Adventure Hacking

Originally posted on Trail Life Troop 113:

2010 labor day weekend 777 trip 089According to wikipedia, Life Hacking “…refers to any trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method that increases productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life…in other words, anything that solves an everyday problem in an inspired, ingenious manner.”

Scrooge McDuck also said “Work smarter, not harder”.

Camping, hiking and all sorts of outdoor activities are great fun.  They’re even more fun when we learn and apply practical tips to avoid frustration, increase safety, decrease prep time and spend less time on the “boring stuff” by becoming more efficient.

What if we had a bunch of “Life Hacks” or “Adventuring Hacks” to help make trips easier and more focused on fun?

I’ve learned a lot of practical tips from experience, and from listening to “old timers” (who I’m steadily becoming) who are willing to share their experiences, tips and proven practices.  I’m also learning new things from the internet since more people…

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When scouting is in the blood, under the skin and hardwired

Growth_of_a_Leader-1966_RockwellScouting has always been a prominent part of my life experience.  My father was a Life scout prior to shipping off to Germany at the close of World War II, and he served as ASM for our local troop.  My mother was a den leader, my brother an Eagle.  My wife has served as Advancement Chair, Treasurer and all-around utility player.  My sons attained Life and Eagle ranks as they made new friends and met various leadership, learning and service challenges. Having started as a cub, earning my AOL and Eagle awards, I’ve sat on countless BORs as a dad with one troop and served as SM after starting Troop 113. I’ve counseled literally hundreds of scouts on various merit badges at camps, with buddies and as part of MB Fairs.  I’ve spent 20+ weeks at various Scout Reservations from 1971 to 2013, and I’ve met many wonderful adult volunteers as I served my district as FFOS presenter.

I think this is one of the reasons why I am so interested to read articles about how scouting has influenced others: to see how their experiences and lifelong benefits may parallel my own.

patrolLeaderOne recent article is titled “Boy Scouts Made Me The Man I Am Today, Here’s How” (Click HERE to see full article).  In this article, the author highlights key life skills introduced or mastered during his involvement with the program.  Things like learning to shoot, save lives, build confidence to try new things, enjoy the outdoors, pick up leadership practice and more.

The paragraph that made me laugh as I read was the following:

2013 RFSR Jolly Roger Patch finalScouts Are The Best Secret Society: Forget the Illuminati or the Skull and Bones. You want to be part of a fraternal order that means something? At 33 years old, I still put “Eagle Scout” on my resume and keep my membership card in that organization behind my driver’s license. It’s gotten me into jobs, out of trouble and immediately marks me out to other members as a peer that can be relied upon. We actually kinda run the world.

The author also pointed out the practical side to the program – learning to value the challenges that life presents as opportunities for growth and development.  The value of working hard is summed up in the following manner:

Scouts Made Me A Worker: When I’m not cranking out 5 to 10,000 words a day, you’ll find me working out at the gym, taking my dog hiking or fixing up my house. I never stop. It’s not an illness, it’s an appreciation of the value of hard work and a mindset that values long term goals. You won’t find a colleague of mine that wouldn’t immediately describe me as the hardest working guy on the team and I more than pull my weight in any endeavor I embark upon, even if that’s just making sure I’ve got the heaviest pack on a backpacking trip. Guess where I learned that? You got it.

Wawayanda 2011 tentsScouting has a lot to offer.  So do many other fine youth programs that use teams (aka patrols), advancement, outdoor programs, and methods very similar to BSA.  The methods and practices are more influential than the color of the uniform or the style of the patches and other awards — it just takes a dedicated core of volunteers to enable the youth to own and lead the program themselves.  Its that “ownership” of results that helps develop the life skills that will still be talked about years after “graduating” from the program, and lead fathers to bring sons into the program.

If BSA isn’t the right fit for your family (too secular/too religious, too restrictive on membership/too liberal on membership, etc.) there are many other programs that range from purely secular and welcoming all comers to those that are distinctively faith focused and incorporate a greater emphasis on the spiritual development of youth.

For as much as I grew up with scouting in my blood, under my skin and hardwired into me, I am thoroughly convinced that while BSA offers a great program, it is hardly unique.

