Wood Badge Wednesdays, Vol. 1: Living the Values

Growing up, one thing always perplexed me about our home: What’s with all the owls?

We lived in an owlery, it seemed. Owls in every room. I saw owl belt buckles, owl clocks, owl paperweights, owl postcards, plush owl toys — pretty much everything short of a real bird in a cage.

My dad’s overt owl obsession made no sense to me — until last month.

After completing a weeklong Wood Badge course at Philmont Scout Ranch, I get it now.

My dad was — well, is — a member of the Owl patrol. And now that I’m a fellow Owl, I see how Wood Badge changes you. The values and lessons embedded in you during those six days stay with you long after the closing ceremony.

So in an effort to share the magic of Wood Badge — and preserve some of my favorite memories — I’m starting Wood Badge Wednesdays. My goal with this five-part series is to explore some of the takeaways from my course and help you see how Wood Badge can help strengthen your ability to work with your pack, troop, team, ship, crew, or post.

Never heard of Wood Badge? Considering attending soon? Already wear two, three, or four Wood Badge beads? No matter where you are in the spectrum, I hope you’ll find value in this five-part, in-depth look at Wood Badge.

Today, I’ll discuss the importance of Living the Values and how my patrolmates embody the Scout Law. 

Certified Spoiler-Free

“Assume you know nothing.”

That was by far the best advice I got before buttoning up my uniform and beginning my Wood Badge journey. And it really is the best way to approach the training course. So before I continue, I want to stress that I won’t be spoiling any of the course’s surprises on my blog.

I’m sure if you spend a few minutes with Google, you can find a detailed breakdown of everything that happens at Wood Badge. But why would you?

Wood Badge is as much about the journey as the destination. And experiencing the highs and lows of the week with your patrol is vital to the process. Knowing too much going in devalues the experience.

So I’ll be talking more about the lessons learned and less about the unique mechanisms the Wood Badge staff uses to deliver those lessons. For that, you’ll have to take the course for yourself. (See below to learn how!)

Values, Vision, and Mission

Working at the Boy Scouts of America’s national office, it’s easy to feel a little disconnected from the volunteers who read Scouting magazine. That’s why we encourage and appreciate your feedback about what we do — and how we could do it better.

That’s also why it’s vitally important for us to get out into the field as often as possible.

Spending a week with some of the most caring, centered, and driven Scouters I’ve ever met reminded me why I do what I do.

Meeting these awesome Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, and Venturing leaders rekindled the fire, helped me drink the Kool-Aid, and did every other cliché you can think of.

Without exception, every staff member and participant was top-class, but like in any troop, I spent the majority of my time with my patrol. The seven of us, and our troop guide, are pictured above.

And after spending six full days — awake from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. — with these seven folks, I can confidently say they embody the vision of an ideal Scouter.

We talked a lot about our Values, Vision, and Mission at the course. These elements serve as the foundation for everything we do in Scouting. Here’s how they’re defined:

  • Values: “Core beliefs or desires that guide or motivate our attitudes and our actions.”
    • For most of us, this starts with the Scout Oath and Scout Law. But it’s more than that. These are the principles and character traits and goals that matter most to us. They’ll be different for everybody.
    • For me, the Scout Oath and Law have been a part of my life for nearly 20 years. In addition, I see serving others as a big part of my job at Scouting magazine. In its best form, journalism is service.
  • Vision: “States the goal you want to achieve.”
    • What does success look like? Where do you see yourself, your family, or your unit in X number of months or years? If you don’t know your destination, how can you start heading toward it?
    • For me, my vision is to empower other leaders to do their best by giving them the tools they need to succeed — through whatever means necessary. That’s why I started this blog three years ago, and it’s why I love my job so much.
  • Mission: “The means of reaching that goal.”
    • This defines the direction and steps you’ll take to create the change and growth you want to see in yourself, your family, and/or your Scouting unit.
    • For me, this means continuing to get out there and talk to Scouts and Scouters, attend more training, and listen to feedback.

