Thursday, February 20, 2020

The Beginning of the End

Yesterday I woke up to the news that the National Scouting Council had filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy also known as restructuring.  There are basically two types of bankruptcy options (although technically there are more but for a simplistic nature we will say two) for business entities and that is a liquidation of all assets and closing the business to pay back creditors and debts or a restructuring which outlines a continuity plan and payment plan for debts, although it still may require the liquidation of some assets.  The latter was chosen by the National Council.

I will forewarn you, this blog may get a little dark and provide a dim view on the future of the organization and will be purely speculation on the future of the organization.  To use a phrase that I often used during my time as Scoutmaster, there is a train wreck coming.  The question is, do we prevent it or let it happen?  Will those involved learned more from the failure than if we step in and rescue it?  Just recently several of my Scouts commented to me how they noticed I often would let mistakes and "train wrecks" occur and they told me they learned more when it happened.

Back in October of 2019 I wrote a letter to the National Committee of concerns that basically lay out what I called a "Path of Destruction" in which I analyzed passed decisions and milestones that the organization had made since about 2000 and what it's long term affects would be on the local programs.  I find often that in most organizations, the corporate headquarters is quite far removed from the reality of what is going on in the field or front lines.  Heck, they are why we had reality shows such as "Undercover Boss".  I had forecasted several possible future events during that letter.  One of which was an increase to membership dues caused by the declining membership and mass exodus of the LDS church which equated to almost half the membership of the organization.  A week later, the organization announced that it would be considering an increase and did not announce it until later which was about DOUBLE the current dues rate!  This would become a financial barrier for many multi-sibling families.  There was a time that people didn't have to worry about the cost of Scouting, now every time they turn around there is money needed for this or that.  Additionally, the propaganda will say that Scouting is a good value for its cost, which I agree, compared to the average cost of other programs.  From a business standpoint, they have under-priced themselves from their competitors (youth programs/activities) and I would not be surprised if they continue to increase membership dues over time.  After all, it is the knee-jerk reaction of a membership based organization to increase the fees on existing members in order to maintain current expenditures rather than looking at value added programs that would draw new members or re-capture former members.

The next event I had forecasted came to fruition yesterday with the announcement of the bankruptcy filing.  So far, I have been pretty accurate for a lowly former volunteer.  I did not get involved in the politics of the Districts and Council and I know it made me a rogue element because I had seen through their velvet curtain that many of them had lost true sight of what the Scouting program was and was not.  Everything had become about money and membership rather than value added programs and having a true outreach to youth.  But I digress, you can read more in my book when it is published.

So, let's break this down from the propaganda that the PR machines are spinning in the news and tell you how I believe that this is THE BEGINNING OF THE END for Scouting.  The inspiration to even write this blog came from a conversation that I had last night with a former Scout who is now in college.  He was asking me what this means.  So, I told him what I believed to be the truth.

First, for several years since the membership standards had changed (defining who and who can not join scouting; i.e. girl, boy, trans, or sexual orientation) the organization has been shifting more and more liability to the chartered organizations and local councils.  What I mean is this, if someone wanted to join Scouts (for example a gay youth) that met the membership standards of the B.S.A. but did not for the chartered organization (let's say a church) and were denied (because the chartered organization must approve the membership application since they "own" the unit) then essentially the chartered organization would be liable for lawsuits and not the B.S.A. Keep this in mind as I will revisit this later.

As part of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy a fund will be established to equitably compensate victims of sexual abuse in the organization. And they will partner with a group called 1:6 to continue to provide support and resources. Okay, so remember, these statements that are produced by the PR team hired by the organization spend lots of time on proper terminology that steers away from any negative verbiage connotations before releasing them to the public.  So I will breakdown what I believe they mean by using the word equitable based upon what I know about financial restructuring in bankruptcy.   

A third party firm, typically appointed by the court, will collect all outstanding debts or expected debts and then will total those up.  Then they will work with the Scouting Organization on an amicable payment plan/structure to pay those debts or lawsuits.  Next, the court appointed or hired firm will distribute those funds based on a Pro Rata amount.  Breaking that down even further here is an example; Total sexual abuse lawsuits amount to $1M.  Johnny Tentpeg's suit is for $100k of that $1M total.  Scouting pays a structured payment of $200k for all those lawsuits.  That means that because Johnny Tentpeg's lawsuit equates to 10% of the total debt he will receive 10% of the structured payment equaling $20k.  NOT the $100k he sued and received judgement for.

That is what I believe is meant by the term "Equitable" compensation they are using in conjunction with the bankruptcy strategy.  And yes, I called it a strategy because that is what it is.  Check the history of major lawsuits against corporations.  Victims sue and a jury awards an astronomical amount in damages, the company then files bankruptcy and the victims get cheated out of their share and the company goes on. 

Now they also used the term "encouraging victims to come forward" which is good and positive.  However, I also believe this to mean that there is going to be a so called "end point" in which the organization will no longer accept claims that would be paid from this fund that will be setup.  Now I am unclear exactly how this would work legally as I am not a lawyer however what I suspect is, as I mentioned in the earlier paragraph, is that they will shift that liability to the local Councils and Chartered Organizations.  I have seen in lawsuits before where an organization or entity was able to remove themselves as a named defendant for different reasons, again, shifting responsibilities.

Now, what did they use to probably fund this structured settlement and bankruptcy you might ask?  I propose they used the donated asset of Philmont Scout Ranch when they mortgaged the property.  The Philmont team didn't even know about it until it was done and has been questioned as to whether or not the organization even had the right to do so because of it being against the original intent of the donor.  Additionally, the integrity of the organization was placed in question for not being completely honest or transparent with the Philmont group in doing so.  Slowly, I believe we will see the B.S.A. continue to mortgage and sell it's assets over time and it will be quite a shame.  If in doing so, I hope that private enterprises will be able to come in and continue providing the same experiences even if for the general public.

