It is pretty hard to step out of your comfort zone when you are literally in your comfort zone. Being in the comfort of your own home makes breaking your normal routine a little difficult. When you are at home, you find that you are always waking up in your same room, eating breakfast at the same place, going to the same places and hanging out with the same people who are doing the same things. Many people like routine; they enjoy the security of knowing what’s going to happen and when it’s going to happen and not having any surprises. Unfortunately, things can get very boring very quickly this way.
So when you make the decision to physically get out of your comfort zone, and head to camp for the summer, you have no choice but to do different things, with different people, in a totally different place. Breaking your usual routine is a little bit easier when you’re somewhere else.
Breaking up your routine is good for you for many reasons. First, it helps you to see things differently. It also help you to become more creative, more perceptive, and be OK with not being in control all the time. When you get out of your comfort zone, you are bound to make mistakes. The good thing about mistakes is that they are a learning opportunity. The more mistakes you make the more you learn. Doing things that make you nervous, afraid, or uncomfortable can be a great teaching tool. If you are normally an indoor sort of person, bike riding, rock climbing, or learning to sail may make you kind of nervous. However, trying these things exposes you to experiences that are new and exciting, and can teach you a lot about yourself.
When you expose yourself to things that are unfamiliar, it makes your brain work. When your brain is working, you’re constantly learning and growing. It is great brain exercise to step out of your comfort zone and do things that are a little different.
Another great benefit of breaking up your every day routine is that it also allows you to break bad habits. If you find that you are constantly biting your nails while you watch TV, you may be able to break that habit at camp since you will be too busy having fun to care about TV. If you have a bad habit of interrupting people, you will quickly learn to communicate more effectively by being surrounded by new people at camp. Breaking up your routine also causes you to break bad habits.
The great thing about stepping out of your comfort zone at camp is that you hardly have to do any work at all. Just by merely being at camp you are already taking the first step in changing your routine. Every morning when you wake up at camp, there is a new day ahead of you with new experiences to try, new people to meet, and new things to learn. Unless you sail, dance, create, climb, swim, bike ride, hike, and explore on a daily basis at home, being at camp is definitely going to be a change in your normal every day routine. It is going to require you to do things that make you a little nervous, but in the end will give you a boost of confidence.
Habit and routine can be comforting, and can be a great way to stay organized and on track. However, switching it up a little bit is good for your brain, good for your soul, and good for yourself confidence.
In middle March, with plans on putting our new Senior Camper building in the ground, we woke up to a big surprise. And then watched that surprise get bigger… and bigger… and bigger!
Just about three FEET of snow fell onto Camp Weequahic between March 14th and 15th. It was an impressive dump for so late in the year. Everything was covered. It would have made for some pretty incredible sledding!
And that leads me to this point for this Friday’s Campfire: you can figure out ways to make the best of almost any situation. There are really very, very few things I can think of when this idea does not apply. You know the phrase “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade?” Well… when life gives you three feet of snow, go sledding!
Now, I’m not suggesting that things won’t always be perfect. Three feet of snow certainly does put a damper on a few of our plans for the coming week. But does it help if we get all bent out of shape about things?
No, of course, it doesn’t.
We can get frustrated and stew for a bit. But, if you want to move forward and make the best of a situation, you’ve got to make some plans or workarounds. Sometimes we feel we have to be perfect and that everything needs to go exactly as planned.
Sometimes we feel we have to be perfect and that everything needs to go exactly as planned. Having run a summer camp for sixteen years, I can promise you very, very few things go exactly as planned. (Remembering my experiences when going through middle school, high school, and college only adds weight to that conclusion!)The important thing to remember is where you are trying to get to. If you are dealing with a friendship, you want to make that relationship awesome. If you are running a summer camp, you want to help families create great humans. (We do it by creating an amazing experience for everyone we meet through gratitude, attitude, and courage.)
The important thing to remember is where you are trying to get to. If you are dealing with a friendship, you want to make that relationship awesome. If you are running a summer camp, you want to help families create great humans. (We do it by creating an amazing experience for everyone we meet through gratitude, attitude, and courage.)
