Mike Replies To A Slightly Offended, Not Very Enthusiastic Scout

Dear Mike Rowe,

Hello, I am a boy scout in Iowa, and I read the letter you sent to a boy who was contemplating whether or not to become an eagle scout. I am sorry to say this, but I am slightly offended by the meaning I interpreted when you brought up taking the path to become an eagle scout, or living a life of predictability and mediocrity. I honestly am not a very enthusiastic scout, I know that, others have told me that, and I doubt I will go for my eagle. But, I am one of the top people in my grade, I am taking two honors courses next year, I maintain straight A’s, I am on my school’s honor roll, I swim competitively with my local swimming team, and I plan on going to the best college I can. Please explain to me how this seems to be a life of mediocrity, because I work hard, and I stand up for my opinions, and in this case, I disagree. I know you are successful, and I know you are an eagle, but to be successful, must you be an eagle?

With Respect,

Joshua Wallin
Troop 24
Illowa Council ( Iowa/Illinois)

Well Josh, that’s an interesting letter and a very fair question. And since I’m sitting here at home waiting for my dinner to be delivered, I’ll fire off a snappy response. (Pizza by the way, in case you’re interested.)

First of all, don’t apologize for being offended. There’s plenty in the world to be offended by and if my comments hurt your feelings you have every right to say so. Of course it’s important to realize the decision to be offended is exactly that – a choice. And since you seem to accept responsibility for the path you’ve chosen, I assume you’ll also accept responsibility for the way you feel. Owning your feelings is a fundamental difference between a child and a grown-up, and though I can’t be entirely sure which you are, you seem like a smart guy. So I’m going to respond as though you’re an adult. Ready?

The short answer is No – The Rank of Eagle guarantees you no measure of long-term happiness or success whatsoever. The world is full of gifted athletes, academic geniuses, decorated war heroes, and former Eagle Scouts who have gone on to lead miserable lives of failure and regret. Make no mistake about that.

Of course, this is not the message that many adults want me to deliver to their kids. They would prefer a more optimistic form of encouragement, one that stresses the many benefits that often come as a result of attaining this award. Well, I’m sorry, but you can get that elsewhere. (In fact, you can get that everywhere.) My exact thoughts on the matter can be found here, in a letter I send out to Scouts who have actually made it to Eagle. On this point, I suspect we agree. However, after reading your note more carefully, I was struck by something that doesn’t add up. In your own words, you claim – “I honestly am not a very enthusiastic scout, and doubt I will go for my Eagle.”

Given your excellence in school, your commitment to physical fitness, and your desire for higher education, that confession strikes me as a bit out of context. I mean, why would a guy who’s so passionate and deliberate about everything else in his life invest his time doing something for which he has so little enthusiasm? And why would he find my comments “slightly offensive”, if he had already determined the achievement in question was of little interest to him?

Do you see my confusion? You’ve asked me to explain – in light of your many ambitions – how your chosen path might lead to a life of mediocrity. Well, the answer Josh, has nothing to do with your ambition, and everything to do with your apathy. You seem to have embraced both. Your “lack of enthusiasm” is dangerous, not because you feel it, but because you tolerate it. And if you can tolerate a lack of enthusiasm in Scouting, there’s no telling what else you’ll let yourself become bored with.

Let me step back a moment, (since my pizza is still not here!) and say again how very skeptical I am of this “Everybody-Gets-a-Trophy” mentality. Look around and you’ll see symptoms of this condition everywhere. My cousin got a trophy a few years ago that read “Thanks for Participating!” (His basketball team came in second to last.) You can see it in classes where the teachers grade on a “curve.” (Since when is a 75% a B+?)

The truth is, many adults today are more concerned with your self-esteem than with your performance. Too many parents and teachers and coaches want their kids to succeed so badly that they’ll drag them across the finish line if they have to. Frankly, I find it insulting to those kids who are willing to do their best. I think we send a really crappy message to millions of kids when we reward them equally, for accomplishments that are clearly unequal. I think we set them up for failure later in life.

Anyway, the letter that offended you was written because I don’t want to see that sort of mentality creep into Scouting. I don’t want the Eagle standards lowered just to encourage less enthusiastic kids to “go for it,” or satisfy a parents desire to see their precious little snowflakes bring home another “trophy.” And frankly, I don’t think the best way to inspire and motivate kids like you is to blow a bunch of sunshine up your butt.

To be really honest Josh, I don’t think you were really offended by my comments at all. I think you’re hiding behind this “lack of enthusiasm,” because deep down, you’re afraid of failing. That’s exactly how I felt when I realized how much work the Eagle rank would require. I wanted to quit, right then and there. But I didn’t want to admit that I wanted to quit, so I just pretended not to care.  I concealed my fear with apathy, and didn’t come clean until my old man called me out. I suspect that’s what you’re doing now.

Of course, I could be wrong; I often am. But this much I’m sure of – you’ll learn a heck of a lot more in life by failing than succeeding. Unless of course, you’re unwilling to try, in which case you’ll learn exactly nothing.

My advice? Quit Scouting today. Or, quit pretending not to care. Because the short answer to your question goes like this – You can be plenty successful without becoming an Eagle. But you’ll never get anywhere by doing things half-way.

That will absolutely, positively assure you a life of spectacular mediocrity.  Having said that, my pizza is here, and I need both hands to eat it.

Good luck.

Mike Rowe


Joshua and Mike continue their dialogue:

I enjoy your response Mr. Rowe, it makes things make sense, but honestly the reason I stay in scouts is for my friends and because I enjoy it, and I just don’t enjoy some of the requirements. Now, the reason I say I am not enthusiastic is because I have finished a lot of my requirements, but the issue is that so many require outside summer camp outs, normally I am to busy with other things to go, and during the winter a lot of my requirements can’t be completed.



I enjoy your response Mr. Rowe

Thanks. My friends call me Mike.