In continuing down this path and as liabilities continue to be shifted from national to the local councils and chartered organizations, I further believe we will begin seeing even more lawsuits coming.  These lawsuits will be levied against the local councils, which many are actually not as financially sound as you may believe.  Almost immediately following the announcement of the bankruptcy local councils begin distribution of the pre-made info-graphics stating how the bankruptcy does not affect local programs and how they are INDEPENDENT of the national organization along with the studies that prove scouting is still relevant and works today. 

The word INDEPENDENT is very important as I will explain further.  It surprises me how many people, especially those involved in scouting, really don't know the structure of the Scouts and how each level relates to the other.  When you pay dues for your membership not a single red cent stays with your local unit, unless they inflate it.  All of the that goes to National with the local Council as the intermediary.  Local Councils rely on their own fundraising and Friends of Scouting Capital Campaigns to fund the salaries and resources of the professional staff.  Units even have to fill out money earning applications when they do fundraising in order to ensure it doesn't interfere with a council fundraising project or donor support. 

It is important to recognize this organizational structure for future reference.  By putting a deadline on victims to claim abuse with the national organization, any late claimants will be forced to sue the local Councils and Chartered organization.  Now, keep in mind that in all the propaganda they are publishing they are stating that the abuse claims are from 30 years ago and since then Scouting has become safer and they have implement several safeguards.  Those safeguards though really only protect against those with a known criminal history.  Those without any criminal history can still slip through the system unless they start conducting psychological profiles and screening on the level of FBI and Security Clearance checks from the Pentagon.  What about the other preventative safeguards such as the Two-Deep leadership and no one-on-one contact?  Listen, if there is a real predator they will always find a way.  Unfortunately this measure will also cause a lot of good people with good intentions to be either turned off of the organization or falsely accused/implied of nefarious acts.  But that takes me back on a tangent.  Let's stay focused.  Back on the independent councils subject.

While the current local council may not be at immediate risk for the abuse lawsuits of the past, I believe with the change of membership standards, allowing ALL youth no matter their sex and ALL adults no matter sexual orientation, combined with this Bankruptcy restructuring will present a clear and present danger to the future of Scouting.  And here is why.  Statistically 1 in 6 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse.  You may recognize the statistic in the name of an organization mentioned earlier (the group that the B.S.A has partnered with to provide support for the victims).  Additionally, 1 in 3 girls will experience the same.  With the addition of females in the Scouting organization I do believe that we will see double the number of current lawsuits and they will be placed at the feet of the local councils and chartered organizations.

Many Chartered Organizations (majority are churches) that sponsor Scouting Units see them as an outreach program of their organization.  However, I have observed in my interaction with many units over the years that those Chartered Organizations actually have very few of their own members that participate in the sponsored program.  Therefore creating a tertiary program without a real stakeholder in the unit.  From a risk management standpoint if this is the case and potential to have this kind of liability exposure I wouldn't blame them for not renewing the charters of those units.  Without those renewal charters Scouting itself will again continue to decline and very well may be the end of the Scouting Movement in America in its current form and may give rise to another.

To be clear, I have enjoyed my experience in Scouting for 30 years.  Both as a youth and as an Adult.  I wouldn't trade my youth experience for nothing and yes, I am an EAGLE SCOUT.  However, my adult experience showed me more behind the curtains of the organization than I could have imagined and how far removed some of the leadership are from the field work.  Listen, at the end of the day, Scouting is a business guided by financial decisions in order to continue to survive.  The product they peddle and sell are the values that are really dependent upon the volunteer leaders at the local level.  The magic of scouting isn't in the organization.  It is in the Man-Boy leader (as Baden-Powell called one of the qualities of a Scoutmaster) of the local unit  The best time of my adult scouting experience was my short lived time as Scoutmaster.  It may have been short lived but it certainly was epic and more was done during that time than most others could have accomplished in several decades (There is a book coming soon on my experience).  I know I am just a lowly guy with my own opinions that many may not appreciate or acknowledge by some but if it means anything I think Mike Rowe's comments last year on the Tucker Carlson show  helped to add some credibility to my thoughts. 

Also, please note that the comments made in this blog are in no way representative of any legal advice or based on any legal documents as I am not an attorney.  These are just my own opinions and speculations on the situation. 

Some Points of References:
Scouting's Bankruptcy Video
Philmont Mortgage
Membership Fee Increase
LDS Exodus from Scouts
Organization Structure
Scouting Moral Bankruptcy
Scouts Canada Co-ed Failure for Membership Growth
Membership Decline

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Why You SHOULD Have a New Year's Resolution or Goals

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As adults I think we all know or at least are aware of the importance of goals.  Most of the time we do this for our work or business but often fail to do this for ourselves personally.  Because we as adults understand the importance of goals I am actually writing this from the perspective of why teens and youth should have goals as well.  Now, if you are an adult reading this, fine, you'll find just as much value as a youth would, I would think. Otherwise I would just say, "OK Boomer".

So, you are a teenager, why should you have a goals?  I mean it's not like you actually have to plan that much for anything beyond studying for your next test or class.  You probably live with your parents who are the ones with the ultimate worry of providing for you financially, safety and security, and working to provide a family vacation or quality time together to make up for all the time spent at work or otherwise. So again I ask, why is it important for you have a goal or resolution for this coming year?

Jesus often answered a question with another question and in like fashion I will do the same; are you happy or satisfied with how this past year was?  Would you have wanted something to change?  If so how can you expect it to change if you never had a road map?  This reminds me of story of a traveler who stopped to ask someone where they were.  The stranger replied, "where are you going?" and the traveler stated they didn't know.  So the stranger said, "then it doesn't matter where you are!".

In a Harvard Study it found that 80 percent of students had no goals set (written or thought of), 17 percent had an idea of goals they would like to achieve and 3 percent actually had clear and defined goals written down.  Fast forward 10 years later and the study found that the group of 17 percent made 10x more money than the 80 percent who had no goals and the 3 percent who had goals written made 10x more money than the entire group together.  That is the power of having goals.  They give you a path, a road map to go by.  Otherwise as the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland said, "any ol' place will do if you don't know where you are going".  

