Why You Should Always Remain an Entered Apprentice

In preparation for a MM degree I was rehearsing my small part which, in the lecture, explains the steps on the Master’s carpet.  I began to think about the line that explains in our youth we should “…occupy our minds in the attainment of useful knowledge.” The explanation then continues to direct us to use this knowledge when reaching manhood in practicing the tenets of Masonry, so that in age,  “…we may enjoy the happy reflection consequent on a well-spent life…”

On the surface, this divides our work as Masons into three distinct parts, and one could say, “OK, I learn as an Entered Apprentice, then use what I learned as a Fellowcraft and then when I’m a Master Mason I can sit back and enjoy myself.” This naïve reasoning ignores the concept Freemasony is a learning system of morality and behavior that contemplates a Mason must be a continual student.

So, if we are to be in a constant state of knowledge acquisition, then it should follow that our mindset should always be one of an Entered Apprentice – a learner.

There is a term in Zen Buddhism which means “beginner’s mind“. It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would.

The Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki, says the following about the beginner’s mind:

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”

As a Masonic leader, if you assume an attitude of a beginner and believe something can be learned from everyone you encounter, you begin to experience the power of other positive leadership qualities.

You will find yourself:

  1. Practicing Humility – My title means nothing and my Brothers are my equals
  2. Listening – I must listen to understand. If I am listening, I am learning
  3. Building Relationships – As I listen I begin to know more about my Brothers and how I can help them become better men
  4. Being a Servant – Your focus changes from looking inward to looking outward
  5. Remaining Teachable – You will look for ways to gather more and more knowledge

As an Entered Apprentice we were all placed in a particular location in the lodge room to begin our Masonic life. We must daily continue to build from there.

What will you learn today?

Have a Great Masonic Day!

How To Start Leading Yourself

Nate Dana, PM New England Lodge #4

If we would survey the leaders in our various Masonic organizations and ask the question posed in the picture “Do you want to be a better leader?” I am going to assume that 100% of the men you ask would say “Sure, You Bet!” Although I guess there could be one or two who might say “Nah, I think I’m doing OK” but I’m going to put them in the category of what John Maxwell calls Phase One of leadership growth and this he describes as; “I don’t know what I don’t know.”

So if almost all leaders would like to improve their leadership skills why don’t they? What’s holding them back?

Professor Richard L. Daft of Vanderbilt University published a book entitled “The Executive and the Elephant,” in which he explains that each of us has two selves that he calls our “inner executive” and our “inner elephant.” The inner executive is the self that is thoughtful, circumspect and rational and the other self, the inner elephant, is habit bound, impulsive, and emotion driven.

His book offers practical ways that leaders can begin to achieve inner excellence by recognizing the power of the inner elephant and work to overcome it thus avoiding behaviors such as procrastination, confrontation, overreacting, and criticizing. There are exercises in the book that will help you start leading yourself which of course is the first person a leader needs to learn how to lead.

If you want to be a better leader, then you need to begin to lead yourself. In Professor Daft’s book, there is a chapter titled “How to Start Leading Yourself.” Here are the areas covered:

  1. Engage Your Intention – visualize and verbalize your intention

  2. Follow Through on Your Intentions – write them down, set deadlines and design tangible mechanisms to ensure your follow-through.

  3. Calm Down to Speed Up – get connected, be near others who are calm and focused, work with a partner.

  4. Slow Down to Stop Your Reactions – Stop and think, stop interrupting, detach from your emotions and impose self-punishments.

Leading yourself is not easy. Just ask anyone on a diet when someone walks into the room with two dozen doughnuts. The urge to cave in to short term pleasure is immediate and very strong. This is your inner elephant. Without a plan and mechanisms to keep you on the plan the inner elephant does take over. So as someone asked, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer, of course, is, “One bite at a time.”

So if you do want to be a better leader, recognize that there are some things you will need to change.

Albert Einstein said this: I must be willing to give up what I am, in order to become what I will be.

Have a great Masonic Day!

Putting on Your Socks Correctly

John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach of the UCLA Bruins whom he led to 10 national championships in 12 years, also believed that attention to details created success. He said this:

“I believe in the basics: attention to, and perfection of, tiny details that might commonly be overlooked. They may seem trivial, perhaps even laughable to those who don’t understand, but they aren’t. They are fundamental to your progress in basketball, business, and life. They are the difference between champions and near champions.”

He, for example, at the first basketball practice of the season, taught his players the proper way to put on their socks. He reasoning was sound; if your socks had wrinkles in them it would cause blisters and blisters during a game would hamper a players performance. This was controllable by paying close attention to the process of putting on your socks.

He believed that giving attention to the littlest of details and preparing for those things under your control, was necessary for success.

Success for Coach Wooden was believing that everything had been done to the best of your ability. His father, on the day John graduated from grade school, gave him a card and on it were some guidelines for living. One of those guidelines was to: “make each day your masterpiece.” This, along with our principles, formed the coach’s definition of success:

“Success is peace of mind that is the direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”

After he retired, he was once asked what he missed most about coaching. He said he missed the practices. He loved the process of preparation, even making sure his players put on their socks correctly.

Have you put on your socks correctly?

Have a Great Masonic Day!

 

A Guide for Daily Reflection

 

There comes a time in every effort that seemingly has been on track and progressing that momentum stalls and sometimes is lost. The little successes that were once celebrated and served as motivation cease and are replaced with setbacks.

The setbacks may not huge but are enough to cause a leader to say to himself, “why am I doing this?” Once self-doubt creeps into an effort then it can have a snowball effect and if a leader does nothing to remove it, he loses sight of his goals and sometimes just quits; either for a short while or all together.

Pastor Gordon MacDonald in his book Ordering Your Private World, calls rest “a time of looking backward.” He says we should reflect on our work and ask these questions:

  1. What does my work mean?
  2. For whom did I do this work?
  3. How well was the work done?
  4. Why did I do this?
  5. What results did I expect?
  6. What did I receive?

Leaders should always be asking these questions and if necessary “take a rest” to make sure they are answered.

Reflection should be a part of a leader’s daily routine. It allows you to evaluate and if necessary refocus or change your direction. It can be uplifting, motivational and rewarding; as well as the source of new ideas.

Reflect and have a Great Masonic Day!