It makes things make sense, but honestly the reason I stay in scouts is for my friends and because I enjoy it.

Cool. Doing something because you enjoy it is well and good, and having fun in life is right up there in my list of Top Two things to do. But you didn’t ask me about enjoyment. You asked me about success – and the role of the Eagle Award in avoiding a predictable and mediocre existence.

I just don’t enjoy some of the requirements.

Your “enjoyment” is completely irrelevant to your willingness to try.

Please, re-read that last sentence.

Now once again – Outloud.

I’ve told this to hundreds of Scouts over the years, and will tell thousands more the same thing next month in Virginia, when I speak at the hundred year anniversary. The most valuable lesson I learned in Scouting, was not merely the importance of trying things I didn’t enjoy – it was the ability to learn how to enjoy those same things. That’s the single biggest reason why I have the job I have today. If your strategy in Scouts (and Life) is to avoid those activities and requirements that you don’t enjoy, you will have a difficult time transcending any definition of mediocrity. That’s not a criticism – merely an observation.

Now, the reason I say I am not enthusiastic is because I have finished a lot of my requirements, but the issue is that so many require outside summer camp outs, normally I am to busy with other things to go, and during the winter a lot of my requirements can’t be completed

You just admitted a resistance to tackling requirements that you do not enjoy. Now, you seem to be saying you can’t deal with those same requirements because you are simply too busy?

Look, there are many qualities shared by the vast majority of Scouts who never make it to Eagle, and you possess the two most common – a lack of enthusiasm, and a hectic schedule. There is no shame in either excuse. Indeed, these are the same exact qualities shared by the vast majority of perfectly average adults. Remember, the Eagle Award is supposed to be hard. It demands sacrifice. And it requires you to do things you might not enjoy. Why do you suppose so few people get there?


51 thoughts on “Mike Replies To A Slightly Offended, Not Very Enthusiastic Scout

  1. Interesting reply. I had to think about this for a few minutes but the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. Good answer Mike. Hope Josh gets what you’re saying.

  2. I enjoy your response, it makes things make sense,but honestly the reason I stay in scouts is for my friends and because I enjoy it, and I just don’t enjoy some of the requirements. Now, the reason I say I am not enthusiastic is because I have finished a lot of my requirements, but the issue is that so many require outside summer camp outs, normally I am to busy with other things to go, and during the winter a lot of my requirements can’t be completed

  3. The issue is that when I first became a boy scout, I was invlolved, my dad always went on campouts with me, it was our time together. Then he started being forced to leave for the week from Monday at 4:00 am, to Friday 8:00 pm. I only get to see him on weekends, and if I went on campouts, he wouldn’t be able to go and I would only get to see him for half of a day every week.

  4. Mike

    I am glad you responded to this letter. Apparently your brain cells have not been damaged by overwork, lack of REM sleep , or pizza. In the years I have been reading your responses, they just get better and better .


  5. Mike –

    Fabulous. Could we make this required reading for every student in America, then again, every five years, for everyone?

    This was a great kick in the pants, Mike, and I needed it.

  6. You’re doing a good thing here. I should point out that one of the reasons why I’ve always found Dirty Jobs appealing is that you jump in with both feet. No matter how bad a job you do, and it’s obviously pretty bad sometimes, you are willing to go into it with enthusiasm and a sense of humor. That certainly makes your banter with the people you’re working with easier, because they have to respect you for trying and trying hard. Sticking your arm in s____ up to your shoulder certainly seems like it would be worse than QVC, but you obviously love what you’re doing. I’ve seen the YouTube clips…you obviously hated being on QVC.

    Save enthusiasm for something that you enjoy. Being a apathetic aspiring Eagle Scout is an example of a vast project borne of half-vast ideas. Someday, he might look back and be happy to have done it, but he’d certainly enjoy knowing that more if it was really something that he wanted. If not, as you’ve said, he can do great things without having been an Eagle Scout. Something that he can be proud of and wants more…

  7. What brand of foot powder do you recommend? Because, really, someone who walks on water like you think you do must suffer from Athlete’s foot constantly.

  8. “I wanted to quit, right then and there. But I didn’t want to admit that I wanted to quit, so I just pretended not to care.”

    That sentence was like a bomb going off in my head. I’ve done this so many times without realizing it. Mike, thanks for everything.

  9. Mike: You are spot on!! As an Eagle I agree that it buys you nothing but the assurance that you worked hard at that point of your life. I will say that the process of earning the rank did support my development as an individual who always strives to acheive and taught me many other beneficial lessons along the way which support success.But nothing comes from resting on one’s past accomplishments. The new generation’s plague of everybody wins is the ultimate mediocrity! Crying that life isn’t fair is a loser’s decree. Buck up – saddle up – and get to work – earn that first place! Don’t just show up, phone it in and expect us to give your lazy kid a trophy! Competition is healthy and natural! Lions don’t show up at the kill and all get an equal share of meat. Keep spreading the truth Mike – maybe parents today will start listening one of these day!

  10. Mike,

    As the mother of two Eagle Scouts, I am proud of the accomplishments of these two boys. Both made it to the rank of Eagle at age 14. I will admit, it was a struggle at times. From the paperwork to the teasing from non-scouting “friends” while in their uniform, it was a hard fought battle while not allowing them to quit.

    I can tell you that my oldest son received a standing ovation (during chapel)from his entire high school when his achievement of Eagle was announced. I hope the second one receives the same respect. As you well know, many people do not understand the committment and hard work that is required to make Eagle. That is why so few reach it and so many adults respect it.

    My sons have learned many, many lessons from Scouting and their 70 year old scoutmaster who has watched 71 young men reach the rank of Eagle during his tenure.

    It is hard to make a teenage male understand that the Rank of Eagle Scout on a professional resume is the only thing from high school that is of relevance as an adult. To me, the most important thing it says is that he is not a quitter.