Now let me warn you, life is NOT about how much money you can earn.  Some would say that 'money is the root of all evil' when actually that statement is incorrect, maybe caused by a mandela effect.  The correct statement from the Bible is "The love of money is the root of all evil" 1 Timothy 6:10.  You see money is amoral.  Which means it is neither good nor evil just like a brick or a hammer can be used to break windows or build a house for the homeless.  It is what we do with it that matters.  But I digress, the point is Goals are not just about money.  They can be whatever you want.

For example, perhaps it is to read so many books this year, spend more time with family, learn a new skill, or whatever it is for you.  I actually teach a "Creating Your Life Plan" workshop which is really profound. In it I speak that while having goals is great, what is better is having a PURPOSE behind those goals.  Otherwise goals without purpose become a string of hollow victories endlessly being replaced by more goals.  I would be happy to host this workshop which takes about an hour to do.  To find out more visit my business page or my personal page.  I would be happy to share with you my Life Plan.  It is no secret and is only a few pages long.

Believe this or not, I have just recently learned this can be more complicated than you think.  If you want to do it right.  I have been reading a book called "Man in the Mirror" by Patrick Morley.  It has been one of my goals to finish this book.  In a recent chapter regarding time management and planning it speaks of this when making plans and discerning God's Will:
  1. I tell God what I am going to do.
  2. God responds
  3. I beg God to let me do it anyway!
  4. Finally I humble myself and listen.
  5. God tells me what HE is going to do.
I found this interesting that yes even though we make our own plans and goals do we actually consult the one who directs our life?  My personal life verse is Proverbs 3:5,6 which goes, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge HIM and HE shall direct your paths."  Which means to me that I have to have faith and trust in God that no matter what happens in life it is for HIS purpose.  The bad and the good and to not 'lean on my own understanding'.  Also that I should recognize HIS hand in everything and by doing so HE will lead me where HE wants me to go. 

The book further breaks it down with another verse from Proverbs 16:1-4.  It says, "To humans belongs the plans of the heart but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue.  All a person's ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.  Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.  The Lord works out everything to its proper end."

Proverbs is full of great advice and wisdom.  So, HOW to go about with creating your plans or goals for 2020.  Well, when you first have the idea forming in your head you should consult with GOD through prayer and meditation first.  As the Borg say, "Resistance is Futile", you might as well consult the Master before you begin because ultimately we are just wasting our time if it is not in HIS will.

After you have prayed and meditated on it the next thing is to write it down with a clear action plan.  This is the method I use:
  1. Priority/Goal
  2. Purpose (Why this Goal is important)
  3. Supporting Verse or Inspirational Quote
  4. Envisioned Future (What will it look like when this is achieved)
  5. Current Reality (Be Honest)
  6. Action Plan (How will you achieve this)

I know this was already long and it could be longer and I would be happy to discuss this further which you can contact me or leave a message in the comments but it is important that EVERYONE have some sort of goals.  Goals to be accomplished in the next year and even the next five years.  These goals should give life to a Purpose otherwise they are merely superficial and we continue in this rat race being lost spiritually, mentally, and emotionally.  Empty and hollow.  But first we should always pray about it and listen for God's will in our lives.  Once it is set we need to commit it to the Lord.

For those adults I often remark how funny it is that we give more time and attention to what we are going to do with the 2 weeks of vacation we might have than on what legacy we will leave our families.  Consider that.  You're planning a cruise or Disney vacation for the summer or maybe a beach trip or a mountain escape.  But how much time did you spend on deciding what legacy you will leave to your friends, your family, your church, etc?  

Consider these two stories.  1) A shop owner who works 7am to 9:30pm to run his business and try to earn as much money as he can.  He eventually becomes tired and and his tension and hostility shows to his customers who are slow to return for repeat business.  He has little reserves to fall back on.  And 2) another business owner who decides that if it can't be done by 6pm then he doesn't need the money.  He spends that time with his family and his church.  Helping others.  His home life is balanced and it shows to his customers that he is concerned and cares for them.  Money isn't everything.  I would rather be the second example.

I was given a special gift by someone.  A young man named Stephen.  It was a framed quote that says, "Make it a rule...never, if possible, to lie down at night without being able to say 'I have made one human being at least a little wiser, a little happier or a little better this day'." - Charles Kinglsey.

New Year's Examples for Youth (Feel free to add your own)
  • Love Yourself
  • Forgive Someone
  • Do Something Brave (Ride that roller coaster, bungee jump, give a speech, tell someone how you feel about them)
  • Learn A Life Skill (Auto Mechanics, Financial education, Cook, etc)
  • Be Present in the Moment (Put Your Phone Down at Dinner or with friends)
  • Ask Your Parents something about their childhood
  • Write Something Down Everyday that You are Grateful For
  • Read the Bible (Daily devotion)
  • Keep a Journal
  • Make a New Friend
  • Rekindle and Old Friendship
  • Volunteer or Do Something Selfless to Help Someone Else
  • Read a Book that will help you be a better person

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Campfire Ash Ceremony

Campfires have always been a special tradition in Scouting.  Often accompanied by Songs or Skits or even toasted marshmallows.  For many it's not so much as the activity around the fire that makes it memorable, often times its the the people that you share the campfire circle with.  Exchanging of stories and kindling friendships or even just talking about life and lessons learned.  

For those who received a special ash tube from me, below is the link for the record of where those ashes have originated.  Representing countless stories, skits, songs, and people that have come together ALL OVER THE WORLD and sat around these ashes.  I first received these ashes while serving on staff at the 2001 National Scout Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill.  During my time as Scoutmaster at Troop 3 I decided to add those ashes to these to honor and remember all the young men that had sat around a fire with me.  What special times they hold.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

What is the MOST important point of the Scout Law?

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Often during a Board of Review or a Scoutmaster Conference a Scout is asked what is the most important point of the Scout Law. I have asked that question many times. Each response was a good one. Even I remember being asked this question when I was a Scout.