The next time you have a free hour (ha! OK, how about the next time you have a free minute?) do yourself a favor and write down your Values, Mission, and Vision. Post it in your office, on the fridge, or somewhere conspicuous.

You’ve gotta come up with all three, because, as Joel Barker writes, “A vision without a mission is just a dream… A mission without a vision just passes the time… A vision with action can change the world.”

The Values in Action

You’d be hard-pressed to find a group that more fully embodies the Scouting values than my six patrolmates and our troop guide (the staff member in charge of our specific group). Here’s how each member of the Owls (and our honorary Owl, Jacquelyn) lived the Law:

  • A Scout is Trustworthy: You can always count on Jim to do what he says he’ll do. Whether it’s finishing an important part of the patrol’s presentation or simply showing up at the right place and time, he was Mr. Reliable. I look forward to working with him more in our Scouting careers.
  • A Scout is Loyal: Lee, the master illustrator who created our patrol’s totem (seen here), exuded a quiet confidence throughout the week. He wasn’t the loudest one in our patrol, but he was the calming presence we often needed to get things done. And he was often the first one at our patrol table when it was time to work.
  • A Scout is Helpful: A member of our patrol had never packed a large backpack before. So before the troop’s big hike, Jeff stopped packing his own stuff to patiently help a patrol member in need. Others noticed, and it warmed our hearts. The rest of the week, Jeff’s spirituality helped us through trying times.
  • A Scout is Friendly: Did Bruce ever stop smiling? If he did, I didn’t notice. He has one of the most genuine smiles I’ve seen, and it was contagious — an especially important characteristic when it’s raining and we’re all tired and hungry. Bruce’s dry wit kept me laughing all week.
  • A Scout is Kind: You can tell Nancy‘s a mom in the care with which she addressed each member of the patrol. I was moved when she took the time to personally thank me for attending Wood Badge with her. Really, we should be thanking her for the energy and kindness she brought to our group.
  • A Scout is Cheerful: During the workweek back home, long days and short nights often mean disgruntled workers. At Philmont, on the other hand, it’s tough to be in a bad mood anytime. But thanks to Dave, the Owl patrol’s enthusiasm never dipped, even when the sun had long dipped below the mountains. He was our Motivator in Chief, and his boundless energy lifted my spirits on numerous occasions. In fact, I saw members of other patrols grin widely as he led us in the Owl’s theme song. (Naturally, it was “Who Are You?” by The Who.)
  • A Scout is Brave: That’s gotta be Jacquelyn, our troop guide from West Virginia. Just agreeing to be on Wood Badge staff and lead a bunch of Texans is pretty brave, but she put herself on the line for us countless times and strengthened us in the process. Her brave leadership set an example we were proud to follow.

After meeting these Spectacular Seven (as I’m now calling them), I’m convinced that not only does Wood Badge make you a better Scouter, it also attracts some of the best Scouters out there. The course itself has a lot to offer, but so, too, do the people who willingly give up six days of their time to attend.

Great people and great lessons: It’s really the best of both worlds.

Wood Badge Wednesdays

This is Part 1 of a five-part series called Wood Badge Wednesdays. Here’s the schedule for the entire series; each week I’ll explore one of the five central themes of Wood Badge for the 21st Century:

  1. Living the Values (this post)
  2. Bringing the Vision to Life (Sept. 19)
  3. Models for Success (Sept. 26)
  4. Tools of the Trade (Oct. 17)
  5. Leading to Make a Difference (Oct. 24)

It’s Your Move

Ready to take Wood Badge for yourself? Start by contacting your local council to learn how.

You’ll either take a weeklong course, like I did, or a course that spans two nonconsecutive weekends. Either way, you’re in for the time of your life!

Anyone from any council also has the opportunity to sign up for Circle Ten Council’s Wood Badge course at Philmont. The next course is held in August 2013 at Scouting’s paradise in New Mexico. The course Web site isn’t up yet, but here’s the placeholder link to keep on your radar.

About Bryan Wendell 3282 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.