We’ll get through the snow just as we’ll get through anything we put our mind to. We will need to ask for help to get unstuck at times. And, sometimes, we have to use the tools available to us in creative ways. Sure, it may be a little embarrassing but those experiences are fantastic learning situations. Plus, you can laugh at yourself a bit which is always beneficial.
So, when plans don’t go exactly as you want, give yourself a few moments to be frustrated. Then, make a plan and move forward. In most situations, there are lots of ways to get things done. You just have to be creative. And, make sure to have a little fun along the way.
Have a great weekend,
(PS – As I finished up typing this, Jerry F., our long time Operations Director, facetimed me while walking around camp… in a tshirt! It seems Camp Weequahic can’t wait for summer!)
Camp is a lot of things. It’s fun and it’s gorgeous and it’s exciting. But it’s also very big. It’s acres and acres of land, its gigantic trees and sprawling landscapes and giant lakes. It is set against giant mountains and has a unique way of quickly reminding everyone who enters about how small they are in the grand scheme of things.
Camp has a funny way of putting things into perspective for both campers and staff, and it can be a humbling experience. It’s interesting how one camper who is considered “popular” at school enters the camp experience completely equal to the quiet and reserved student who doesn’t say much at school. Status at school and at home means nothing here and puts everyone on the same playing field from day one.
Take Max for example: Being the star athlete was how he defined himself at home. He was the fastest and strongest on his team, and everyone knew it. But when he got to camp, he met some other guys who were equally as talented, some even more so, and it challenged Max to find other ways to define himself. He did a lot of soul-searching that summer, and learned about the deep and foundation character traits that defined him, and learned that being a great athlete was just a part of who he was, not all of who he was.
Life lessons like this are learned all the time at camp. Campers can learn humility in other ways as well. One of the best ways to learn to be humble is by serving others. Campers see first hand how to serve others selflessly every day as they watch counselors and staff work hard for them. Campers also act as Big Brothers and Big Sisters and learn quickly what a big responsibly it is to have people look up to you.
Camp is such a unique experience, and many campers leave with a deep appreciation of the experience they were gifted. They understand that so many kids across the country don’t have access to such an innovative, hands-on, safe, fun and diverse camp experience, and they leave camp truly humbled and grateful for what they have.
Character building and life lessons are built into the foundation of Camp Weequahic. Campers learn a lot about themselves here and develop a deeper and more genuine understanding of themselves and the world around them, all while they jump, dive, sing, run, play, act, create, dance and swim the days away.
Music can be tied into so many activities and experiences at camp. From songs around the campfire to traveling songs, incorporating music into camp life just comes naturally. For campers who are interested in fine arts such as dance, music and theatre, music is a tool that can be used to express themselves in a way that written or spoken word just can’t. Dance classes give campers an artistic outlet to do what they love, and can create a strong sense of self-confidence. Camp Weequahic gives them the opportunity to explore music as a way of self-expression, and has so many benefits for the growing minds of young campers.
Whether it is singing, dancing, or playing an instrument, music works wonders on a growing, adolescent brain, and can teach them things that build their character and helps them become more productive members of society. While they are having fun with their fellow campers and counselors through music instruction, they don’t realize they are becoming more creative, more communicative, and more well- rounded in the process. At the end of the summer, many campers are proud to go home and show off their new musical abilities, and it gives them a sense of pride to have learned something new while they were away from home.
Children who learn to play an instrument at an early age benefit in many ways. It teaches perseverance, helps with math and number skills, enhances coordination, improves memory, reading and comprehension skills, and can help sharpen focus and concentration. Studies have shown that learning to play an instrument has lifelong benefits, which is why music and access to instruments is such an important part of camp life. Campers can learn to play the guitar, participate in a live show, or learn about the behind the scenes workings of a real radio station. Camp provides plenty of options for all kinds of personalities and learning styles to really dive into music and everything it can teach them.
It is safe to assume that most campers are exposed to music on a daily basis back at home, but at camp they are exposed to different types of music, which broadens their horizons and helps them become more culturally aware. They learn to appreciate different styles of music, and learn the history behind specific music styles, instruments and songs.