Most respond with Trustworthy, heck, I think I even did. Even Baden Powell thought that Trustworthy was the most important point. So much so that according to the second edition of the Handbook for Scoutmasters it states that if a Scout is deemed not Trustworthy he is to relinquish his Scout badge.

However, after much more thought and consideration I would now have to change my opinion and say, to me, the most important point of the Scout Law is LOYAL.  Here is why, it fits for me personally.  I am not sure why I didn't recognize it sooner, but all my life that has been a resounding theme.  When I was in high school and was dating, loyalty always stood out to me.  Sure, we have all been a part of that dating scene where someone ends up falling for someone else while in a relationship and they think they can carry on but they are actually being dis-loyal.  I too was a victim of that.  While I was dating I swore to never be "looking" for another companion.  I vowed to remain loyal.

Another word for loyal could also be faithful.  I am reminded of the story of Hosea in the bible.  He remained true and faithful to his wife even when she was not to him.  He also remained faithful to God in his Trust that HIS will would be done.  It actually is a beautiful story.  I first encountered it through a movie on PUREFLIX called Amazing Love.

Besides my personal experiences why I think LOYAL is the most important part of the Scout Law here is some further evidence:

Loyalty encompasses ALL other points of the Scout Law.  To be loyal to something you have to have an element of Trust.  Trust that your loyalty will not waiver.  Trust in another person, individual, or thing.  You also must be obedient to that person.  After all, if you are loyal you will obey that person's wishes.  Courteousness will be exercised because of respect for the individual as well as friendliness and kindness.  Let's not forget about being helpful.  After all, a friend is always helpful. And the list can go on with each point of the Scout Law as an example; Cheerful, Thrifty, Clean, Brave and of course even Reverent.  Reverent which also implies faith which can be interchanged with Loyalty.  So again, in order to be Loyal, you must hold each trait of the Scout Law.

Another movie I was watching recently is called Lady Jane. It is about Jane Grey who ascended to the throne of England after Henry VIII's son Edward had passed away.  SPOILER ALERT!  For those not a history buff as myself this was during the time of the great reform in which England separated from the Roman Catholic Church and formed the Church of England.  The only way it could continue to solidify this reformation was to keep the throne from being inhabited by someone who believed the same.  Also, in placing Lady Jane on the throne the privy counsel usurped the natural line of succession which as you can imagine caused some uprisings from the rightful heirs.  What does this have to do with Loyalty?  Lady Jane was a well educated, self-educated, young lady or teenager who was able to hold her own with theological debates.  She did not believe in literal doctrines or sacraments of the Catholic Church which is what helped to place her on the throne.  However, after being on the throne for 9 days she was removed by Mary Queen of Scotts'.  Queen Mary had Lady Jane imprisoned along with her husband but promised NOT to execute Lady Jane's death sentence. 

Lady Jane's death sentence was actually carried out though because Queen Mary was set to marry a Spanish Prince who would not come to England unless the rebels had no reason to fight which was Lady Jane.  As an appeal the Bishop or Cardinal came to hear Lady Jane repent and turn back to the Catholic Faith.  They separated her and her husband.  Questioned her husband first and then brought him in while the questioned Lady Jane.  This was an interrogation technique used to cast doubt of what each person had said.  Did her husband remain true in his beliefs or did he cave and give in which would cause Lady Jane to do the same.  They forbid either one of them from speaking.  In the end, Lady Jane held true and so did her husband.  That was an example of Loyalty, of faithfulness.

My final example would come from another movie, Three Musketeers.  My oh my, talk about a band of brothers who exemplified bravery and loyalty and a fight for what was true and good.  Have you ever considered their motto, "All for one and One for All!"?  Ponder on this, each person was important and significant.  To trust each other with their very lives.  If one of them was in need or trouble they ALL would come to the rescue.  All of them was for one of them, and One of them would be for ALL of them.

So what is the MOST important point of the Scout Law?  My belief is Loyal and so I chant with my fellow Musketeers, "All for one and one for all"!

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Letter to the Boys - Final Scoutmaster Minute

Like a whitewater river, life is fast, unpredictable and full of rocks. It has fast currents and swirling currents, and sometimes you get turned around and don't know which way you're going. You'll be paddling along fine when suddenly the water gets fast and rough, but because of what you've learned at Scouts and from your parents, you know you have to paddle harder to keep your boat straight downstream.

You try hard to avoid rocks, but inevitably you'll hit one, scratching your paint and sometimes leaving a dent. But it helps you to read the river better, and you'll miss that rock the next time.

Sometimes, you come up against a fallen tree, blocking the entire river, and maybe even swamping your boat. Does that stop you? Do you give up? No, you have to get to your destination, so you suck it up and muscle your boat around the obstacle and keep going.

When you're river paddling, you sometimes encounter two ways to go. You only have a minute or two to make a decision. Using what you see and what you've learned, you make a choice. That choice might be the right one, and you keep on paddling. But sometimes you make a decision, and it's a dead end, or filled with snags. All you can do is admit you made a mistake, and go back, and take the right way.

Without all these obstacles, the river would be flat and kind of boring. Whitewater, like life, can be scary and challenging, but it has many great fun times making memories along the way.

Because life can be fast an unpredictable try your best to make every minute count.  I'd like to think I did as Scoutmaster for those 90 minutes each week and 1 weekend a month.  Perhaps that's why I never liked going to sleep while camping because I didn't want to miss a second of it.  Never take anything for granted, life can change in an instant; such is the saying "here today and gone tomorrow".

The obstacles and challenges we encounter in life can be overcome with 3 important things; An attitude of gratitude, a POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE, and a good friend that sticks by your side - LOYALTY.  You don't see that much in today's world.

I was once speaking with the VP of Coca Cola and asked him what his definition of success was and he stated that it was 3 things:
  1. Something to Do (have a passion)
  2. Someone to Love (Spouse, Child, other)
  3. Something to Hope for (faith)
Those had been my principles but I would challenge it a step further by adding one more:
  1. Have and attitude of Gratitude (PMA).