    My boys will be at National Jamboree this summer. I will encourage them to really hear your message.

    Thanks for not quitting on the future Scouts. A really good kick in the pants is good for everyone once in a while.


  11. Mike,

    Thank you for this honest and insightful reply. I have two sons, one who earned his Eagle and one who did not. They will both benefit from reading this dialogue.


  12. Mike your response was right on point. Insightful and written in a way that respected the young man but at the same time should give him cause for thought. I am the proud parent of a Eagle Scout and saw the same attitude set in as the task became more difficult. I had almost an identical conversation with my son, as I have had with many scouts ( I was also a Scoutmaster ). I also reminded him of a word that he knew but had very little knowledge of its true meaning. That word is regret. Once you realize how much finishing such a daunting task can mean to you, it just might be to late to do anything about it. I hope he realizes the regret he might have later in life and finishes the task he started.

  13. I am a 47 year old Attorney with a good income, nice building and upstairs loft with a hot 29ish live in g/f and all the bikes and trucks and toys. I have a grown son who’s well employed and has a master’s degree.I help lots of people and I did probably saved a life with the scouting skills when I was 14. I guess we all define our own success.

    I will say I have always listed my eagle on all applications for jobs, colleges and grad school and got a favorable result.

    Scouting, like everything, is what you make of it. Josh, go for it and remember that only you can define your own “success”.

  14. I have seen a lowered bar for Eagle Scouts. It was a proud moment when I was able to achieve the rank of Eagle. I came from a small troop that did not push scouts to become Eagle. We were there to learn and grow as people. The ranks were on our own time. We seldom did troop merit badges or requirement fulfillment meetings. Our Scoutmaster made sure we wanted it, and we were the ones to do it. I have a few Eagle friends that were guided the entire time, and their parents ended up doing a lot of the work- because the parents thought the award would help them in the future… it did not. Those who did not work for the award never respected it.

    Just like J.W., I was highly involved in School (AP Classes, top 10 ranking, always on high honors), I was a 3 sport varsity athlete (multiple all-star awards which lead to playing on many year round teams), and I worked 6 days a week on our family farm and on the family business. I didn’t have what many people would call “free time”.(What I did have was a very supportive family that would help with rides where ever- unless there was work to do.) Being able to juggle multiple tasks at once, as well as perform highly in these tasks takes determination and a strong work ethic. Thankfully, the Boy Scouts helped me develop these.

    I feel I earned my Eagle. It may have taken me until the day before my 18th to finish everything, but I earned it. It is an accomplishment that I am the most proud of, and at the completion of it, I finally knew what it was like to set a long term goal and fulfill it. Nothing can develop the mind, body, determination and enthusiasm in a 12-18 year old, then by setting an important goal and accomplishing it by yourself.

    Thank you for letting me share my thoughts, sorry for the length.

    Jason Zeisloft

  15. Good message.

    Our minds are loaded with all types of nasty tricks, cloaking fear in apathy is just another one to be aware of.

    Now if I were Josh I would nab the eagle scout just to prove to myself I could falling for another trap, pride.

    Spending time with your pop Josh is a good move.

    Always ask yourself what are the fastest and best routes to learning, then compare them to doing something you’re really interested in. You’d be surprised at how often pursuing an interest and cultivating it into a passion teaches you things about yourself and the world planned paths never could.

  16. Good answers.

    You didn’t quite answer this directly: “I know you are successful, and I know you are an eagle, but to be successful, must you be an eagle?”

    But here’s a shot at it:

    No, you don’t have to be an eagle, but you *must* do something equivalent; that is, make sacrifices, risk failure, and do difficult or unpleasant things in order to achieve a larger goal that’s important to you.

    I personally was a scout once upon a time, primarily for the rock-climbing and because my older brother was a scout (not uncommon reasons, I think), and put almost no effort into rank advancement because it didn’t interest me (not because of fear of failure, though I’ve fallen victim to that as well before…). Fortunately, there have been other goals in my life that I’ve been willing to put my heart behind. 🙂

  17. Dear Mike & Josh,

    For what it is worth, I would like to add my two cents to this tread in the hope that Josh may find these thoughts worth much more, if invested in his future.

    Scouting was the very first choice I made as a child. I saw an ad for Tiger Cubs on TV as a young child, pointed at the screen and told my mom to sign me up. I continued with Scouting through Tiger Cubs, Cub Scouts, Webelos, and into Boy Scouts. But it was in Boy Scouts that I lost interest for a time. I had completed all the requirements I felt I could. The adults didn’t seem to support me the way they did their own children in helping them advance. So, I quit. I quit for about 6 months. During that time I applied for jobs and listed Scouting on my applications. I kept running into people that would recall their Scouting experience, and would tell me how they never made eagle. So, I decided to go back, and try to make eagle. I had only 6 months left before my 18th birthday. All bets were against me. But, I made opportunities happen, I completed requirements on my own with the power of the word processor, and through my own determination. Occasionally, someone would say that something I did wasn’t good enough, so I would do it again till I got it done to their satisfaction. For my Eagle Scout project I built a board walk over a section of trail which flooded seasonally; protecting the environment from erosion and making the trail accessible for the handicapped. I had trouble getting wood donated, so I worked to raise the funds myself. I recruited my friends from school, because I couldn’t get enough of my fellow scouts to donate time. And we worked together for two months on the project. I even got my father to help and take time off from his work. To this day the board walk remains, and a its completion was blessed with a rainbow.

    I completed everything just before my 18th birthday and this remains one of the great accomplishments of my life.

    I have gone on to earn a dual-bachelors degree, two masters degrees, and am accepted to a PhD program which starts this fall. I have saved 3 individuals from drowning, and influenced the lives of hundreds of others as a Chief Instructor working with adjudicated youth. And am currently founding my own non-profit company. But, earning my Eagle Scout rank remains the greatest of all those accomplishments, because it was the first one I did all of my own volition.

