Advancement through the ranks of Scouting is the only way you’ll ever be able to become an Eagle scout. While this may seem obvious, it’s so easy to fall into the same routines and stop making progress on your requirements, or become discouraged because you’re not seeing the results you were hoping for. Sound familiar?
We’ve all hit those slumps at times, but Scouting is a journey, not a destination. Remember that if you haven’t enjoyed the ride, you’ll have been wasting your time — even if you do reach your goals. That being said, I know that you can have both. Why not advance quickly and enjoy the journey?
If you were planning on driving across the country, would you rather do it in a beat-up 2001 minivan, or a 500-grand, Lamborghini Aventador? That’s basically the difference between advancing with purpose in Scouting, versus slowly letting things happen and hoping for the best.
In this article, I’ll give you my 5 keys to constant advancement in Scouting. Whether you’re a new scout and are looking to break your troop’s record for the youngest SPL ever, or have been in Scouting for a while and have fallen into a recent slump, these keys will drastically enhance your results.
Warning: While my methods do work extremely well, they will still require you to stay focused and work hard. There is no ‘hack’ that will magically make you an Eagle Scout. However, these keys will multiply the effectiveness of your work and have you quickly seeing results. All you’ll need to do is commit. Are you still with me?
Awesome! Then I know you can do it. At least 2/3’s of the people who’ve come to this page have clicked away and given up before reading as far as you. Now that I know you’re different, it’s time to dive into my first key to quick advancement in Scouting.
1) Make a Plan
What’s the Scout motto? That’s right, ‘Be prepared.’ I’m sure you prepare for camps by packing and double-checking your backpack. You prepare for school by doing your homework. But have you ever prepared to achieve your goals?
By making a plan to succeed, you’re taking a page from almost all of the most successful people in history. The trick is to start with your goal in mind, then work backward to see what you’ll need to do to reach your objective in the time you have available.
Applied to Scouting, you’ll need to ask yourself 3 things:
- How many merit badges do you still have to earn?
- What positions of leadership will you need?
- What rank-advancement requirements are left?
When you know the journey that lies before you, only then can you create your path. Make a plan and use it as your roadmap.
I can promise you that fewer than 10% of scouts to do this. They think that planning sounds like too much work and that it might not be useful. Maybe they’re afraid of seeing the enormity of the challenge that lies ahead of them. But this still isn’t a good enough excuse to avoid planning ahead.
The truth is that if you’re working without a plan, much of what you do will be unnecessary. You’ll find yourself not coming closer to your goal because you’re wasting your time on things that you didn’t know were irrelevant.
With a plan, you’ll be certain the work that you’re doing is moving you closer to your goal. This is the key to rapid advancement: Working on things that are essential and meaningful. Once you make planning a habit, you’ll find literally everything in life will start to go your way.
2) Reach Out To Older Scouts
If you’re good, you might be able to do it yourself. Those who are great though, rely on others to pull them up. Martial artists find a sensei, and you too should find an older scout who can help you to avoid common mistakes and guide you through your Scouting journey.
Believe it or not, every older scout was in your position at some point. All of them would go back and change at least one thing if they had the chance. They don’t, but you still can. By learning from what they would do differently, you can avoid their mistakes and reach their position much more quickly than they have.
I’m going to let you in on a secret: People like to help others. Don’t feel embarrassed reaching out to an older scout for their advice. If anything, they’ll feel flattered and want to help. When you’re in their position, you’ll likely feel this way too!
The best way to ask for an older scout’s advice is by requesting a small favor to start off. Don’t rush in and immediately ask them to be your life coach. How I would approach an older scout would be by saying something like this:
”Hey, I noticed you earned your citizenship in the world merit badge. It’s a tough one! I’ve just started, and requirement 3A is giving me a bit of trouble. How were you able to answer that requirement?”
After they tell you what they did, thank them and let them know that they were helpful. Then, tell them that you might ask them some other questions later on, as they did such a good job in answering your first one.
From there, you can build on their initial support by asking them about other merit badges, or how they advanced in rank. Once they’re comfortable going into detail when giving you advice, start asking them about their own Scouting career. A good question I’ve found is to ask what they would have changed if they could go back to being your age.
Not only will you gain a lot of valuable information for quick advancement, you’ll also make a friend. One who is willing and ready to help and guide you through every step of the Scouting journey!
3) Identify Your Merit Badge Resources
The most time-consuming part of your advancement in Scouting will likely be earning merit badges. With 21 badges being the bare minimum, you’ll likely spend hundreds if not thousands of hours working on different merit badge requirements.
When leading community service projects, you often prepare by identifying the tools and people you have available. Likewise, when trying to earn your merit badges, you should know exactly what resources you can use to help along the way.
The most commonly used resources for earning merit badges are as follows:
- Older Scouts
- The Boy Scout Handbook
- Merit badge guide books
- The Internet
If you’re depending on scoutmasters, your parents, or the older scouts to guide you through earning your merit badges, you’re basically relying on your luck to somehow become an Eagle Scout. The might be able to help, but also, they might not.
This is why the Internet is so useful. It’s the great equalizer. A homeless person with an Internet connection has access to the same library of online knowledge as a top researcher belonging to the most prestigious university in the world. And you have access to that knowledge as well.
The problem is, it’s difficult to navigate through all of the information. Sometimes, you just need the best way to find all of the answers. I’m not trying to market my own site, because there’s a lot of Scouting resources out there, and any one of them might be perfect for you. Take the time to find your ideal resource that you can keep coming back to.