I believe in God's perfect timing.  I have seen His plan in my life too often to deny it.  I had never planned on being a Scoutmaster, not for lack of knowledge or experience but because of my reverence for the position.  However, during the summer of 2017 when you all (the boys) had asked me to be their next Scoutmaster how could I refuse?  I have been grateful each and every day being Scoutmaster for the last 19 months.  I have prayed for each of you daily and weekly and with that same gratitude I believe that this was the right time, the right place (of all the troops I could be involved with), and the right set of boys and adults that I could have served as Scoutmaster.  These last 19 months have been the BEST time of my adult Scouting career because of the right timing and although I may never be able to participate in another camping trip I will cherish every trip that I was a part of with the Troop and talks around the campfire and faces of excitement with new experiences and adventures.  I only hope that I have made the same impact on your life as you ALL have made on mine.  For that I will forever be grateful to have been your Scoutmaster.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

When the Best Leaders Work is Done...

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In Ken Blanchard's book, "The One Minute Manager" there is quote that goes something like this, 'When the Best Leader's Work is Done the People Say We Did it ourselves."

I have known this quote for a long time and have been a constant student of leadership since my time serving in a leadership role at Chick-fil-A in my first career.  However, it really wasn't until recently I realized the fulfillment of this quote.  In my position as Scoutmaster I have dedicated my time to developing young men into good citizens and also great leaders.  Using the leadership skills that I had learned and had been taught throughout my career and then sharing those with young men in the leadership of the Troop.

During a time that had prevented me from being present at the Scout meetings and also by my absence and the absence of others changed the entire planned program for the month I found that the boys of their own cognizance called a PLC (Patrol Leader's Council) meeting to develop an alternative meeting plan for the upcoming weeks.  Complete with games/challenges and activities, what would be taught or worked on and then to have an after meeting PLC to discuss the following week.  I saw evidence of their planning session up on the white board which even included the times for when each activity would transition to the next one.

Wow!  I thought to myself.  We have been conducting PLC's for a while now and yes, they usually do lead them with an adult such as myself interjecting with a question or two but oh my, they did this completely on their own without prompting from an adult and created an action plan.  I could not be more proud of them!  It was in that moment that I realized the fulfillment of that quote, "When the best leader's work is done, the people say we did it ourselves!"

Scoutmaster Minutes Are Not Just For the Scouts

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Many times prior to a Scout Meeting I am searching for some relevant and meaningful message to relay to the Scouts during that special time dedicated as a Scoutmaster Minute. Sometimes I wonder if it will be good enough. Sometimes I wonder if they will take to heart the meaning.

For some Scoutmaster Minutes I get a little inspiration from the Scouts themselves either by an action, a word, or even a suggestion. It can be hard to create something inspirational EVERY week but there are many hours, and many days of opportunities in between.

Recently during a Troop meeting one of the older Scouts, now an Adult and Assistant Scoutmaster who received his Eagle last year reminded not only myself but also the Troop of a theme in a series of Scoutmaster Minutes over the summer. The theme was having a Positive Mental Attitude. Also, this same Scout completed a survey for my book project in which the question was asked what his favorite Scoutmaster Minute was. His response was about how we should be the coffee to change the water. 

The title of the Minute is called "The Eggs, Carrots, and Coffee" which is basically about when life is tough how do we react. Are we the carrots which are hard and strong during good times then become soft and weak when placed in boiling water, or the eggs with a hard outer shell but weak and fragile on the inside then become hard on the inside even though we may appear the same on the outside when placed in the boiling water of life. Or, possibly are we the coffee which actually changes the water to become something better and unique?

I have been meditating on these very moments of inspiration that I offered to others during a time of stress for me and how instead of me inspiring them, these Scouts have in turn inspired me.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

What Does an Eagle Scout Mentor Pin Mean to Me?

Image result for eagle scout mentor pin

Eagle Scout Mentor pins are given by the Eagle Scout, typically at their Eagle Ceremony, to a person that has had a significant impact on helping them achieve their accomplishment.  There are special pins for the parents of the Eagle Scout so a mentor pin is usually reserved for someone else besides a parent, although, you certainly can give it to a parent.

Throughout a Scout's journey or "Trail to Eagle" there are many people that are helping along the way.  Some of these individuals are in the foreground such as the Scoutmaster and Assistant Scoutmasters while others can be in the background.  Those would be your committee members, the Advancement Chair, perhaps a designated Life to Eagle Coordinator.  Also, it could be others outside of Scouting for example, a teacher, youth pastor, or other adult mentor.  Each one is cheering the person on and encouraging them along the way.  Each one passing some sort of advice either by word or by example of action.

In our Troop, Troop 3, Scouts get to choose their Eagle Ceremony and we also ask them "How many mentor pins would you like to present?"  We will provide upto three at no cost but there is no limit to the number of mentors an Eagle Scout may recognize. Most will get the three to present.  Some have already thought about this question and have prepared for the answer and respond immediately.  Others have said they need to think about it, either because there are so many that they would like to recognize or because they had forgotten they can give recognition to others.  Our traditional format has been that after the awarding ceremony we offer a time of "Reflections" in which members of the Troop and audience stand and speak about their favorite memories of the Eagle Scout (a portion of the ceremony which is my favorite and I encourage all Scouts to include this as it is a special time to hear how they have impacted the lives of others) and then we have an Eagle Scout Response.  It is during the Eagle Scout Response that the Scout can share a story of their own and then present his chosen mentors with an Eagle Mentor Pin. I have been to and have witnessed many Eagle Ceremonies and I have really enjoyed this format.

Over the years since becoming an Eagle Scout myself, and an adult leader, I have helped and assisted with many Scouts that have toiled up the trail to earning Eagle.  Why? Because every Eagle during their ceremony will be offered either the Eagle Scout Pledge and/or Challenge.  And in that lies a promise to give back to Scouting what Scouting has given to you.  Besides, it offers me an opportunity to go camping and enjoy the out of doors!

