Everywhere you go, people will judge you by what you say, the things you do, and how you conduct yourself.
Like it or not that is the plain truth.
I remember one instance where this really hit home for me. I was asked to say a few words about Scouting and my Troop at a ‘Scout Sunday’ church service. “Sure, why not!” I thought. “I know quite a bit about Scouting, this shouldn’t be too difficult.”
The week was busy for me, and I didn’t take much time to prepare. I just jotted down a few notes on a slip of paper to take with me.
When Sunday morning came, I hit the ‘snooze’ button on my alarm clock just a few too many times. Suddenly, my groggy brain remembered I promised to be at the church early. I jumped out of bed. My Scout shirt was wrinkled; my hair was messy and oily. I ran a brush through it a few times and hoped it would be passable.
I rushed out the door, through town, and into the church. I started to help set stuff up. The clock kept ticking, and it was my turn to speak before I knew it.
Standing at the podium, I felt the heat of bright lights (maybe it was just the blood rushing to my head!). I scanned the crowd of several hundred people. As I did, I looked at my wrinkled shirt and became painfully aware of my disheveled hair.
Worst of all, I realized I didn’t have anything to say!
All the thoughts that came so readily the week before disappeared! My fingers searched vainly for the little scrap of paper I thought I had thrust in my pocket.
It wasn’t there.
Frankly, I have no idea what I said up there; it all went by so fast. Somehow, I got through it.
Some people even complimented me on my speech afterward. I don’t know if the compliments I received were honest or just polite; they really only made me feel worse. I smiled and thanked people their kind words, but I was painfully aware I had not acted like a Scout. I did not prepare, and my sloppy appearance reflected badly on my Troop and Scouts in general.
Did you know there’s an even a faster way to send a message than instant messaging or texting?
I watch a BBC TV show called ‘Sherlock’, a modern interpretation of Sherlock Holmes stories written a century ago. Sherlock Holmes is a genius private detective with extraordinary powers of observation. He can tell a person’s life history just by looking at their hands, the clothes they wear, their shoes and their general appearance.
Sherlock takes the art of observation to the highest level; but everyone uses this skill to some extent. The moment we meet a new person, we start drawing conclusions about them based upon the way they carry themselves, the way they dress, and the way they talk. We use this information to decide who to trust, who to stay away from, and who we will respect.
While I was as Scout, I learned what people think about me is based on how I choose to portray myself.
Anyone can do it, and many people do! Politicians, speakers, and other public figures keep this especially in mind. During the presidential race of 2012 the candidates often took the stage wear rolled up sleeves rather than suits and ties. Why? Because they wanted to portray an industrious “let’s get to work” kind of attitude.
That is true instant messaging. No typing required!
Whether you are aware of it or not you’re sending instant messages every time you are in front of other people .
If you show up at a Scout meeting without your uniform you are sending a pretty clear message: “I don’t care enough about this to bother”.
If you still have your Tenderfoot badge on your shirt and have been a First Class Scout for a couple of months, you are sending a message: “The rank doesn’t mean enough to me to trouble with the patch.”
If you slump into a Board of Review, slouch in your chair, and reply in one word answers everyone that sees you will get the message: “This isn’t important to me.”
There is no guarantee you’ll always make the impression you want, but you can strategically plan the messages you send.
If you play on a football team, you don’t just show up at the field and hope for the best. You practice with the team, you check to see you have your uniform and gear, you stay in shape, and you prepare yourself mentally.
That’s strategic preparation.
Lots of Scouting situations are like a football game. Both are all about being prepared, and in the next article in this series I’ll show you exactly what I mean.