    Many people graduate high school, some with 4.0 GPA’s. Many others win trophies for sports. But very few accomplishments require the determination, resourcefulness, and integrity that the Eagle rank demands of every child that attempts it.

    I encourage you Josh to heed Mike’s advice, and search your own heart to determine whether you have the courage to lay aside excuses and strive for your Eagle rank.

    In Scouting,

    Ed Spaulding

    Assistant Scout Master

    Troop 700 Waitsfield, Vermont

    Green Mt. Council

  18. The rank and honor of the Eagle Scout is earned and not given freely or as a social promotion. A Scout does not fall to the top of the mountain; he climbs to the peak. No, it is not easy and it is met by a set of standards and progressions, some required core curriculum and some elective curriculum plus a capstone experience, the Eagle Scout Leadership Community Service Project. Achieving the rank is a series of choices, doing the requirements, learning new things, and setting as well as achieving objectives at a young age. It is not the end all and be all of achievement, but it is a good indicator of early leadership development. It is also about setting priorities, working through issues, providing leadership and service, overcoming obstacles, and achieving results while keeping the group together — an equal task as well as people orientation. Realize that it is NOT for everyone nor does it need to be. Mike Rowe understands this and has passed along valuable lessons by way of this conversation with the questioning Scout, and the Scout should heed the wisdom provided by Mike.

    Another comment…the Eagle Scout requirements today are actually harder than before. More merit badges are required, the service project process is more difficult and requires pre-approval before starting it, and the deadline for completing the requirements (not necessarily the review) is by the 18th birthday (I don’t know the exact dates, but many WWII era and before Eagle Scout ranks were actually conferred to adults).

    Best regards,

    Stephen J. Taylor, CFRE

    Scout Executive

    Northwest Suburban Council – Mount Prospect, IL

    Eagle Scout, 1972 – Troop 142 – Pennsauken, NJ

    Father of two Eagle Scout sons and one son working on his Eagle Scout Project

  19. I like your response, it has quite a few valuable bits of wisdom in it and was useful to me personally. But as a result I feel I should point out the flaw in the final message you send.

    You’re making the assumption that “success” means you must push to win at every single thing you do in life.

    “The most valuable lesson I learned in Scouting, was not merely the importance of trying things I didn’t enjoy – it was the ability to learn how to enjoy those same things.”

    What about priorities? Success doesn’t mean winning everything. It means different things to everyone, sure, but in general people agree to something like the top of Maszlow’s hierarchy of needs – self actualization, respect of peers, etc.

    To reach the top of the hierarchy, you don’t need to win everything. You just need to win where it’s important. As your young writer says, aren’t you allowed to hang out with friends? Shared activities provide a focus for group bonding, even if nobody really cares about the actual activities. See also – Christian youth groups, animation clubs, some study groups.

    Choosing which parts of your life you focus and develop, and which you enjoy as they are, is a major part of real success. Just because you don’t become the best stamp collector in the world, or convert the greatest number of people, doesn’t mean you’ll have a crappy life. (In fact, prioritizing academic pursuits such as the honor roll might be a more valuable choice, depending on your personal circumstances.)

  20. AMEN Mike. It was a tough road to earn my Eagle Scout Award. Priorities had to be established and they came with sacrifices. If I had to do over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.

    N.E.S.A Life Member

  21. While I don’t necessarily disagree with many of the principles Mike espouses regarding achieving goals, I think what he misses in the Eagle/not Eagle question is that a boy may enjoy Boy Scouts without the goal being to make Eagle. Mike’s response is premised on the notion that the only reason to be in Boy Scouts is to achieve Eagle, and not being particularly interested in making Eagle demonstrates apathy toward this exclusive purpose, and thus an indifference toward achieving goals generally. Although I made Eagle in high school, I don’t particularly care if my son chooses that as his goal. He really enjoys Boy Scouts because he enjoys seeing his friends, enjoys the camping trips and has loved the merit badges he has earned thus far, but making Eagle has never been much of a priority. That’s not why he is in Boy Scouts. To have a different goal is not the same thing as being apathetic about reaching goals, and Mike’s response seems to miss this distinction.

    I don’t know how many more years my son will participate in Boy Scouts. Maybe 1. Maybe 2. Maybe he’ll stay in until 18. But at some point it is likely that the activities about which he is far more competitive (Tae Kwon Do, guitar, chess) may eclipse other activities like Boy Scouts. He is very accomplished in these other activities, and in them his goal is to be the very best. In TKD, for example, his goal is to compete, to win, and to reach the highest belt level he can. At some point his passion for that might cause him to give up activities like Boy Scouts, which he really enjoys because it is fun, but for which making Eagle has never really been on his mind. He is getting from Boy Scouts exactly what he is in it for. To suggest that he is somehow doing it wrong because he wants something different out of it than making Eagle is wrong-headed. I agree that people often mask fear with artificial apathy, but to make a sweeping generalization that any boy who participates in Boy Scouts for reasons other than making Eagle is practicing habits and attitudes that could be dangerous to his success in life is just dead wrong. It all depends on what you are in it for.

  22. Who really cares if the boy makes eagle scout. As Mike said not everyone who becomes one goes on to lead a glorious life. And the comment,”…the Rank of Eagle Scout on a professional resume is the only thing from high school that is of relevance as an adult.” What? So me spending my entire high school career working to pay for college means nothing? My hours of studying to be a top student are worthless too? How about saving your best friend from drowning? Please try not to use such definitive statements in a topic where a definitive is worthless. I was a scout until I was fourteen when I realized that I had to prioritize, or fail. My parents did not push me to do anything, it was my own beliefs that led me to do this. Being a scout doesn’t mean everything, in fact I have learned more about myself, other people, and the world in general without the organization.