I became an adult (18) in 2001 and it wasn't until 2015 that I was presented with my first Eagle Scout Mentor Pin.  I had watched others over the years being presented and I never really thought much about it.  Honestly, I don't remember when it became a "thing" to award a mentor pin as I was never offered the opportunity when I became an Eagle.  In fact, in my Eagle Kit there were no mentor pins.  It contained my Eagle patch, Eagle Medal, Mom pin, Dad pin, and a Tie-tac.  Now the kits come with a mentor pin instead of a tie-tac. However, I knew, that perhaps one day when I was presented with a mentor pin it would be a special occasion, in which it was.

I had started with a troop that was asking for some assistance from a younger adult to help with a new scout patrol.  I was eager to do so.  I remember taking this group out to a wooded area and asking them what their goal was in scouting.  And one of them responded that he wanted to be an Eagle Scout.  Fast forward several years, I had since left that troop after a couple of years because of work commitments and they had started to disband and the scouts had gone on to other troops, I get asked to attend an Eagle Ceremony for George Denny.  George was one of the young scouts that told me that day in the wooded area he wanted to become and Eagle Scout.  He had gone to my old Troop where I had earned my Eagle and so they were good about reaching out to me.  They had asked me to attend other ceremonies in the past for one reason or another and to be a part of the ceremony but this time was a little different.  Previously, when asked, they had made an initial contact and left it at that.  However, this time as we got closer to the date I had multiple people reaching to me to confirm my attendance, strange I thought.

It was there that I found out the reason why my attendance was so important, he had decided to give me a mentor pin.  I had not seen him in many years, although I sort of kept up with him through the Troop's social media pages and watched him along, but I honestly didn't think I had made that much of an impact on him.  Wow!  I was a little teared eyed that night and was so honored.  I was going to tell the story of when I had first met him and how he told me of his goal but George beat me to it.  Sometimes you never know what impact you can have on someone even if it is for a short time.  He has gone on to college and plans on working in the space industry.  Probably one of the few people or scouts I know that has read the Scout Handbook from cover to cover.

Since then I have received a few more mentor pins and each one are so very special to me and yet, none of them did I expect.  The next one I received was from my first Eagle ceremony as Scoutmaster.  With each one I write on the back of them so that I know exactly who gave them to me and the year.  Some leaders wear their mentor pins every time they put on their uniform and that is fine.  Although there is no uniform guide on mentor pins since they are meant for "civilian" wear most people will wear them on their collar or on their pocket flap.  I, however, only wear mine on my uniform for special occasions, such as Court of Honor's or Eagle Ceremonies.  I don't want them to get tarnished or ruined.  Each one is sacred to me, and although I am proud of each one of those pins (not for my achievement but the achievement of those Scouts) I choose not to boast about them.

So, I titled this post with "What Does an Eagle Scout Mentor Pin Mean to Me?" and here is the answer.  It was one day when I was adding another mentor pin to my Eagle Kit (I keep them in my Eagle Kit along with my Eagle Medal and Patch that was given to me upon my achievement) I had a moment of realization of the fulfillment of my Eagle Scout Pledge/Challenge.  It was validation and physical evidence that I had given back to Scouting what Scouting had given to me in the assistance of helping brother scouts and now fellow Eagles achieve this accomplishment.  Each Eagle Scout Mentor Pin means to me as much as earning my own Eagle Scout Award.  Baden-Powell said, "Try and leave this world a little better than you found it, and when your turn comes to die, you can die happy in feeling that at any rate, you have not wasted your time but have done your best."

Friday, August 23, 2019

Scout Vespers

Image result for campfire
If you've been in scouting long enough you should know the Scout Vespers song.  Especially if you spent any amount of time at a summer camp.  It is typically always sung at the end of the campfire, if not on the opening campfire then most assuredly on the closing campfire.

The lyrics are these to the tune of "Oh Christmas Tree":

Softly falls the light of day,
While our campfire fades away.
Silently each Scout should ask
Have I done my daily task?
Have I kept my honor bright?
Can I guiltless sleep tonight?
Have I done and have I dared
Everything to be prepared?

Most people may not know there are several other versus to the song as we only sing the first repeatedly and then hum in between them until everyone as left the campfire area to return to the campsites.  Here are the rest of the verses:

Listen Lord, oh listen Lord,
As I whisper soft and low.  
Bless my mom and Bless my dad, 
These are things that they should know.
I will keep my honor Bright,
The oath and law will be my guide.
And mom and dad this you should know,
Deep in my heart I love you so.

Second Version:
Quietly we join as one,
Thanking God for Scouting fun
May we now go on our way,
Thankful for another day.
May we always love and share,
Living in peace beyond compare.
As Scout may we find,
Friendships true with all mankind.

Quietly we now will part,
Pledging ever in our heart,
To strive to do our best each day,
As we travel down life's way.
Happiness we'll try to give,
Trying a better life to live,
'Till all the world be joined in love,
Living in peace under skies above.

Recently on a camping trip we had arrived on a Friday evening.  It was still light.  That was the plan so that each patrol would have time to setup their campsites and prepare their meals rather than last year when we arrived in the dark and used vehicle lights to get our tents up and then wait until morning to make adjustments.  This park has been one of my favorites because of the variety of activities it offers and I think it is becoming a favorite of the scouts as well.  Most to of the time around 10 or 10:30 p.m. the boys are slowly wandering from the campfire they had made in search of a soft place to lay their heads for the night while myself and just a couple of others keep vigil over the remaining embers of the fire.  However, this time, the boys were still going full force..they typically call me more teenager than them because of my ability to stay up later at night but this time, I was the one wanting to sleep

It is now 11:00 p.m., traditionally quiet time, I send them all to their tents/hammocks and tell them I don't mind if they continue their conversations as long as it doesn't disturb others and if they distrub my sleep, I most certainly would distrub their sleep.  Perhaps with ice cold water at 4 a.m.!  Fast forward, it is now 11:30 p.m. and I am laying in my bed still hearing the boys carry on, loudly.  Again, typically, they are all wore out and pretty well asleep by this time but then I realize that today, there was no school.  So, they had excess energy to expel.  it was at this time that I got up and told them all it was time to sleep.

