1998: My brother Josh and I were able to attend Region I LTC, the DeMolay Leadership conference that guys from my part of New York attended. It was a different age and time. I had a cell phone with a pull out antenna, and 120 minutes of talk time each month. We had a dial up modem and a 50 megabyte computer. The most popular movie was “Saving Private Ryan” and this young guy named Paul Ryan was running for his first time in the House. I was Chaplain of my chapter, and Josh was the Senior Steward.
2018: My model of a phone is literally in the museum, “Saving Private Ryan” is a new classic, and Paul Ryan is Speaker of the House and retiring from Congress. Technology and phones have advanced in numerous ways. Josh and I went on to join the illustrious ranks of Senior DeMolays.
A lot has changed in twenty years, what hasn’t changed is the amazing experience that is a DeMolay Leadership Conference. I’ve been lucky to have attended Region I LTC and the Ohio DeMolay Leaders of Excellence (ODLE Conference) as a youth. As an adult I’ve done work at Garden State LTC, ODLE and for several years KeyMan. While fashion has changed, technology has changed, the heart and soul of a DeMolay Leadership conference remains the same. To provide you with the tools to be successful in DeMolay and in Life.
As we prep for KeyMan I came up with some general things that we can do to make the most out of the KeyMan experience:
1) Meet new people: I think back to my cabin (yes, we stayed in the woods it was an experience, my parents were taking bets if I would survive the week.) I knew one DeMolay from Rochester from a few state events, but did not even know his name. In a week, we had become a cohesive and friendly group, not necessarily best friends, but good brothers. Many of the DeMolays in my cabin would go on to be State Officers and leaders on the national and international level. The advisors that ran the conference have remained good counselors and mentors to this day.
2) Be Open to New Ideas: I came from a chapter that had particular strong traditions, and a part of the Great State of New York that was strong in DeMolay. There was a lot of “Well that’s the way we do it” and “We’ve always done it that way.” Interacting with DeMolays from across New England and Eastern Canada I was introduced to new concepts and new ways of doing things. Bringing back those skills to my home chapter really improved how our chapter functioned and set us up for the next stage of success. Learning to be open to new ideas at age 15 enabled me to be better at accepting new ideas in college and in my professional career.
3) Letting go of the Ego: There’s an old comic strip called “Pogo” about a possum and he famously riffed on Admiral Perry’s line “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Often times the people who can be the best limiting factor on our success is ourselves. When we come to KeyMan our previous offices, our previous experiences are helpful, but they do not represent the pinnacle of knowledge. We all have things to contribute and we are all still learning.
4) Try Something New: As humans we tend to be set in our ways. We tend to go to the same restaurants, watch the same type of television programs, and wear the same type of clothes. It is routine. It is easy. It works for us. Yet, it also holds us back. During KeyMan you will be exposed to new activities. DeMolay has introduced me to a lot of new and different things from line dancing, eating grits, doing yoga, playing euchre, and even the trust and brotherhood exercises. This week, try out something new, perhaps learning a new ceremonial part, or playing softball, or some other activity. It will enrich your life!
5) Sit With Different People: I took an amazing seminar on unconscious bias and one of the things the facilitator talked about is our tendency to talk to the same people. We look to our right or to our left and we talk to that same person. I’ve noticed it at several leadership conferences where people will sit next to the same person all the time and that’s who they engage with. We have at least 15 meals together this week, switch up who you sit with, learn and talk to new people.
6) Get Plenty of Sleep: KeyMan is a marathon, not a sprint. Getting plenty of sleep is critical to making the most out of the week. I know the first night it’s kind of tempting to stay up way past lights out. Sadly the morning comes very fast! Getting a full night’s sleep will mean you will stay engaged and ready for an awesome class experience.
7) Have Fun: The upcoming week we will be learning a lot of new concepts, activities and events. It is important that throughout it that we have fun and grow together as DeMolays!
8) The Sixth Preceptor: Twenty years ago when I was at Region I LTC we were issued two tee shirts that were NOT laundered the entire week, it would be 120 degrees in the shade and someone would forget to bathe on a regular basis. By the time the end of the week came around for the DeMolay Degree it really did smell like you were there in the middle ages. Twenty years later, we have state of the art laundry machines and your shirts are freshly laundered every day. We are doing our part. We need you to do your part. Please make sure that you awake with plenty of time to shower, brush your teeth and attended to that bodily cleanness that we all practice. One year a young man forgot to bring his deodorant stick. Another year a young man forgot toothpaste. Another year a young man forgot his soap. If you’re reading this before you arrive at KeyMan please remember them. If you discover you’re missing a critical hygiene product, please let your advisor know. We will be in close quarters and we will all appreciate it.