  23. Mike’s philosophy is pretty much the one I believe and taught for 25 years until the crumbling requirements of our education system, largely forced on us by parents trying to “protect” their children (perhaps by attempting to seriously lower the requirements for proficiency and grades so a child would not suffer from the “stress” of laying down a firm foundation of education basics in preparation for a successful and productive future), brought my career to an end (sadly) with resulting health problems–way back in 1986. Rewards are for those that earn them. Grades are not given,; they are earned. (Oh, that bonuses in this era would operate similarly!) Everyone is not a winner, nor is there a perfect life. Everyone competing in the Olympics does not receive a medal, nor do all medalists receive a gold. Trials and standards are necessary. Perhaps reading Abraham Lincoln’s biography would be helpful to those who think success and smooth sailing are givens.

    In my opinion, Mike’s message should be required reading by all parents of at least school-age and younger children. Beyond that in these terribly troubled, misled times, this should also be reading for all management personnel, government executives, legislators, lawyers, education personnel, and students studying for careers in psychology and teaching.

    I’ve probably used nearly everything I ever learned in scouting since I joined those ranks in 1950. I think of those times quite often and continually thank God for the men who sacrificed their family time to help us boys learn.

  24. Mr. Rowe,

    I happened upon this website, Josh’s letter, and your response. Thank you for your letter. I am a 12th grade English teacher and I wholeheartedly agree with your stance on “trophies” and the expectation that EVERYONE is above average. There is a line in “The Incredibles”….if everyone is special, then no one is.

    Thank you so much for voicing your thoughts and providing evidence that there are intelligent, logical, down to earth “celebrities.”


    PS – every teacher thinks their job is a dirty job. I defy you to tackle seniors for two days!!! HAHAHA

  25. Great letter Mike. More people need to be upfront and honest about the mediocracy that has been creeping into everyday life here in America. The Eagle Scout Award is not an achievement that all people will get – only 4-5 percent of ALL Boy Scouts will get there. I known many many people I’ve talked with over the years that almost got to Eagle, but just didn’t. All of those people, without exception, indicated that this was a huge mistake and they wish they made the effort. In most of these cases this did not diminish their career, but they now see the significance of finishing what they started.

    As a side note, I was in attendance at the National Jamboree this year. What a great talk. You were the highlight of the Arena show.

  26. Josh,
    From the point of view of a fellow scout, I would like to tell you that if you truly enjoy scouts then you should try for your Eagle. Now hear me out, you say you don’t quit because of your freinds. How will you feel if they get their Eagle and you don’t? I too deal with a hetic schedule I do marching band, pretty much all advanced classes and scouts along with girls, friends and the other pressures of being 16. Not once have I told myself that I won’t get my Eagle. Mike was right scouting requires a certain amount of sacrfice. I gave up most of my summer to work (and paying to do so) at a NYLT course and going to Jamboree, and campouts. Last year I missed a football game for my Ordeal. I went to a campout instead of homecoming, but yet I regret none of it. The sacrifices that scouts make to get their Eagle teaches them that life also requires sacrifice, and that’s a lesson we all learn sooner or later. By the way being an Eagle Scout can help get into college, even with straight A’s it will put you further up on the list. I know this because I have my sights on West Point. It shows people that you are trusting and a dedicated young man.
    Zack Anderson Star Scout, 16, Ohio

  27. Mike and the rest of you have covered very well much of what Joshua lists as the cause of his reluctance to push on towards Eagle. But I don’t see any discussion of one of the main points of what Joshua said. He feels that he would have to spend a lot of week-end time away from his father, leaving him with only a half day a week to see his dad. He clearly said this was not an excuse, but a reason and a very valid one in my opinion. I don’t think that is a sacrifice any of us are entitled to ask of him. Scouting is not about keeping families apart, but rather about keeping them together.

    Josh, Scouting was your time together with your father. Talk this over with him. See what he suggests. Scouting may still be able to be your time together.

  28. PS I should mention that I am the wife of an Eagle Scout, both my sons are Eagle Scouts, and I have coached many scouts in achieving the rank of Eagle Scout. I am an Ordeal OA member, my husband and one son are Brotherhood members, and one son was awarded the Vigil honor. We recognize the value of Scouting. But more important is what my husband has always said: “I would have coached the chess club if that was what my boys would ultimately rather have done. It was all about that time together.”

  29. Mike,

    I want to post this on our Scout web site to try to explain what Eagle means. I am a ASM who has taken kids to Sea Base, 50 plus camp-outs, and to Philmont. I have helped 11 kids from my troop complete their Eagle project. It has been a honor to spend time with the fine young men of my troop and I would not trade any of the time spent over the last 7 years working with these Scouts. My Son is now a Junior in High School and is ready to start his Eagle project. I keep trying to tell my Son it is not an easy project, and it should not be easy, but he will be able to complete it. I Hope I encourage all Scouts to do the best and live up to the Scout Laws and Oath. I hope when my son finishes his Eagle project he will understand what a GREAT accomplishment it is.

    Thank you for your time

    Scott Frankland

    PS: We both love Dirty jobs and Deadliest Catch

  30. This is fantastic, Mike. I really enjoyed your responses here. Another thing I would add is that “too busy” just means it’s not a priority. I really liked what you said about being afraid to fail. Being an Eagle is supposed to be hard; it wouldn’t be worth it if it weren’t.

    I didn’t know you were an Eagle Scout! (My son’s Court of Honor is next week, and I found your post while looking for something to put on his cake 🙂

  31. “You can see it in classes where the teachers grade on a “curve.” (Since when is a 75% a B+?)”

    You, Mr. Rowe, have clearly never taken an upper level biology class (or hell, a lot of lower level ones meant for ‘weeding out’). It is considered EXCELLENT if you get three quarters of the questions correct.

  32. Hey Mike, This is Ozzie in Cadott,Wi. I desperately have to find a late model Toyota Rav4. Where can I find all those used Toyota’s that you keep yapping about in The Ford. COMMERCIALS? Thanks lots. Ozzie.

