I was sitting in a dimly lit bar in Lower manhattan alongside several scout leaders. All of us had spent the day at our council’s Training Extravaganza, usually called TreX, and we were reflecting on a fun day of learning and teaching. It was on that stool with a cold beer in hand that I verbalized something I was thinking all day long.
About eight years ago I took a Scoutmaster training course, even though at that point I had been a volunteer leader for about 17 years and my days as Scoutmaster were long over. But it was invigorating and recharged my battery. I soon joined our district’s training team. And it was great, our team was filled with people from that initial course and run by the guy who ran the course, a former biker/tattoo artist/lead singer nicknamed Hawk. He was, and is, a larger than life character and he got us to teach courses on cold Saturday mornings, on consecutive Wednesday evenings. But he never asked any of us to do things he wouldn’t.
Was our training team part, biker gang, part cult and part a well organized group of knowledgeable volunteers. Yes. We used to joke that the only way you got out of the training team was in a box. But during the next few years I helped train hundreds of leaders, both in our district and council wide at events like TreX.
I was encouraged to take Woodbadge, which is an advanced leadership/management course. It was amazing and I wanted more. I ended up staffing the course two times. I hope to do it again.
As I walked into the Borough of Manhattan Community College, where TreX was taking place on that cold frozen Saturday morning. I kept running into people who I had trained over the years. Most were taking classes but a few were instructing courses. I was teaching a course called Introduction to Leadership Skills for Troops. The room had about 17 young men and another seven adults, looking to take that knowledge back and run the course for their troops. I have taught this course for at least six years in a row, last year I taught it in front of nearly 50 people (this year there were two sessions of the course and our combined total was about 60 people). It's a pretty popular course, they were asking me if I was willing to do it again nearly six months ago.
I imagined the cascade of influence that I have had over those people and then the influence they have all had on the young people who they are leading. And I thought back to my own scout leaders and trainers. And wow, its pretty overwhelming.
So as I sat at that bar, next to someone I taught how to build giant fires. And across from newish scout leaders who were in the most recent Woodbadge course I staffed. We all talked about why we do this. One guy mentioned watching his son standing up to a bully. Another mentioned that there was no one else to do it. And when I was asked, why i did it all the training and etc. I thought about watching my son lead his den of his friends. And how much pride I had it in that. But it came out as “I don’t know it's just what I do.” Then I talked about all of the people over the years that I had trained and that is part of it, I am building a legacy that goes way beyond me and that I never will be (nor really desire to be) acknowledged. Apparently building better leaders is just part of who I am.
Note: Everyone who influenced me along the way John, Lee, Barbara, Tom, Miguel, another John, Joey, yet another John, Scott, Fred, Kris, Donna, Dawn, Gary and Tim (and countless others) you are all part of that legacy because without your part in this all I wouldn't be the leader I am today.