Commander's Message April 2017

One of the few perks of getting older (did I tell you this is my Birthday month?) is learning from the mistakes of others. I would like to think I could also learn from my own mistakes if I ever make any. 🙂

Some of us learn from our mistakes while others trip over a mistake made, and then they just pick themselves up and forget they tripped. When that happens, it allows us to make the same mistake time and again.

One of the things I learned is to be very wary of anyone who offers to share their sage wisdom with others and they are quick to preface their advice with something like, “I have no personal agenda,” or, “I have no agenda, I’m just trying to help.”If you look up the word agenda, you’ll find it is synonymous with “plan.” So why would someone without a plan want to give me suggestions for a plan? I will tell you right now I have a plan, personal and professional. Actually, I have more than one of each. I would like to think my plans are not ominous and like all other plans, they change from time to time depending on the situation, new information, and yep, you guessed it; age!

If someone tells you they have no agenda, they are really telling you they have a hidden agenda. And rarely is that in your best interest. Why keep it hidden? Are they embarrassed by their agenda? Is it more in their best interest than yours? Hmm. Don’t get me wrong. I welcome ideas, suggestions, advice, and recommendations from anyone and everyone. I won’t always take the advice, but I’ll always listen and consider it. As Commander, it is commonplace for folks to want to help me through my year and ensure I don’t do too much that is VERY stupid. Thanks to all who have helped, and thanks in advance for the advice yet to come. But if the advisor begins the conversation by telling me they have no agenda, I’m not as likely to take their advice as I would otherwise.

With all that said above, and with April being the start of election season, I have some advice for anyone interested in serving The American Legion in a leadership position at the Post, District,

Department, and National levels. I will preface my advice with, “I have an agenda!” And I’ll tell you what it is. I want our great organization to remain great, to grow and to continue serving our Veterans and our communities in the best way possible. So here’s my advice. Don’t pursue a position just to be a “hat wearer.” Sadly, we’ve had too many of those in the past and serving right now. You know who they are. They are the people who want a position just for the color of the cap or for the position, but once they get there, they do NOTHING!

Pursue a position because you want to make a positive difference and help us grow. Learn as much about the job as possible that you are pursuing prior to getting the job. Don’t just look around at the current people doing it and say, “If they can do it, I can too.” They may not be doing it in the best way to serve what is needed. If you have desires to be a Post Commander, don’t start by running for Post Commander. Run for Post Historian, or Sergeant-at-Arms, or some other position. Learn the mechanics of the Post, the history, the way things have been done in the past, and the people who are working to make it successful (often the people behind the scenes advising and helping get things done are key to being successful as a leader).

The same is true for all levels of The American Legion. You don’t learn what you need to know to be truly successful if you don’t “pay your dues” and learn first. You only get one year (in most cases) in the role as Commander. Don’t squander that time trying to figure out where the HQ is located. Think about the legacy you will leave if you can’t do your job because you didn’t take the time to learn it. Do you want to be just a footnote, or do you want to make a difference? It’s up to you.

Okay, I’m off my soapbox for now. There’s my advice for you to consider or just ignore. I have learned that often the best advice I’ve received is not necessarily what I wanted to hear, but it’s what I needed to hear. So take it in the context that I really want anyone who wants to rise and serve our great organization to do it for the right reasons. If you’re not doing it to support our 4 Pillars, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. Strive to Be Part Of The Solution!

Lastly, if you haven’t heard there’s a rumor that the entire month of April is a great time to celebrate a special someone’s Birthday month. Just sayin’.

For God and Country,

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