Sunday, September 18, 2005

Being the "best"

This past weekend I spent my time training at a National Leadership Development Seminar in Alpine, New Jersey. This was my ninth time attending this seminar, the eighth time as a member of the staff, as well as attending a special seminar in 2003 when the seminar content and materials were "updated".

Being asked to be a member of the staff of an NLS (which is the acronym for the seminar) is always an honor. I have had the priviledge to present five of the twelve sessions that are given throughout the weekend over my eight times on staff for the course. This is apparently a big deal, because many people go through the course (over 200 each year), and the staff for each course is only about sixteen per seminar. This means a lot of people go through the course, but not many come back again, let alone eight more times.

I take a lot of pride in my contributions to the Order of the Arrow (the Boy Scout Honor Society which puts on the NLS). I do not feel egotistical saying that I have put a lot of time and effort into the program and feel that I have made an impact on the program. The session that I presented this weekend I feel is the most crucial session of the entire seminar. When I witnessed it being presented as a participant in 2001, I was inspired to be a better person because of it. In this game, the ethics, morals and character of the participants of the seminar is challenged -- forcing them to take a long look at who they really are.

The first line of the training session syllabus reads "Desired Trainer: One of the most experienced and talented trainers". To me, this is a tremendous compliment for my friend to think this of me, especially for the second time this year. I truly appreciate the thought and consideration. The opportunity to lead approximatly 80 Scouts through this exercise is a huge challenge. I have seen presenters who do great at it, some who get through it OK, and one presenter who completely lost control of the group, sacrificing the quality of presentation because of a cocky attitude and lack of preparation and care.

At the conclusion of my session, I was greeted with many statements of "great job", "you make it look so easy" and "I wish I watched you present it before I trained it" from my fellow trainers. These were great sentiments, and I was flattered to be receiving them. However, I was truly taken back when the highest level volunteer in the regional structure of our program said to me, "I heard you presented the best game ever in the region." This struck me. Was I really the "best"?

I got to thinking ... what makes someone the "best"? Is it attaining a high title in an organization? Is it receiving the most recognition for work that you do? Is being the "best" the person who practices the hardest and does the most work? I struggled to find an answer to this question, but came up with something I think holds true ...

To be the best at something, you have to combine a high level of commitment to the cause with a high level of humility and personal character. I call this "humble pride". You can be elected to serve in a high position, build an amazing structure or rack of a ton of community service hours and still not be good at all if you continually brag or belittle your peers. I did not present what many said was the "best" session this weekend in the "best way" that it has been in a long time ... I went out in front of a group of learners and put out what I felt was the highest quality of presentation I felt I could, not for myself, but for them. The participants of that seminar deserved the "best" ... and I will continue to try my hardest to give that to them. There is always room for improvement, and I will always try to do so.

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