Then, what do my ears hear?  One boy began singing scout vespers.  Unprompted and then another scout joined and another.  Soon almost the whole campsite was singing from their tents.  It was almost like an episode of the Walton's in which each family members was saying "good night" from their bedroom.  It was at that moment that my heart became full of joy and pride in those boys (of course, I am always proud of them) and I sang with them.  All while reminiscing of days past when I worked on staff at scout camp singing this song twice a week.  It has always been my favorite.

At the end of the most recent troop meeting the boys suggested to the Senior Patrol Leader that we should sing the Scout Vespers song from now on as part of our closing.  He agreed and so they did.  I almost shed a tear.  It is so beautiful and fitting to end our meeting, or our evening with a song that holds such nostalgia to it.  I think even Baden-Powell would be proud.  So, as our campfire fades may we all be reminded to always be prepared and do our daily task so that we may guilt-less sleep every night.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Leave a Trace Scoutmaster Minute

Recently I was visiting my old scout Troop. As you may or may not know, I have been a part of several Scout Troops, but this one was special.  You see, it was at Troop 196 which met at St. Luke’s church in Culpeper, VA that I first crossed over into Boy Scouts from Cub Scouts and it there that I went to my first Boy Scout Camping trip and encountered my first Scoutmaster.

Mr. Charlie “Crow” Robson.  He was heard cackling and laughing about something all the time and having fun doing what he did.  Unfortunately, he passed away a few years ago, and on the day he died his final phone call was about scouting and being prepared for an upcoming trip before he went into surgery.

You know, we spend a lot of time learning about how to “leave no trace” on our camping trips.  We try to take extra care to leave things as we found them.  But no matter how hard we try; WE DO leave a trace.  Either by a broken twig, matted down grass, or even just a footstep.

When we are camping, we concentrate on the physical traces we leave behind.  But every day, we are leaving another kind of trace.  Maybe it is a mental/emotional trace.  Maybe it is a spiritual trace.  But everywhere we go, everyone one we meet, and everything we do; we leave a trace.  If you tell you brother to “Shut Up” that can leave an ugly trace, if you rag on someone because they don’t want to join scouts, that can leave a bad trace that may take a long time to heal.  If we thank our mother for being a great mom, well that will leave a good trace.

We may only interact with a stranger for a couple of seconds or with our friends for a couple of hours, but no matter how long it is, we leave a trace of our passing.  It’s up to us to leave a trace that makes the world a better place.

Mr. Robson left a trace on my heart, even though I knew him for a very short time.  I only wish I could have seen him once more after I got my Eagle to tell him “Thank You” for having a part in my life.  So, I tell you that no matter what we do, we WILL leave a trace.  Let’s do our best to make it a GOOD TRACE!

Scoutmaster Davan

-Dedicated to my First Scoutmaster, Charlie Robson Troop 196-

Monday, August 19, 2019

The Balancing Act

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It's Tuesday night.  Another Scout meeting.  I arrive at my usual time, about 6:00 p.m. to change clothes out of my dress attire and into my Scout Uniform.  I have always felt comfortable in it.  I examine the Scout Hall and review the up coming meeting notes that the Patrol Leader's Council (PLC) had created for tonight.  It's nights like these that I am so very grateful that our Troop is youth led, you see, there is a committee meeting tonight.

The month before the PLC had planned out all the meetings for this month and assigned the roles and responsibililites to different members, Instructors, and Patrol Leaders.  During their Patrol Time or breakout they will plan for the upcoming camping trip and the meeting will be run primarily by the Assistant Senior Patrol Leader.

It was decided a long time ago that when the Troop has a Committee meeting that the Senior Patrol Leader should attend along with the Scoutmaster to give a report on the Patrols and upcoming activities decided upon by the PLC.  During this time it allowed the Assistant Senior Patrol Leader to gain experience in leading the whole troop as a way to begin the development and natural progression to becoming an effective Senior Patrol Leader.

So, as I look over my notes of what to review for the committee meeting I also make a few notes for the SPL/ASPL of reminders to mention for tonight while I am away in the other room.  I head down the hall of the church towards the copy room to make some handouts for the committee and as they I look at my watch and realize I have just enough time to go have a few minutes of quiet time in the chapel, I like to have a little prayer time to meditate on the blessings we have each day and to lift up the boys in our Scout Troop, and gather my thoughts as I transition from the busyness of the work day to the business of the Scout Troop.

It's now 6:45 p.m.  I head back down the hallway from the chapel with papers in hand to greet the Scouts, parents, and committee members as they enter the building.  Wow, it's going to be a full room tonight for both youth and adult!  Nothing makes me more happier than to see all the boys gathering together as brother Scouts.  I try to make it a point to say hello to each one and have a 60 second conversation with them before they kick off with the opening ceremony and I have to dash out to the committee room.  Most of the times the conversations are longer than 60 seconds but with 30 boys, that's 30 minutes total time and well, there just isn't enough time.  That's why the camping trips and Scoutmaster Conferences are so important.  And they are just as excited to tell me about their week as I am to hear it.  But before I know it the Senior Patrol Leader has taken his station at the front of the room with the raised Scout Sign, the right hand up in the air, elbow bent at 90 degree angle and the three fingers straight up while the thumb clasps over the "pinky" finger.  That calls the entire room to attention and it is now my turn to step back into the shadows while these young men begin their program night.

A few parents try to catch me to relay some information or ask a few questions but already the committee has began their meeting, on time, just as the Scouts in the other room do.  So I try to answer what I can and invite them to attend the committee meeting where their questions may be answered.  Some parents are able while others are not due to other commitments.  I always welcome them to attend the announcements at the end of the troop meeting so they can hear information first hand because sometimes with the youth, not all information is relayed properly back to parents resulting in phone calls and text messages during the week.