  33. Mike:

    Absolutely “spot on” as the kids say!! I am a 52 year old black guy who earned Eagle while living on a military base in Kentucky. I can “Amen!” with you about Eagle and its overall importance. I can also state with absolute certainty that the many things I’ve been able to do in my life — BSA paraprofessional in eastern Kentucky and northeastern Tennessee in the late 70s; Army Soldier for 2 years and officer for 28 years; and all of the jobs in-between — none of that would have happened without the influnce, self-confidence, and experiences I gained through Scouting and in particular the trail leading to Eagle and several Palms afterward.

    I strongly agree with you that we’re spending too much time “making everyone feel good” and less time emphasizing that “people have to endure loss and failure”. When I talk with Scouting volunteers, I talk about the idea of “letting Scout youth leaders fly or fall on their own.” As a Scouting adult, my job in life is to coach, mentor and advise the young men and women who lead our Scouting units — and to allow them to make mistakes and correct them (“catch them” as they are falling”). Some parents feel that’s cruel — but those are the same parents who complain when their son doesn’t get the “humpty-hump” badge for just “calling it in” when other Scouts are really earning the badge for their best efforts — win lose or draw (wasn’t that a game show? *smiling*).

    Giving a young man the tools they need to confidently go out into the world and at least ATTEMPT the task at hand is what Scouting to me has always been about. I never considered myself a “token” anything — I earned everything I’ve earned because I was willing to go do the extra camping. The extra hiking and bicycling. The extra conservation and community service projects — with other groups I never knew existed until I brought my brown hands in with theirs. My parents wanted me to be in Scouting initially because their friends’ children — well EVERYONE’S children — was in Scouting. When life changed, and Scouting was no longer “in”, they wanted me out. I refused and in that matter was happy with the teen rebellion. Being the “sole black guy” or the “only black guy” had nothing to do with it; to me, Scouting’s universal appeal of “if you meet the requirements, you earn the award or badge” worked. Color or ethnicity never mattered…and in the real world, while many places try to “make it matter”, experience, hard work and sacrifice wins out all of those other things EVERY TIME.

    As I tell people, “I can tell you’re an Eagle Scout without you informing or enlightning me”.

    Josh needed to read what you wrote — and I will be using parts of it as I continue to talk with and encourage people to become involved, support and defend what Scouting REALLY is all about: the development of strong citizens of quality character. Like you. Thanks!

    — Settummanque!

    (LTC Mike Walton, USAR Ret.)

  34. I totally agree. Today’s society is one of entitlement where everyone feels that they deserve a piece of the pie simply because they exist. 100 years ago people were keenly aware that if you don’t work, you don’t eat. If you are lazy, you won’t succeed. We live in a lazy welfare society where people feel entitled to reward even if they deliver mediocrity. As an Eagle Scout (2002) and now a Scoutmaster (at age 26), I can tell you that it takes hard work and a constant goal of excellence to succeed. Not everyone is cut out to be an Eagle Scout. Some just don’t have what it takes; but that does not mean every Scout shouldn’t try their hardest to do the best they can.

  35. Mike,

    You are brilliant!

    Had this same discussion with my youngest son tonight. For inspiration, and to make sure I handled it correctly, I looked for your original letter. I discovered this one instead.

    You’ve nailed it! Just as you always do.

    Thank you so very much for your commitment to Boy Scouting and the eloquent way you speak in the exact manner a 14-to 17-year-old boy requires.

    Most every kid needs a break by the time he hits Life Scout. I understand and appreciate that. They are tired. They have been challenged. A LOT.

    Honestly, parents could use a bit of a break at this point as well, whether they realize it or not. Parents at this point get very excited and driven to get their son to Eagle as fast as possible. What they too often fail to remember – it is the boy’s award, not theirs. We, as parents, need to be able to let go and allow our son to grasp the significance of the award and motivate himself to earn it.

    It is a difficult step for us and a topic of a great many discussions with parents I have as a professional Scouter. It is hard for a parent to release control and let the boy decide for himself. The beauty of Boy Scouts is…. That is EXACTLY what the boy has been working toward all along. The decision to finish what he started….. Or not….

    You are not only a famous and attractive role model to boys, but you are also an influential outsider who can reinforce the message every parent, Scoutmaster, and mentor is attempting to convey. And you do it in a humorous and relatable manner.

    Long-story-short, you are the best. And I truly appreciate the time and effort you put into every response you make to our young men. You don’t have to do it, but you choose to do so anyway. For that, I as a parent of two boys and a Scouter through-and-through, am eternally grateful.

    Kara Asmus

    BSA Field Director, Northeast Nebraska

  36. Mike,

    A commenter on Bryan on Scouting had a link to this topic. I bet there will be a jump in comments here. I know Josh wrote this letter two years ago, now.

    I read Josh’s letter and the replies, then looked for something in the added comments. I didn’t read every one, but I didn’t catch one thing. Josh writes that he is doing very well, thank you, in school and in the swim team. Josh, naturally is going to the very best college that he can. I’d like to add my two cents to that topic.

    Any college worth its diploma is looking to produce well rounded scholars. If you’re very good in biology, for example, try to get a BS degree without courses in humanities or social sciences. Yup, American History, too, along with microbiology and genetics.

    What does Eagle Rank have to do with this? Look at the 21 merit badges: First Aid, Citizenship (3 of ’em), Personal Management, Outdoors (Swim, Bike, or Hike), Family Life, and more. Are these connected? Some more, some less. This is “Breadth”! Becoming an Eagle requires many things, like those breadth requirements.

    Now, is admission to U of I/Urbana or Yale competitive? Others have commented on the “tip the scale” value of Eagle over Not-Eagle. Don’t you think your “best college” will need to cut all those applications down to what they can take in? Eagle is not the guarantee, but you can bet it can help in two ways. For the college, they see a candidate who can deal with many varying interests, and would be a good fit in the student body. For Josh, he has tackled a Life-Size project with success. Won’t college be easier for this experience?

