Spent the snowy weekend in the woods, working with young people on their leadership skills or, more precisely, watching them learn those skills themselves. The formal curriculum was the Boy Scouts of America’s Introduction to Leadership Skills for Troops, but the lessons were learned as the groups worked together for the non-formal parts of the day.
And isn’t that exactly right? Because there are a lot of “leaders” out there who sit through an awful lot of trainings like that (not to mention offer those trainings)! And there are a lot of MBAs churned out annually. How many are truly leaders, in the sense of being able to work in a team, inspire others, and put the group above self? Not many. Not a huge percentage.
But what I saw in this group of 12- to 16-years olds was largely leadership. Like cooking dinner on a propane stove for their small groups, when it was snowing and their hands were cold and the wind was blowing. Or making sure that the group assumed responsibility for cleaning the site and leaving it better than we found it. How many politicians or CEOs would do that? Would they even call it leadership? Would they recognize it?
And why not? And if we answer that question, have we identified what is wrong with so many of our major societal institutions today?
It didn’t all go well. Some meals were barely meals. Some food was ruined. Some stoves took a long time. Not everyone pulled their weight. Tempers were frayed. Relationships strained. Part of the lesson. But, overall, I walked away impressed at what we show when we don’t know what we’re supposed to. Leadership and integrity come when no one is looking, or when you don’t know enough to care whether someone’s looking.
Just a thought.
My favorite work project has been our success with student philanthropy at UConn. Part of that is because I have been able to work with some great people on the initiative, but I also love it because it highlights the eternal role of philanthropy in life.
The idea germinated from an alumnus who looked back and realized the power of philanthropy in shaping UConn, as well as the need to build a culture of giving in today’s students, who have benefited so much from the support of others. By offering challenge matches for students, he’s encouraging them to give, and we’re helping to shape that through a competition that is really focused on allowing them to give to what matters most to THEM, not us. And that is, typically, the club or cause or program that they’re part of at UConn.
The word philanthropy comes back to its roots of meaning “the love of man,” and I cannot think of a more empowering task than educating people about how philanthropy allowed for their success and how their own philanthropy is showing their support for those who follow. It’s all good stuff.
More info on the Ignite competition at: http://s.uconn.edu/huskydrive
Behold the power of the crowd!
I was proud to help shape a very successful first student video contest for UConn. Thousands upon thousands of Facebook likes, shares and comments were received, and in the end, a great set of three finalists represented the University well.
The winner was excellent and produced by two UConn engineering students.
One of the main lessons learned? That there is tremendous talent out there; you just have to find a way to channel and tap it.
More information at: http://www.foundation.uconn.edu/saythanks/index.html
Up at 5 AM to attempt a rare feat, seeing three comets in one observation.
Two of the three were easy: Comet ISON was definitely brighter than even a few days before and had a noticeable tail. Comet Lovejoy was incredibly bright but had no tail that I could make out. As Mercury and Saturn rose above the horizon, racing with the sun, I was hoping to see Comet Encke down near Mercury and make it 3-for-3, but couldn’t make it out. Still, it was my first time seeing two comets in one day, so that was noteworthy and quite cool.
The ancients thought comets were the bearer of news from the gods and brought major changes with them. Life’s been so crazy lately…maybe the ancients were right!
Check off the Little Dumbbell Nebula (Messier 76) from the observation list! Using my Orion UltraBlock NarrowBand filter, I caught a good glimpse of what is often considered one of the hardest Messier objects to spot.
To my eyes, it wasn’t as glorious as this photo, but it had a distinctive shape to it, and, per usual, the facts behind it made the fuzzy blur all the more exciting.
What’s better than astronomy? To me, sharing the hobby with others and teaching them to appreciate the heavens above.
On the 25th, Troop 45 held an astronomy observation session for those working on their merit badges. Scouts got to see Venus and its amazing partial phase, the International Space Station soar overhead, the Pleiades, Polaris, the Summer Triangle and much more.
The requirement was a “three-hour observation session,” and we got it done, down to the minute, but only thanks to some hot cocoa, a fire and a portable heater. Everything frosted over by the end, including the people!
While I move my long-suffering and oft-ignored domain to a new platform and reshape its purpose, I would like to welcome you to a new and improved Sponauer.com.
In the Venn Diagram of personal sites, this one will be at the intersection of astronomy, personal notes on life and professional accomplishments.
It’s a weird ride, but how can you showcase yourself when you’re not sharing the whole person?
Anyway, buckle up and enjoy. And off we go.