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Scouting for Leaders

Tonight I was at a Boy Scout recognition event where I was recruiting the parents of the younger boys to step up to the responsibilities of running the troop.  My son, a senior in high school, has been in scouting for 10 years.  His scoutmaster, one of our friends and contemporaries, will be stepping down this year as our sons graduate from high school and out of the Boy Scouts.  After 7 years of running the troop, he and his wife have earned a break from these responsibilities.

Boy scouting has been great for my son and his peers.  As they’ve moved through the ranks,  they’ve earned not only merit badges, but an increasing confidence in their individual ability to take control of their lives.  Ten years ago, they were the little kids, intimidated by the big kids.  Tonight, they’re the big kids- moving on to Eagle Scout status, completing college applications, and ready to leave the protection of our small town for a much larger world.  They’ve become the mentors and leaders the younger kids look to for lessons from using a knife safely to navigating the bumpy middle school and high school years.   The foundation of personal responsibility, integrity and teamwork they take from scouting will serve them well wherever they land in their future work lives.

None of this is possible without adult leadership, on several levels.  Scouting, like most youth organizations, depends on adults to carve out time from work and other obligations to keep a troop alive.  Scoutmasters sacrifice weekends and vacations to lead their troops.  Families of scouts help with fundraising events and camping trips, and support their kids in completing their merit badges.  

Scouting teaches kids to set long term goals and to persist for however long it takes to reach those goals.  Scouting also teaches them that family, community and spirituality are as important to a full life as pursuing individual goals.   The adult leaders who model this behavior for the kids are teaching them lessons every bit as meaningful as anything in the Boy Scout Handbook.  For many workers today, it’s hard to escape the demands of their jobs to make time for “extras” like scouting.  Let’s hope, for the sake of the kids (our future workforce), that forward thinking organizations continue to provide their employees with the flexibility in their lives to do so.

The Red Sox & the Meaning of (Work)Life


(October 30, 2004 Red Sox World Series Victory Parade)

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit I am not a sports afficionado in general or a baseball fan in particular.  This is despite the fact that my great grandfather, Tom Smith, was a professional baseball player.  It’s hard to be indifferent, though, when the Red Sox are in the World Series and the world as we know it in Boston is aflame with Red Sox fever.   There is no public discourse possible without contemplation of another World Series victory and another triumphant parade through the streets of Boston.  There will be no rest for the Red Sox fan in the coming week – especially with games to be played in a different time zone.   Workplace productivity will give way to recovery from the prior evening’s contest and speculation about what will happen next.

Even though I don’t fully appreciate the depth of the passion, I think I understand the source.  Baseball is the perfect metaphor for what most of us wish the world of work could be.   The rules are clear – you hit the ball, you run the bases.  If you make it home, you score.  The adversary is clear, and teamwork is critical to victory.   In fact, only the team can win. For most of us, life at work is nowhere near this definitive.  The goals change, the rules change, and victory isn’t always forthcoming – even with extra innings.  Competition isn’t always focused outward.   And even when you make the perfect play, there aren’t generally fans in the bleachers to shower you with appreciation.  

So, I’ll watch the game tonight and every night during the series.  Just like everybody else in Red Sox nation, I want to share the feeling of a job not only well done, but well appreciated.

Perspective and Randy Pausch

I read about Randy Pausch in Jason Corsello’s Human Capitalist blog yesterday. Randy is a professor at Carnegie Mellon who learned recently that his pancreatic cancer can’t be treated, and that he’s only got a few more months to live. His last lecture at Carnegie Mellon was recorded and has been viewed by hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

You can see it on YouTube.

Randy’s comments about living your childhood dreams, and his wishes for his children, are very moving and thought provoking. He has clearly been leading a purposeful and balanced life before he learned that his life was likely to be cut short. His work has been deeply meaningful in his life as it has connected him to his dreams – specifically becoming an “Imagineer”.

I encourage you to take a few minutes to hear Randy’s message. Most of us rush through our workdays trying to stem the tide of to do’s. If this message doesn’t get you thinking about what you are working for, I’d be very surprised.