    Go Josh, continue your studies with excellence. Aim for the school of YOUR choice – not only with the hopes just to make that cut. And get the Life Experience that is unique to being an Eagle Scout!

  37. Mike

    On yesterday’s show you helped cows to deliver their babies. The last cow you helped, you stood about 4 feet away from her, pulled the calf out and let it drop to the ground while still holding onto its feet. It’s head had to hit first! Why didn’t you get someone to hold its body and lay it to the ground instead of letting it bang to the ground. I thought that was so cruel and insensitive!

  38. When these kids get out of school, the real world will rear its ugly head, then they’ll realize who and what they really are, and who controls this world. It will matter little if you are an Eagle Scout or not.

  39. Joshua,

    There are things in life you have to find out what is more important to you, You posting about the Rank of Eagle Scout and asking do you have to Be and Eagle to Succeed!! Well this is where common sense comes in, One you don’t have the Rank of Eagle so how would you know what its like to Succeed as an Eagle!!! You don’t because to me you go to Scout meetings cause your friends are there or because it gets you away from things in life!! No,Becoming a Scout,Second Class, First Class, Star, Life and Eagle Scout, That takes commitment.

    One thing I learned over the years of working my way up in Ranks is you don’t go there cause your friends are there. I wouldn’t have got anything accomplished if i did that! I went there and had a goal set and I wanted to become and Eagle Scout!! I became and Eagle scout this year!!! It took commitment and lot of work to EARN the Rank of Eagle Scout.

    The Rank of Eagle, Will help you succeed in a lot of things those things you have to find out, Like Eagle scout will help you in the School “College”, Work “Jobs”, Military,Etc. and Best of all what you will get out of becoming and Eagle is You never Quit, you kept going even when the going was Tough, Nothing in the world is going to be handed on a Silver Platter. You got to Earn what you want. Mike Rowe, EARNED his Eagle, I Earned my Eagle, As to Very Few EARNED There’s!!

    So, With that being said! It’s up to you to find out if you want to EARN the Rank of Eagle Scout, Are you willing to make that commitment, Some things you have to make time for!! Heck when I got in to the Boy Scouts I was in football, School, I made the time to make it to scouts, Even if I was in my Football Uniform I made it to the Meeting. You got to make Sacrifices in life. When I got to High school, I sacrificed droping ROTC and Playing Football, because I couldn’t do both. But yet I still managed to make good grades, make it to practice and make it to the Scout meeting.

    So Joshua, Eagle Scout is an Amazing Award to Earn!! You got to do the nasty and the hard stuff to Earn the Good stuff. Just think about that!!

  40. Hello Mike, though this conversation was written two years ago, it is more current today than ever. Well said and greatly appreciated. I must say that I have successfully used similar approaches to Scouts who were unsure about their Scouting and Eagle committments: Don’t lower the standards -raise the bar!

    In todays erra of PC, your direct approach is a wonderful breath of air in an otherwise polluted era and I thank you for that.

    By the way, my son recently earned his Eagle, so thank you for your letter, which was straight from the heart and right between the eyes as always! 🙂 Thanks for all that you do.

  41. That was a very well thought out and thoughtful answer. I teach a girls group through my church that also involves badges and requirements for honors. Whenever the little darlings moan and complain about the requirements I always remind them that if it was easy there would be no honor to achieving it

  42. Hi Mike,

    I guess I am not surprised that there is a forum with comments about your Eagle Scout letters. I attended an Eagle ceremony on Thursday and yours was one of the letters of “commendation” received and read at the scout’s ceremony. I thought your letter was in very poor taste.

    While I’m aware of you certainly (I’m from Baltimore too), I can’t say I follow your shows however my perception of you before and after the letter are very very different. What I heard I think were the words of someone that thinks of themselves as pretty superior to the average person, certainly the buffoon you refer to from your former troop and apparently just about everyone else it seems.

    Your “revelation” that the letters from the White House are form letters is meaningless, as you know it would be impossible to draft a personal message to hundreds if not thousands of boys and girls each month for this and other deserved accolades. Strangely, you decided in your superiority to, rather than express heartfelt congratulations, recognition and encouragement to deflate the joy of the moment with stupid commentary. Your message discouraging sitting on your laurels is a good one no doubt, however the method you use to make that point is hurtful and petty.

    Why not take the high road Mike, and tell these youth that there effort was meaningful and taught them important lessons for their life, which as you clearly point out will not be a guaranteed cakewalk due to their Eagle status, but that goes really, without saying. Unless of course your purpose was more about you and not them.


    Mark Leuba

    Ellicott City, MD

  43. Hi Mike,saw you on Huckabee tonight (Sept 1) and agree with everything you said about college and learning a trade. I tried to convince my son many years ago to do the same to no avail. He went the computer route(as did thousands of others) and now he’s 51 and working at minimum pay at whatever job he can get and keep.It just breaks my heart that he did’nt listen to me.But, what does a dad know anyway? I did’nt finish college and spent 28 years in civil service for the federal government and have been retired for 19 years now.Keep up the good work!

  44. I was watching you on Fox News discussing the idea that college isn’t a must for everything. I agree. I agree that the ideology of working smart and not hard is rather idiotic. Why are the trades so overlooked and etc. The trades, at least here in Michigan, are so controlled by the unions, unless you know someone the likelihood of getting into a trade is low. And while I have always loved the trades and the hands on kind of stuff that is done, it just isn’t an EOE kind of career choice. I loved the idea of being an auto mechanic and went to a trade school to learn it. But since I am a girl there was no real fair, impartial way of breaking into that trade. Combined with the harassment received in the workplace came the fact that the workplace was not designed for women. So if I even got a low on the totem pole type of job but in my element, I was harassed, didn’t get paid that much and never would, and there weren’t the right kinds of bathrooms, uniform changing areas and clean up area that I could use. None of the places I worked at accommodated women. Their excuse was that most women didn’t do these kinds of jobs and so they could not justify spending the money on these extra accommodations. That may be true. But why? Is it because most women aren’t interested in the trades? I guess this could be true. Or is it because women sort of know that they won’t be treated fairly in those environments so they don’t go into those careers. I have never been treated fairly in environments that were typically seen as men’s occupations. Their attitude is that these jobs should be saved for the guys who really need them, because they have families to feed etc. While this seems rather archaic in its mentality, it does indeed still exist.