I enter the committee room, all eyes usually turn to me.  Not sure why, maybe because I am the one late.  I take my seat at the opposite side of the room so I can keep an eye on the door in case a scout or one of the youth leaders needs to grab my attention.  The committee understands that from time to time I may have to excuse myself from the room to check on the program next door or if a scout needs me.  Soon after I take my seat the Senior Patrol Leader enters the room.  He has just finished getting the program kicked off, went over the objectives for the night and handed the reigns over to his Assistant Senior Patrol Leader.  He sits next to me, the Scoutmaster, so we can share notes and I can back him up during the committee meeting.

Our Committee Chairperson is wonderful, she is quick and efficient at keeping the conversation going and moving through the order of business to be discussed.  I like it!  Each committee member reports on the progress for their "department" from Advancements, Camping and Outdoor Program, Finance, and so on.  Our program is wide and very integrated so most of the time there is overlap from one report to the other with typically input from myself and the Senior Patrol Leader on each area of discussion but we move through it.

I look up from my notes and see a scout in the window of the door.  I silently ask if he needs to see me from my position at the committee table.  He nods his head yes and I get up while excusing myself and head out the door.  In the hallway we have a discussion because he is concerned about an upcoming trip and his patrol assignment.  I direct him to his Patrol Leader and try to be compassionate for his concerns while reinforcing the patrol method.  He returns to the Scout Hall and I to the committee room.  A few minutes later we into a discussion about Scout Camp from the previous year and plans for the next year, just 11 months away.  Again I see another scout outside the door looking for my attention.  I have already had these conversations and discussions with the Camping Coordinator prior to the committee meeting so I again politely excuse myself and go address this Scout's concerns.

While out of the room I go look into the Scout Hall to assess where they are in the program.  They are currently doing patrol breakouts and planning for the upcoming trip.  I know that soon they will be dispersed into a game or activity just before the meeting closes and I must be prepared to deliver my Scoutmaster Minute.  I had already picked one out for tonight and studied it a little before hand during the day.  I leave the Scout Hall and notice there is a light on in one of the other rooms in the hallway.  I go down to examine it.  I find two Scouts with another older Scout who had turned 18 in the recent years, was away at college and now returned home.  I step in to see if they were assisting in the program some how or just hanging out.  They were just hanging out and enjoying some "taco" flavored sunflower seeds which a I grabbed a few and expeditiously discarded while making the statement that, "there were awful".  I asked them to re-join the others to assist and to make sure to straighten up the room when they left.  I made a mental note to have a discussion with our returning scout about his future involvement and understanding his role as an adult versus when he was a youth now.

Again, I head back into the committee room, this time my Senior Patrol Leader leaves as the committee wishes to discuss a matter that was brought to attention of some seriousness that we wanted to shield the youth from.  Again, I was already aware of this matter and had my discussions with the appropriate parties before hand.  So, I decided that sincethe official business of the committee has been laid to rest I would return to the Scout Hall myself.

Entering the Scout Hall I was soon caught in a wave of scouts headed in the opposite direction to go outside for their game/activity.  Like a fish swimming upstream, so was I.  My Senior Patrol Leader and Assistant Senior Patrol Leader are catching up, I ask a few questions as to what was accomplished tonight and what still needed to be done.  Now being briefed, the committee and parents where exiting the committee room and I had to attend to one on one discussions and conversations from those individuals that had further questions or input to give me from the committee meeting.

It's time to close.  It wasn't very long, about 10-15 minutes and here comes the sea of fish through the halls of the church as they entered from the outside to make their way to the Scout Hall.  I and several other adults were caught in the middle of the path in the hallway.  Like a raging current flowing over obstacles and rocks as in one of our white water rafting adventures, so were we only we were the rocks.  With that as my sign I excused myself to attend the closing ceremony.  The boys were circled around their Senior Patrol Leader who gave some additional announcements and then pointed to me to deliver the Scoutmaster Minute.  This was it.  What sage words of wisdom would I impart to them tonight?  I had a story prepared for them, but, I just didn't feel it was the right one at the moment. As I entered the circle, I looked around at the faces staring back at me and I said, "I don't really have a Scoutmaster Minute prepared for you tonight but I want you know how happy I am to see each and every one of you.  Instead of me telling You a Scoutmaster Minute, would you tell ME your favorite Scoutmaster Minute?"  and I explained that as I am writing a book I may include some of those in it.  So, each person told me in summary of what their favorite minute was.  It was kind of a validation for me and a gauge as whether or not what I was saying to them was getting through and if it was sticking.  I felt encouraged.  Then after they finished I asked them if they ever notice how most of my minutes give an example of someone or something  in a situation without actually pointing that person out.  They said yes and then I ended by saying, "Well, I do have a Scoutmaster Minute for you after all; it is this, everyone always tell you to be an example, but in this case, DON'T be an example for a Scoutmaster Minute."  And then, it was over.

There you have it, my typical night. Other than the committee meeting which happens once a month but I have learned that being Scoutmaster is often a balancing act.  I have to juggle many balls in the air from the individual scouts, the youth leaders, to parents and committee members.  And sometimes there are other stakeholders in the program such as the Chartered Organization.  We teach in leadership training the skill of delegation and if there is any role that idea comes to fruition it is the Scoutmaster role.  Of course, the Senior Patrol Leader might have something to say about that too.

For parents or leaders that may read this blog I want you to know how much I appreciate everything you do and that even if you perform 1 simple task a year, it takes a huge burden off of my shoulders and I am so very grateful for every little bit of help.  Not only do I recognize it but take heart because so do the scouts.  My preferred time to catch up with adults is after the meeting so I can be focused on the boys during the meeting, I promise I am not ignoring you but that is where my attention lies.

The Beginning of the End

Yesterday I woke up to the news that the National Scouting Council had filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy also known as restructuring.  Ther...