Home > Leadership > 10 Things I Learned from Boy Scouts

10 Things I Learned from Boy Scouts

fun boys leadershipThe Boy Scouts of America are celebrating their 100-year anniversary this year. A few months ago I shared the story of how it started. Right now my nephew is enjoying the last day of the National Scout Jamboree along with tens of thousands of other teenage boys.

Watching the arena show over the internet Saturday night reminded me of how much I got from Scouting myself.

Here are ten things Boy Scouts taught me:

1. How to tie knots. I’m amazed how many people don’t know how to tie a good knot – let alone the right knot for the right job. If that’s you, here are some basics.

2. Working hard and playing hard go together. Pour yourself fully into whatever you’re doing. I can remember getting home Sunday afternoon after a campout, falling asleep, and not waking up until the next morning. To this day, I don’t know if it was the work or the fun that wore me out more.

3. How to build a fire. Something stirs deep within a man’s soul when he masters fire. If you’ve ever nurtured spark into flame – on purpose – you know what I mean.

4. Teamwork works. Boy Scouts aren’t saints; they’re normal boys – complete with all the bravado, awkwardness, and selfishness associated with most adolescent males. How we learned together to overcome our immaturity and find ways to work as a team continues to serve me with grown-ups today.

5. How to face fear. I learned to swim before I was a scout. At scout camp I got the chance to swim a mile. Then I learned how to swim out to a thrashing, drowning person twice my size, subdue him, and drag him to safety. I threw up the morning before my Lifesaving Merit Badge test.

6. Farts are flammable. ‘nuf said.

7. How to cook on a campfire. I can make more than cereal now because I was forced to cook breakfast and dinner over open flames.

8. Lots of archaic stuff. I learned to ride a horse, use a compass, shoot a bow and arrow, navigate by the stars, built a lean-to, tell time from the sun, identify edible plants, show respect to others, keep myself physically fit, be prepared, and to help other people even when it’s inconvenient.

9. How to be miserable…and like it. Let’s face it, for most of us being uncomfortable at times is just part of life. Learning to be cheerful in miserable conditions has been a wonderfully freeing skill. Life is an adventure and rarely goes as planned, but whatever happens there’s a joy if you can find it.

10. Service is powerful. Ultimately Scouting works because it’s focused on something more than just campouts and merit badges and troop meetings. We were – and are – part of something bigger than ourselves; an organization that is, at its core, about serving others.

What did you learn from Scouts or a similar program?

Categories: Leadership Tags: , , ,
  1. August 4, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    In Girl Scouts I learned that when you commit to something (especially when you also rope your father into serving as your Girl Scout Troop Leader) you don’t get to change your mind about participating in the program when you no longer “feel like” being involved.

    As my father so eloquently pointed out to me at the ripe old age of 10, “You’re going to have to do things you don’t like for the rest of your life. You might as learn how to deal with this fact now.”

    There is no crying in baseball and there is no quitting in Girl Scouts. Or anything else for that matter. Once you commit, you are all in. Suck it up and honor your word. To this day, if i commit to something I see it through.

    So, I guess Girls Scout and my Dad taught me the power of “powering through”…and how to be very selective in what I decide to take on.

    And while I may not have gotten a badge for this lesson, it’s a life skill that has served me well over time. Life lessons are like that I guess…

    • August 5, 2010 at 7:04 am

      Wow, Cari, what a powerful life lesson – and how great that you learned it when you were ten! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Wanderer
    August 5, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    Those of us who survived Scouts will be the go-to folks when the world ends because we’ll know how to start fires, ID edibles and of course blow stuff up.

    • August 5, 2010 at 10:17 pm

      I think you’re onto something there…

  3. Kevin
    August 7, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    If you didn’t have a chance to see the Mike Rowe (Eagle Scout) segment at the Anniversary celebration, I recommend http://scouting.org/100years/100years/ShiningLight.aspx; the eStream is tagged to make it easy to get to the speech. There are other great elements in the show – some of it is “campy” pardon the pun, but there are lots of powerful aspects too.

  4. August 7, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Thanks for the great resource, Kevin. I saw the end of Mike’s speech and he definitely reminded me about #9. He said that realization was ultimately the inspiration behind his show, “Dirty Jobs.”

  5. July 22, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    Hi, my parents recently reccomended boyscouts to me,and ive been going to the last few meetings.so my parents told me to tell them why i want to go,i said camping and stuff.they said that it waz the wrong reason.what is the true reason i should want to go?they told me 2 write 3 paragraphs for the reasons.plz answer i have to finish this by tonight…plz respond.

    • July 23, 2011 at 12:30 am


      First and foremost, I’d advise being honest. When I was a teenager, I participated in Boy Scouts largely because of “camping and stuff.” That’s nothing to be ashamed of. However, I was also aware—through the Scout Oath and Law—that I was making a commitment to keep myself “physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”

      Now, did I entirely understand what all that meant or how the program was building my character? No. Only in looking back can I see how it shaped and developed me over the years.

      If I were you, I’d take a look at the Scout Oath and Scout Law and see what words or phrases inspire or intrigue you. Write about why those aspects are important to you.

      Good luck—let me know how it goes!

  1. April 1, 2011 at 6:54 am
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