    On the whole I think the majority of people, men and women alike, don’t consider trades because the unions just make it so hard to get into them. Unions are like dealing with the mob. THEY DO NOT promote fairness and equality for anyone who would like to get into the trades. If you have no one to sponsor you, then you’re screwed. I don’t care who you are, you’re not getting a job as a millwright, an electrician, a plumber, or whatever. You do not just walk in off of the street and apply to a union job. It just doesn’t happen. The unions are screwing up the trades. I see want ads in the paper sometimes looking for skilled trades people and offering really nice and very livable wages. What has happened is that because of the unions, there are no longer enough trained trades people out there and now companies are struggling to find people with experience. The experienced trades man is retired or getting ready to do so and so there’s a lack of skilled trades people out there now. Companies or unions or who ever is truly in charge is going to have to start training people again in order to keep good people in these fields. In Michigan at least, unions have the apprenticeship programs for these jobs, locked up from the mainstream public. In other words you can’t just get into an apprenticeship program without the union’s sponsorship. You can go ahead and spend your money to take the classes but when you get out you still won’t be able to obtain employment because the union decides who gets the jobs. Your education does not.

    All I am saying Mike is that there is a lot more to this than meets the eye. It isn’t JUST that people seem to not want to get into the trades, they probably can’t or are finding it very hard to do, so they give up.

    On the note of don’t work harder work smarter idea, what I have found is that for 30+ years of my work life, I have worked really hard. The problem is that I could never live on what I made. I would not mind working hard if it meant I could live on it. But if it doesn’t mean I can live on it, then I am NOT working hard anymore, to make a poverty level wage. I have been at some jobs working my butt off for 6 to 8 years and never was there any intent on the company’s part to recognize the hard job I was doing and then adjust my wage to a better place or move me up into something that would make that happen. That’s why the philosophy of working smarter and not harder has become popular I think. Because it seems the hardest jobs that are non-union are some of the lowest wage crap jobs out there and they never progress to anything better, at least I feel this is especially for women.

    And at the moment, here in Michigan I have been out of work for 6 years, due to a few things a lay off being one of the reasons. Another reason as that I had to take care of my parents for some of that 6 years so for the last few years, I could not even get a job that took me away from home. They have since passed away and I have been looking in earnest again for the last two months and there’s nothing I can even apply to most of the time. I realize that with current government policies in place this is creating unsure futures for companies, I am going to have to take anything I can get and it’s probably going to be another one of the same old kind of jobs I have always had. Another go nowhere low wage job. PERIOD. I don’t have enough valuable experience to get a job outside of Michigan. I could never make enough money right away, to move out on it. That’s the problem with the jobs I could get. They didn’t give me valuable experience that I could use someplace else and negotiate a better wage. Most companies look at my experience on my resume and think SO? It’s just horrible. I feel like such a failure. The experience Merry Go Round is such a drag. Before the bad economy I could at least find a job albeit a terrible job. They were those jobs that were a dime a dozen and you could get one easy. NOW? I can’t even apply to most of the limited jobs that are even being offered. When it’s hard to get a job even at a place like Meijer’s or Target, you know the economy isn’t recovering.

    I agree with your feelings that the trades should get a fairer shake and blue-collar work should be seen with as much respect as white-collar work. But there’s more to it than that I am afraid. Food for thought Mr. Rowe. Solve those problems I have pointed out, namely the unions, and I’d go to work and work hard just as long as I could LIVE on it.

  45. Hello Mike,
    I am the Scoutmaster of a small troop here in a small town. As it has been since I became Scoutmaster 17 years ago our troop goes on a big adventure every couple of years. These adventures range from scout camp in a different state to the Boundary waters in Minnesota, and the biggest, a trip to Quebec Canada to the oldest continually operating scout camp in the world.

    The reason for these big adventures are many. They help a fella realize that anything can be accomplished if you really want to and work at it, and that small town boys can have big adventures. Most of the boys come from families that are nowhere to the point of being able to just fork over the cash, and that is one of the main points. To get people working together for a shared goal, together.

    My boggle is that to go to Canada will effectively eliminate two of our boys who are just starting to play high school football, and should they decide to forgo a week of football in early July, will put us on the bad side of their parents. We have in the past adapted to the dead-time, but things in Canada don’t seem to run that way….something about the season being a little later.

    The whole reason we went to Canada the first time was that one of our parents was a Queen Rover Scout from Scouts Canada and talked about his experiences as he grew. His boy made his Eagle just months before his father passed away from cancer.

    Our approach in the troop has always been that a scout can do many things and we have seen them accomplish that over and over. However, how would I approach a Coach that this is something that a boy might do and still play football. It is from the football side that I see a mentality that says that a choice must be made. 17 years ago, one of our young men dropped out part way through what was the first championship season for that school in 18 years. He stated that to finish eagle meant more to him than a ring. He worked very hard and had one of the best projects I have seen, the restoration of what we all thought was a small and forgotten cemetery out in the county that turned out to be about 5 times the size it appeared.

    I certainly don’t want to exclude them, but I am ever an optimist and believe that there is always a way, it’s just a matter of how everything is started. When I was a scout and earned my Eagle in 1974 I never had the opportunity to play in school sports and I believe these fellas should be able to do this and scouting. Thanks

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