Young men and their parents can and will get an equally rich, fulfilling program at any one of many youth development programs – getting the right “fit” for your family is more important in the long run than simply subscribing to a program based on its “cult of personality” marketing efforts.  A scout helps other people at all times and is trustworthy in delivering advice – to suggest that BSA is the “only” program that develops men of character would be inaccurate and un-scout-like.


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Originally posted on Trail Life Troop 113:

IMGP5234 is the home page of a new public service ad campaign being run by the US Forest Service.

From their “about us” page it states: “This PSA campaign aims to inspire tweens (aged 8-12) and their parents to re-connect with nature, experiencing it first-hand. The campaign brings to life the joy and excitement kids have when they discover the wonders of nature, helping create interest in their environment and a lifelong relationship with it.”

At this main site, there are dedicated pages to help web visitors:

This is a site that could help troops with their nature-related curriculum exercises, and help…

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When Weakness = Strength

Originally posted on Trail Life Troop 113:

IMGP6935I read a great blog article today titled “Learning to Be a Weak Leader” (Click HERE to see article).  It was a strange title, but the article was “spot on” at reminding me of one of the greatest truths in Biblical Leadership….it’s not about me, it’s about Him.

Or, more succinctly, “Christian leaders lead best when they, in their weakness, rely on the power of God to guide others.

The blog article expands on this idea in three key points (along with compelling scripture references to help illustrate each point):

  1. God sometimes takes leaders into impossible situations to remind us that He alone is our warrior.
  2. God sometimes leaves us in spiritual battles to keep us weak. 
  3. God seeks giant-slaying shepherd boys more than census-taking mighty kings. (1 Samuel 17 versus 1 Chronicles 21)

Another example might be King Asa of Judah who got it…

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Evolving Perspectives on Leadership

Leadership for start ups versus established organizations often looks a bit distinctive from IMGP6865each other, and for good reason.  The leader of a start-up has to have single minded focus while (almost) single-handedly dealing with a hailstorm of obstacles and opportunities — each capable of derailing or delaying the realization of the company’s goals.  The leader of an established firm ought to devote more time to building organizational cohesion and bench strength in specific functional areas as he/she works as enabler for the organization to successfully execute strategy.

The passion and urgency to execute on goals should be the same in each case; however, I believe that the manner (strategies/tactics) in which each stereotyped leader pursues the achievement of goals may differ.

A recent article at the Harvard Business School blog site titled “Are Today’s Business Heroes Challenging Our Ideas About Leadership?” (click HERE) probes this issue by considering how some tech industry “superstar CEOs” may not fit the traditional mold of leadership defined by experts like Tom Peters, Jim Collins, and Robert Greenleaf (


The author, James Heskett, acknowledges the strong vision of “today’s business heroes” but also concedes that they “have challenged people to do their best work, but in somewhat demeaning ways.”  In contrast, the idyllic business leader typifies an “others first” mentality in developing and encouraging subordinates while holding them accountable for results.   Perhaps most shockingly, Heskett acknowledges that some of these business heroes have gone as far as to throw “public tantrums” which is hardly the kind of behavior we’d expect from corporate CEOs.

I tend to agree with Heskett’s observation that “When asked the standard “cash out” question by venture capitalists, “Would you rather be rich or be king?,” they must have answered, “Both,” and made it work.”  So as a consequence of unique genius (technical insights not easily duplicated by others) or because of the rapid expansion of an industry bubble to reduce the need to cash out the entrepreneur and replace him/her with a more traditional business leader, we have seen some interesting twists in modern company leaders.

IMGP6920I admire the tenacity and assertiveness of entrepreneurs – they face a wall of challenges and have the audacity to simply walk around while the rest of us try to figure out how to climb over it.  Nonetheless, having worked for a such a manager during the transition years from “start up” to “mature business” it can be frustrating to watch single-minded vision and dedication become “shortsightedness” towards client needs, and callousness towards staff issues (expecting consistent 10-12 hour days at minimal pay and zero vacation time, etc.).   I’ve even witnessed tantrums and storming out of the office, etc. (thankfully its all in the distant past now)

The article concludes with very interesting questions that I’ll repeat here:

Are founders and entrepreneurs a separate breed? Should they be excused from a discussion of great leadership? Or are the most successful among their ranks a harbinger of the future of management in a fast-moving, high tech competitive world that increasingly rewards innovation, transient competitive advantage, and the kinds of leadership that produce them? Are today’s business heroes challenging our ideas about leadership? What do you think?