Camp Weequahic is all about providing children with the tools and resources they need to build their character and set up a foundation for a successful future. This goal could not be reached without the incorporation of dance, songs and musical instruments into the every day life of the campers.
No too long ago, a very smart researcher and teacher wrote an important book that changed my thinking. In Mindset, Dr. Carol Dweck discusses the differences between growth and fixed mindsets. To quote her website:
“Mindsets are beliefs – beliefs about yourself and your most basic qualities. Think about your intelligence, your talents, your personality. Are these qualities simply fixed traits, carved in stone and that’s that? Or are they things you can cultivate throughout your life?
People with a fixed mindset believe that their traits are just givens. They have a certain amount of brains and talent and nothing can change that. If they have a lot, they’re all set, but if they don’t… So people in this mindset worry about their traits and how adequate they are. They have something to prove to themselves and others.
People with a growth mindset, on the other hand, see their qualities as things that can be developed through their dedication and effort. Sure they’re happy if they’re brainy or talented, but that’s just the starting point. They understand that no one has ever accomplished great things—not Mozart, Darwin, or Michael Jordan—without years of passionate practice and learning.”
I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had kids at camp who said they couldn’t do something: get to the top of the climbing tower, get up on stage, make a fire, or make it another day at camp… only to succeed after changing their minds.
There will be lots of cases when you may think to yourself, “I’m just not good at this. Nothing will help.” (I know I certainly felt that way in both my Statistics and Cost Accounting classes….)
But here’s the thing – that’s just not true. Sure, you may not be world class at something, even if you give it your best shot for many, many years. But you can ALWAYS improve. And, if you have that growth mindset, you’ve got the best chance of improving.
Words Have Power
Dr. Dweck ran an interesting experiment. Kids were separated evenly between two rooms and each room was given the same puzzle. Once everyone had finished, the researcher in one room told the kids, “Wow, you finished. You must be really good at puzzles.”
The other room was told something slight different. “Wow, you finished. You must have worked really hard on that puzzle.”
Not very different, huh? But wait – and this is where things get interesting. That same researcher gave each group of kids a harder puzzle to solve, a really tough one. What do you think happened?
The researchers found that the room of kids told they were “good at puzzles” gave up solving the puzzle at a much higher and faster rater than the kids who were complimented on ‘working hard.’ Hmm….
Are Good or a Hard Worker?
Being good at something is a zero-sum game. That means either you are good at something or you aren’t. And, if you feel you aren’t good at something, how long do you do it? Right… not long.
However, if you see yourself as a hard worker, someone who will persevere and take on a challenge, you’ll keep at things longer and have a greater chance of success.
As you can see from the experiment, it doesn’t take much to change your thinking. Just a few words are needed from an important source – a teacher or parent or mentor – to make a change in a young person’s mind.
But do you know who’s voice is most important on this front? Your own! As we are fond of saying at Camp Weequahic, you get to pick your attitude all of the time.
Do your best to choose a growth mindset going forward. It will help more than you can imagine. We’ll be ready to help you keep that rolling at camp this summer. Have a great weekend!
I’m a big fan of Josh Medcalf. He writes and talks and thinks on how to help others get to where they want to go as well as anyone I’ve studied. (Thanks, Nuge, for introducing us to Josh’s work!)
We all have moments when we want to take the easier path, when we don’t feel like to doing (fill in the blank). I want to relay one of Josh’s stories that speaks directly to this point. The following is from Chop Wood Carry Water, pages 79-80.
“John, do you remember me talking to you a few days ago about how it took me a long time to learn to live principles, not feelings?”
John nodded, quietly acknowledging that he had.
Akira (John’s teacher) went on, “Like I said, just like you I had quite a hot head when I was younger. I made many stupid and careless choices that caused others and myself much pain. Thankfully, I had a mentor in my life who brought me out of that and taught me about living by principles.
When I was about your age, he had seen me react to several different situations.
Finally, he asked me a very simple question: ‘How is your strategy of living by your feelings working out for you?’ I got very quiet and had to admit that it wasn’t working out very well at all. He then shared a quote from a man named Eric Thomas, ‘At the end of your feelings is nothing. But at the end of every principle is a promise.’
