Winner Of The Losers

One man's life experiences and lessons

Over the years, I have been involved in the planning and execution of over 100 large Boy Scout functions.  Nearly every event has a patch.  One of the big annual events was the Section Conclave for the Order of the Arrow (nearly 50 weekend conclaves a year across the country) .  As an adult, I twice was assigned to Section SR-3 (Blytheville AFB in Arkansas and Tinker AFB in Oklahoma).  This is a very large geographical section for the Order of the Arrow.  The annual event could bring 700 to 1,000 people together and it would be held at a Boy Scout Camp.

The Area 3 Director, a professional scouter at the time was Richard “Dick” Austin.  A seasoned professional who was responsible for the appointment of the Section Adviser and Section Staff Adviser (professional scouter) to advise the Section Chief (an elected youth).  In an unusual move, Dick chose to hold the Section Staff Adviser himself.  As a youth he was a Lodge Chief and Vigil Honor.


During one of the conclave planning meetings, the youth selected the patch design and theme for the conclave.  Dick was new to the section, as was I having just moved to Oklahoma.  Ironically, 10 years earlier, I was in the same section but living in Arkansas.  Dick consulted the current Section Adviser, Jim Rhoades and me on how many patches to order.


Jim stated with authority and we thought inside knowledge, “We need to order at least 2,000 patches, because we run out every year.”  Dick looked at me and responded, “OK” and I could only concur with a “sounds good”.   Well we ordered those 2,000 patches and ended up with approximately 900 patches UNSOLD! 





Trust but verify.

Be careful, some individuals will speak with such authority and then we follow “blindly” without attempting to verify the answer.  Trust but verify.


Since Dick and I were new to the Section, we relied on Jim’s judgement.  We assumed wrongly that he was speaking from direct knowledge of past orders and sales.  Now Dick and I have had many great laughs about that order of patches over the years.  I even framed one of those patches and gave it to Dick before I went to Europe.

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Make the experts attend the same meeting.

When you have two or more experts (Engineer, Doctor, Accountant, Attorney, etc), you need to get them in the same room at the same time to review the facts and course of actions.  Then make a decision.


My Dad suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease for nearly eight years.  Two years after my Dad became sick, my parents used two attorneys to do estate planning and the attorneys recommendation my parents sell all of their stocks and bonds and put them into Certificates of Deposit and Trust.  My parents invited all three kids to attend the meeting with the attorneys, but the accountant was not available on Saturday.  Then I went back to Washington DC.  Later that week my Dad had gone to his accountant, who with good intentions recommended NOT to sell ALL because of the pending tax ramifications for that year.


The attorneys were correct.  The accountant was correct.  However, 6 years later, the real implication of that split decision would be seen.  The accountant saved $10 to $20,000 in taxes.  However, a minimum of $130,000 was lost to the estate based on a look back period and NOT following the advice of the attorneys.


Countless times when I was in the military, I would make sure the right people and the right information were together in the same room.  When this cannot be done, then cross-check information between them.


It is OK if the experts do NOT agree, you need to see the short-term and long-term impacts, risk and make a decision. 



Dick and I become extremely close friends during my time as Section Adviser and continued after I moved with the USAF.  We have been to each other homes many times.  We traveled to many Scouting events in Iowa, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas.  He came to my promotion to Lt Col.  Dick and his wife Judy even come to visit us in Belgium when I was serving my last assignment with NATO.

Dick will go down for me as being the Greatest Professional Scouter I ever met.  He had the most amazing talent to be able to interact with the local parent of scout leader of modest means or a multi-millionaire.  One is his nicknames I gave him on the side was “Smiling Dick” because he could tell you bad news and his delivery would be so pleasant and with a big smile that it could not be so bad.  While in his 60’s he always slept in his own tent.  Even if there was a cabin or other facilities made available, Dick would pitch his one-man tent and sleep on the ground away from the activities.  He and his wife throughout the years would backpack together in the Pecos Mountains and Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.  Dick was just an amazing person and he was one of my true friends I could rely on to either just listen or give me sound advice.


Dick died 21 Oct 2012 at age 70.  Farewell my friend!




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