I think we need to recognize the best attributes within individuals and encourage them to become either entrepreneurs or servant-leaders.  These are different roles to play and each can be executed with the highest personal character and great personal reward.

Public Speaker RockwellWithin a scouting unit, we just need to refrain from expecting all boys to fit one mold — some may be more apt to act out or pursue a lifestyle of “fire, ready, aim”.  Perhaps these boys can be challenged to grow through different sorts of opportunities and challenges than we might normally ascribe (more high adventure, or experimental cooking, etc.)  At the very least we must be ready to accept their seemingly unconventional approach to leading a PLC meeting, organizing a campfire program or leading a fundraising activity.  They may be the next start up hero of wall street even though they didn’t follow the precise path we might have expected of a more studied servant leader.

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Oath: “Do my best” (even in adversity)

The BSA Scout Oath begins with these words “On my honor, I will do my best”.

Our honor is largely based on whether we are consistent in our actions and can be depended upon to keep our commitments. If I break my promises then my word of honor isn’t very strong. Likewise, many of the points of the scout law (i.e. Trustworthy, Loyal, Obedient, encourage us to behave consistently and properly. When we really do follow through on our word consistently then we should be building a strong reputation for being scouts of honor – showing loyalty, honesty, dependability and such.

The second part of the phrase is that “I will do my best”.

  • When do we need to do our best?
  • At all times?
  • In all circumstances?
  • Only with regard to the rest of the statements in the oath (or points of the law)?

I think that we’re called to walk worthy and “do our best” in every circumstance no matter how scary, troubling, awkward or difficult.

If you’ve ever made a mistake or had an accident (think hitting a baseball through your neighbor’s window, etc.) you know that you need to do “the right thing” but it can be difficult to summon the courage to make things right.

If we are fortunate, we learn from experience with “little problems” (with constrained consequences) before we have to deal with “big problems” (with serious consequences).

Through it all, we need to discipline ourselves to “do our best” and never to shirk responsibility even when we might feel like hiding, running away or be tempted to deflect blame towards someone or something else.

How have you dealt with troubles in your own life?  Do you find that it is easy to always “do your best” or have you struggled at times when you’re really upset, afraid, or even angry? If you’ve been the person wronged by someone else, you still need to “do your best” to deal with them fairly and responsibly — maybe even by forgiving their error while you deal with the consequences of their actions (or failure to act).

From a Christian’s perspective [Note:  you don't need to be a Christian to be a scout] we could consider (as an example) the troubles that the Apostle Paul went through as he traveled and preached about Jesus. In 2 Corinthians 11:24-29 it states;

Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?

Clearly, he suffered through a lot of adversity. At the end of these statements, he summarizes with verse 30; “If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness.” In simple terms, he recognizes that these difficult times help him to grow closer to God and learn how to depend on Him more completely. We don’t often grow as quickly (or in the same ways) during peaceful times as we do during difficult times.

Doing our best in all circumstances takes courage and commitment. It’s not for the faint of heart.

Christian scouts have many reassuring promises from God that He will sustain us as we go through these trials of life:

  • James 1:2-4 – “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
  • Psalm 34:19 – “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”
  • James 1:12 – “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
  • Psalm 118:5-6 – “Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”
  • Psalm 119:114 – “Your are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in Your word.”
  • 2 Cor 4:7-10 - “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”
  • Philippians 4:12-13- “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
  • 1 Peter 5:10 – “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
  • Joshua 1:9 – “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

So, we should do our best at all times, even during times of adversity. We know that God will help us to grow through the difficult times, too.

I wanted to add one last thing that is really important. What happens if we do our best and fail anyway?

It would be hard not to be discouraged by the failure, but we know that if we’ve really tried to do our best then we ought to learn from the failure and work to be better prepared for a similar situation that could occur in the future. My point is that we shouldn’t get angry or frustrated by failure – it’s really an opportunity for leaders to learn and grow (and there’s even a book on this concept called “Failing Forward” by John C. Maxwell)

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Fathers and Sons – Building a Blessed Legacy

The Bible makes it plainly clear that husbands and fathers have special responsibilities within a family. While moms have the capability to handle these responsibilities in a pinch, it’s best when dad does his part fully and faithfully (enabling mom to do her part without having to do “double duty”).

