The Most Important Lesson Scouting Taught Me

Rourke: This post was originally published HERE on


Written by Ken


I am part of the two percent.


Out of the 83.5 million Scouts who have been through the Boy Scouts program, only two percent have ever attained the rank of Eagle Scout.  I am one of the few who earned this honor.


I learned a lot in Scouting…how to make a fire without matches, how to construct an emergency shelter to protect you from the elements, and how to perform first aid, including using improvised materials to create tourniquets and splints.


But the most important lesson I learned in Scouting is a lesson I was reminded of every Scout meeting and every day of every Scout trip.  That lesson is the Scout motto: Be Prepared.


This two word motto carries with it a lot of meaning, a lot of depth, and a lot of weight.


Someone once asked the founder of Scouting, Baden-Powell, “Be prepared for what?”.  Baden-Powell’s response was that a Scout should be prepared for “any old thing”.


Baden-Powell’s words still hold true today, but don’t apply to just Scouting.  Anyone, man or woman, Scout or not, should prepare themselves and their family for anything.  Not just life threatening emergencies, but everyday issues and problems.


I keep two items with me at all times.  A pocketknife, and a key-chain flashlight.


My pocketknife has actually been “upgraded” within the past couple years, from a regular “Swiss-army” knife to a multi-function tool with pliers, knife, saw, multiple screwdrivers, etc.  This tool is still smaller than my cellphone, and since the blade is small, it does not qualify as a concealed weapon.


The key-chain flashlight is a small solar-powered LED flashlight.  When I’m sitting still, I always take my keys out of my pocket so that the flashlight stays charged.


At first, some of my co-workers laughed at me at first when they noticed I always carry these two items.  Some because they thought it was silly paranoia…others because they carry even bigger knives than I do.


They don’t laugh quite as much anymore.


Maybe that’s because when we had the last power outage, when some of the emergency lights failed to kick in, I was one of few who could walk through the halls without stumbling over every desk, plant, or chair.  Or maybe that’s because whenever my computer needs worked on, I usually have all of the tools I need in my pocket, instead of sorting through the office toolbox to find everything I need.  My being prepared, by carrying these two simple tools, has helped me tremendously during normal and non-normal circumstances.


In my spare time, I try to expand my knowledge.  I look for new and unusual things to learn about, preparing for the off chance I might need that knowledge.  Once again…Be Prepared.


What “unusual” things have I learned which have helped me?


1) How to open a locked door with a credit card – Handy when someone locked one of the conference rooms prior to an important teleconference and no one knew where the key was.


2) Basic electronics knowledge and soldering knowledge –  Helped to prevent a “major family crisis” when someone tripped over my father-in-law’s Rock Band drum-set and broke the switch inside the foot pedal.  This prevented much crying, screaming, and shouting.


3) How to control the rate a fire burns by restricting oxygen – Helped me to build my barrel smoker, which not only is part of my emergency plan for if cooking without power, but also cooks REALLY tasty food for dinner on a regular basis


4) How to read manufacturer’s codes in the grocery store – I originally learned this while working at a grocery store to keep stock properly rotated.  Now I can apply that knowledge to find the newest products on the shelf, and properly rotate my food stock at home.


5) How to quickly do math in my head – So I can figure out what the best deal is in the grocery store, despite their efforts to obfuscate with “3 for 4.29” deals.



My wife has told me on numerous occasions that it worries her how I know some of the things I do, and tells everyone I’m a walking encyclopedia of “useless knowledge”.  She won’t admit it, but I know that deep down she’s also thankful, because someday my “useless knowledge” may save our lives someday.


So in closing, Be Prepared.  Don’t just be prepared for emergencies, be prepared for non-emergencies.  Become a mental “Swiss-army knife”.  Expand your knowledge to a broad range of topics; you never know when they’ll come in handy.



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5 thoughts on “The Most Important Lesson Scouting Taught Me”

  1. Ken, Enjoyed your post.Ok so besides expiration dates can you please explain the store codes so we can all benefit.Thanks. Arlene

  2. I only made “life” as my father before mn. Hopefully the grandson will become a “bird man”. I learned to shoot a rifle with really good sights (aperature front and rear), I learned how to use an axe (no longer germaine to the Scouting program.)
    . I learned to use a canoe and still do. I learned how important a good well structured skills program is. Like the rest , i learned “be prepared”. Retiring after 35 years of teaching I learned what a necessity a good moral compass is: parents,Scouts,and church.


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