On Being Yourself

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time playing street hockey during the warm seasons and pond hockey during the frozen one. As we were in New Hampshire, we all wanted to be players from the Boston Bruins. My brother would usually pretend he was Bobby Orr. I always liked the scrappy players, so I used to yell, “I’m Bobby Schmautz!”, and the other guys would claim who they were. We were kids, it was fun, and in true 1970’s hockey fashion many of the games ended with a fist fight.

But that mindset of copying your heros can become a pathology when you’re all grown up. A quick glance at bushcraft on YouTube shows you a lot of people who immitate the survival tv flavor of the week. They fashion-draft their clothing and copy their mannerisms, looking for validation and more views by associating with current trends and celebrities. I’m not a fan of such immitation.

A guy from outside of Boston named Emerson from a while back had some cogent words on being yourself:

Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession. That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him.

Being yourself and encouraging others to do so as well is especially important when working with young people. It’s more challenging because the media promotes a culture of celebrity worship by idealizing them. I make it a point to ask kids what THEY think about something, and let them know that I don’t care what someone else said about it.

So here’s to bucking trends and defying convention. Be yourself, don’t imitate. And you can count on me to be myself. Unless I’m being Bobby Schmautz.


Blog, Educational Philosophy

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Harry

    Well said.

    YouTube has its place and can be a great way of introducing people to the outdoors, camping, bushcraft, etc., but it can be hard to wade the chaff to get to the wheat. Your idea of getting personal input instead of parrot replies is a good point. I have the same problem with a few of our newer bush buddies (adults).

    I’ve been told I’m not a bushcrafter because of the knife I use, the clothes I wear and the bag I sleep in. For some reason it doesn’t seem to matter that I get the job done or have mastered the skills because I don’t look the part. Sad, really, when I have just as much fun and am just as effective as the poster children.

    Thanks for the post and the insight.

  • Thanks Harry,
    I’m not a big fan of looking the part either. As bushcraft becomes more mainstream I think we can expect those outward manifestations of identifying with certain gear or celebrities to become more common. Sad but inevitable.

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