Consider Deuteronomy 6:6-7 which says “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” Dads (and moms, too), you’re supposed to be meditating on the word of God and teaching your sons about God’s expectations.

Not only are we to teach our sons, but to equip them and motivate them so that they will earnestly desire to teach their sons, too. Consider these two references:

  • Deuteronomy 4:9 which says “Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons.
  • Deuteronomy 6:1-2 “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the LORD your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it, so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged.

Are there consequences associated with obeying these simple directives? Absolutely.

  • As shown in the last part of Deuteronomy 6:2 (above) we’re told that if we obey, then “our days may be prolonged” – a good, long life comes from obeying God and teaching our sons to carry the message of obedience to their sons.
  • Proverbs 17:6 says, “Grandchildren are the crown of old men, And the glory of sons is their fathers.” Here we see that when we do our part as faithful fathers, our grandkids will be a wonderful blessing to us and to others. Further, when we invest ourselves in the lives of our sons and teach them to obey God all of their lives, they’ll value our sacrifices made on their behalf. Ideally, we’ll be establishing a multi-generational legacy of fathers and sons who love God and serve Him without reservation.

The consequences of ignoring these directives is equally impressive.

Consider Exodus 34:6-7 “Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” This is an admonition that when fathers walk in disobedience, the consequences of those choices will have repercussions on future generations.

We see these pluses and minuses played out in real world statistics about the effect of engaged fathers, absent fathers, abusive fathers, or disconnected fathers in their children’s lives (and the ripples that can go on for more than one generation)…

  • From the National Fatherhood Initiative (
    • Children who live absent their biological fathers are, on average, at least two to three times more likely to be poor, to use drugs, to experience educational, health, emotional and behavioral problems, to be victims of child abuse, and to engage in criminal behavior than their peers who live with their married, biological (or adoptive) parents
    • Father involvement in schools is associated with the higher likelihood of a student getting mostly A’s. This was true for fathers in biological parent families, for stepfathers, and for fathers heading single-parent families.
  • According to
    • When fathers are involved in the lives of their children, especially their education, their children learn more, perform better in school, and exhibit healthier behavior.
    • Boys with actively involved fathers tend to get better grades and perform better on achievement tests.
    • Research shows that even very young children who have experienced high father involvement show an increase in curiosity and in problem solving capacity. Fathers’ involvement seems to encourage children’s exploration of the world around them and confidence in their ability to solve problems.
    • Children with actively involved fathers display less behavior problems in school.

Dads, your commitment to your sons is an investment with an amazing return on the effort. Your sons want to be connected with you in relationship and value what you value. IF you model the right choices, a personal relationship with God and make time to explain why this is so important to you, then you’re building a valuable legacy that will likely be transmitted to future generations. If you stay home from church, say that its important to do what is right while making really bad choices, your sons will be (at best) confused and possibly (at worst) willing to walk away from faith and moral behavior. Deuteronomy 28 spells out the many blessings to be realized in your family’s life if you make the choice to walk in obedience (including teaching your sons to value relationship with God) and it outlines the curses that come from ignoring God given roles and responsibilities (establishing a multigenerational curse instead of blessing).

Lastly, it’s never, never too late to make a change or redouble your efforts as a husband or father. Malachi 4:6 says “He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.” If you make the sincere effort, God can honor that commitment. Your children will certainly benefit more from your second effort than if you continue in the same mode.

Looking for more?  You may want to investigate additional resources:

  • Courageous (Movie)
  • Follow Me by Jan David Hettinga — start by getting yourself on the right path with God
  • Stepping Up (a call to courageous manhood) by Dennis Rainey — next, dig into understanding our roles and responsibilities as men through each stage of life from boy to patriarch
  • What He Must Be (…If He Wants to Marry My Daughter) by Voddie Baucham Jr. — written as advice to parents of children approaching marriage age, it examines what the Bible tells us about the desired character of men and women in light of marriage.
  • King Me (what every son wants and needs from his father) by Steve Farrar — to discover practical ways to mentor your son – for boys, you may want to read this with your dad, but you’ll want to think about this before you have sons of your own
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