VAPE'd Crusaders

If you’ve followed The Iron Project (TIP) for any length of time, you have likely discerned that we are highly susceptible to CSAUP (Completely Stupid And Utterly Pointless) events that inevitably provide lessons that are anything but CSAUP.  This weekend was no different as Tim, Dave and I all found ourselves “on the hoof” in the Queen City as we participated in the annual Charlotte Marathon.

While Tim led the first-ever Ruck Division in the half-marathon, Dave and I joined the Speed for Need Veterans Day team that gave World War II and Korean War veterans the opportunity to participate in the marathon relay by riding along in special racing chairs.  Dave and I are both veterans, having served respectively in the Army and Navy.  Between us we have three decades of military leadership experience, and while we’re not elderly, we are both … how shall I say this … seasoned.  With our military experience and relative “seasoning,” you might reasonably assume that one of us led this special event.  

Speed for Need


The Speed for Need Veterans Day event was spearheaded by a young, non-veteran affectionately known by his F3 nickname of “Tolkien” (and to the rest of the world as Kevin Young).  Why did salty veterans like Dave and I (along with several other veterans) eagerly submit ourselves to Kevin’s young, non-veteran leadership for this event?   

He VAPE’d us.

No, he didn’t blow nicotine-laced vapor in our faces.  He had a VISION.  He ARTICULATED it to us.  He PERSUADED us to join his effort.  Finally, he ENCOURAGED us along the way.  He VAPE’d us.

When it comes to VAPE’ing others, the Vision is the easiest part.  Articulating it is a little harder, but do-able for most leaders. And Encouragement tends to come naturally for any good leader who sees others join his cause.

We find that it’s the Persuasion where would-be leaders often trip up. Many leaders fail to understand that what seems blindingly obvious and great about an idea to them might not be obvious to those who are cut from a different cloth or who don’t share the same passions.

In this case, Kevin persuaded Dave and me to join his effort with an irresistible combination of Character, Competence and Commitment.

Character: Dave and I both trust Kevin. We know his intentions are pure and his character is strong. He has demonstrated selfless virtue to us time and again as an F3 leader and as the founder of the Speed for Need effort.

Competence: Kevin started Speed for Need this past summer. In just a few months, he has shown himself to be expert at partnering with race organizers to shine a spotlight on participants whose presence via racing chair adds to the quality of the event. Prior to this weekend’s race, Speed for Need had allowed disabled children to participate in several races and breast cancer survivors to take part in the Susan G. Komen event. Tolkien’s communications are clear. His PR is perfect. His logistics are laudable.  Anyone joining one of his Speed for Need events knows it will be a well-run, high-impact experience.

Commitment:  This is Kevin’s leadership trump card.  His commitment to the Speed for Need cause is palpable.  He’s all over the Charlotte metro area making amazing things happen. His commitment to the cause is contagious – once he VAPEs you, you can’t help but want to join in.

To get a sense of what I’m talking about, I invite you to check out this video of Saturday’s event (and while you’re on YouTube, you can check out some of the other Speed for Need event videos).

At TIP, we know that leadership is not simply about age or experience.  It’s about VAPE.  And while it’s a simple acronym, there’s a lot to discover in analyzing VAPE as a leadership model.  We’d love to have an opportunity to help your organization develop VAPE’d Crusaders. Please contact us to learn more!

Rob Cannon