Not a buddy, but a parent that teaches manliness.
A Dad that teaches his son to respect women.  Teaches the value of family and the importance of keeping the family together.  Passing on tradition and culture.  Teaching that values drive Character and that you do what you value.
This is manliness and it is being missed on a generation that is growing up in a world that does not value hard work and reward.  Where mediocre is ok and that government is more important than family.  That there is always a safety net and that skills and education are not as important as learning systems.  A world that punishes risk taking and praises just going along.  A world that rewards the individual as long as everyone else is rewarded to.
We need to alter that thinking.
We need to reward achievement and hard work.  We need to praise Dad’s that stick it out and raise good young men.  We need to frown on the disintegration of marriage and the promises that come with committing oneself to another.  We need to alter our thinking from an attitude of what’s in it for me to what is in it for us.  We need to stop being selfish and think about someone else for a change.  Think about those young men that will be rudderless men in the very near future if we do not alter our thinking.
In talking with my 20 year son on Sunday over the phone I could not help but listen to him as we talked about his life in the Army.  The lessons he learned at home that are making him a success in life now.
Then sitting on the bed with my youngest son making plans to pack up his stuff to get ready to move to college.  The knowledge that he will do well because of the solid foundation of values and skills he has to go and be a man.
Looking back over this last couple months taking a deep look at the past and then a glance to the future I am left with the satisfaction that my wife and I have done well.  At the same time I fear for the future of the young men of our community and beyond.  Unless we alter our thinking, we will set them up to fail.
We need to make them men.
What are you doing to make a difference?
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!