Once you find a Scouting resource that you enjoy, bookmark it! Personally, I used to keep a folder in my bookmark bar with useful Scouting websites and would check different ones based on my needs. Here are the best Scouting websites that I would recommend bookmarking:
- BoyScoutTrail.com: Merit badge requirements and printed worksheets
- Scouting.com: Official Scouting updates and information
- Bryan on Scouting: Quality blog posts on Scouting culture in action
- Eagle Scout Mac Guzman: Impressive videos from the perspective of a current Boy Scout
- ScoutSmarts Merit Badge Difficulty Rankings and Guides ( I work hard for you guys 😀 )
The reason to have all of these websites bookmarked is to keep your Scouting resources in one place. This makes it even easier to start working on your merit badges.
If you need to spend time tracking down requirement-related information each time you decide to focus on a merit badge, you’ll end up doing more work and seeing fewer results. Instead, set up systems that make your work easy.
Ideally, you’ll want to complete at least a third of a merit badge’s information requirements each time you decide to work on it. That way, you’ll see yourself progressing quickly and remain motivated to continue progressing. Not to mention, you’ll also have more time leftover to practice the skills you’ve learned and focus on the fun things in Scouting.
If you’re interested in finishing more work in less time, check out this awesome video on the psychology of productivity:
My main point is that you should learn what resources you have available before tackling your rank advancement requirements. Basically, focus your efforts where you’ll get results, and stop wasting time on things that you don’t need to do. Bookmark your most-used Scouting sites so that when you work, you’ll be able to easily get more done.
4) Create a Team
Scouting is a social sport. OK, it isn’t really a sport, but Scouting is still a social activity. While most people try to do it all by themselves, remember that you’re part of a troop and Scouting community. Use that to your advantage by creating a team.
I made this intentionally a little vague, but what I mean is to work together with others so that you can all advance more quickly and have fun while doing so. Team up with friends in your troop to work on merit badges together. Compare notes and see if you can learn the material better by teaching it to a friend.
Take the mindset of you trying to finish all of your requirements to get to Eagle Scout, and flip it on its head. Instead, think of it like you’re learning these badges to teach to your fellow scouts so that as many of you can reach Eagle as possible. You want to help, you’re part of a team, and you’re in it together.
Working with others, you’ll earn your merit badges even faster and, more importantly, the greater challenge of learning leadership skills will be overcome unconsciously.
It’s a pretty simple process to get started. Say something like:
“Oh hey, I noticed you’re working on the first aid merit badge too. It’s a pretty tricky one with skills that we need to demonstrate, so I was wondering if you wanted to work together in doing those. Maybe we can compare notes?”
I doubt anyone would say no to that.
The best part, I’ve found, of working on merit badges with others, is that it becomes a more fun process where you could actually start to build a friendship. This applies to anything outside of merit badges as well.
Take the initiative to build a team, and you’ll quickly see enormous results. Completing requirements will become more fun, easier to do, and you’ll become a great leader along the way. There’s literally no downside, so the next time you’re working on a merit badge and notice that another scout is doing the same one, reach out.
5) Keep Yourself Accountable
This ties back to step one of having a plan. To keep yourself accountable, you need to know what you’re even trying to do in the first place. Once you have a roadmap of your goals and milestones, accountability will help you to stick to that plan.
Let’s assume that you do have a good plan for reaching Eagle Scout by a certain date. You’ve broken down what challenges you’ll see along the way, and the requirements you’ll need to complete to get there. Now it’s a simple matter of just doing it. Easier said than done.
That’s where accountability comes into play. There are three parties that can keep you accountable:
- Your Scoutmasters/parents
- Your friends/fellow scouts
The most effective way to reach your goals is to use all three of them to make sure that you stay on the right track.
Your Scoutmasters/parents: Give them a copy of your plan along with the milestones you’d like to hit. Ask them for help to stay on track with your goal. In the case of your parents, maybe ask them to set up rewards for meeting your goals, and punishments for missing them. These incentives can be whatever you want, but the main thing is that these people can help you stay motivated, even when your own will might falter.
Your friends/fellow scouts: Tell them one or two of your short term goals. You probably spend more time around these people than your parents, so by filling them in on your plans, they’ll be more likely to remind you on a regular basis. Use this trick to constantly move forward, from one requirement to the next, through the power of peer pressure.
Yourself: Review your overall plan at least once per week. Make your goals manageable, but try to never let yourself fail in accomplishing what you’ve told yourself you’d do. To avoid burnout, think long term. Success in Scouting and life is all about constantly pushing forward, so think long term and stick to the process.
If you can make your goals a part of your life by asking others to hold you accountable, your chances of sticking to your plans will increase tremendously. Your only limit will be how much time you’re willing to commit, and how quickly you’re trying to progress. Beyond that, there’s no doubt that you’ll eventually succeed!
Although this article is centered around advancement in Scouting, each of these tips can also be applied to any goals that you have in life. Through careful planning, reaching out to others, finding the best resources, building a team, and keeping yourself accountable you’ll learn that you can do anything and everything that you set your mind to.
Keep in mind though, all of these tips will be meaningless if you don’t have the right plan. Your plans should be realistic and take into account your own character traits. Once you’re confident in your ability to succeed, everything will become even more fun and rewarding! 🙂
Even just one of these methods can change your life, so I really urge you to pick a few to try this week. Then, let me know what happens. If you message me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I’ll always reply, so feel free to send me an email if you want to get in contact. Until then, all the best on your Scouting journey!