Many days, you are not going to feel like working out and honing your craft.
Many days, you are not going to feel like treating people really well.
Many days, you are not going to feel like being unconditionally grateful.
Many days, you are not going to feel like giving your best.
But the principle says you are going to reap what you sow.
The principle says that diligent workers are going to serve kings instead of ordinary men.
The principle says to turn the other cheek.
At the end of principles, there is life, freedom, hope, joy, and peace.”
I don’t know about you but there are a lot of moments I feel like ‘mailing it in.’ These were especially prevalent for me in the middle half of the school year!
Not finishing that last rep in the gym or listening to the rumor rather than looking for the truth or not sending that ‘thank you’ note… I have lots of opportunities not to do my best.
But Josh is right. At the end of “I don’t feel like it…” is nothing. No change, no learning, no advancement.
Campers, when your parents hear “I don’t feel like it…”, they’ll smile and say, “Well, we need to do it anyway.” Doesn’t matter if you are talking about making your bed or doing the dishes or your homework or getting up for that early morning workout.
You see, it’s not so much about doing that one thing. Their response is about them helping build habits that lead to a healthier life.
The response is based on the principle that only determined, consistent effort gives you a chance to excel. That gratefulness makes for a happier life. That planning for challenges while working towards and hoping for the best beats blind optimism every time.
I know it’s easier to let whatever it is you don’t want to do slide. I’ve done it myself. But, if you stick to your principles and do the work, be grateful, act with courage, and choose your attitude, there will be a lot of good at the other end. A LOT!
I’ve never been the type of person who gets Thank You notes out to their guests in a timely manner after a party. I am always thankful for friends who come to my parties, but I just forget to send the formal cards. But spending a summer at camp changed that in me. Not because a summer at camp taught me party etiquette, but because during my time at camp I learned to appreciate things that I normally take for granted. I was also made to feel appreciated by my fellow campers and counselors and realized that is a good feeling when someone acknowledges something you’ve said, done or contributed.
While I was swimming, climbing, playing and dancing my summer away, I was reminded of other kids in my school who didn’t have the chance to go to summer camp this year, and it really made me thankful for my parents who provided with me with this incredible experience. As I went to sleep each night in my cabin, surrounded by my new best friends, I was moved to tears in thankfulness and appreciation that they sent me to camp.
At camp, this girl Amy would leave little post-it notes around the cabin thanking the other girls for something they did, or something they said that was helpful or kind. These little post-it notes meant so much to us, and we all kept them even when we left camp. Amy taught all of us that it only takes a second to let someone know you appreciate him or her, and it can really turn someone’s day around. Most of us followed her lead and wrote notes for other campers when they did something we appreciated. It created an atmosphere of gratitude, appreciation, and selflessness throughout our cabin, and really helped all of us grow.
I saw my counselors constantly thank other counselors for their help. I saw campers thanking other campers when they did something nice. I think we all realized that back in the “real world,” we can sometimes take things, and people, for granted. For me, camp reminded me of all I have to be thankful for, which is why I’m writing you, Camp Weequahic, my first ever Thank-You note.
Our first night of each session is fantastic. The energy in the dining hall is palpable. Kids are smiling, the
music is pumping, and counselors are entertaining everyone at their table. It’s a grand experience!
At the end of the meal, I welcome everyone to the most amazing summer of their lives and, once the roar dies down, cover our three, non-negotiable rules. The last of the rules is this:
You don’t have to like everyone but you do have to be kind.
Living in a small, tight night community is exhilarating, fun, hilarious, and, sometimes, very rarely a little bit… challenging. A bunkmate may say something you don’t take very well. One of the younger campers may have – inadvertently, of course – bent the rules in Gaga. You may have had a frustrating practice session on stage – those lines are tough! – and are short with your buddies. That one other camper… you two just don’t fit, you know what I mean?
I get it! There are times when it can be really tough to be kind. But those are the times when we have to double down and focus on what we can control – our reaction.
The Importance of Kindness
There was a very smart person who shaped my thinking on attitude and the power we have over our reactions – Dr. Henry James. He also talked about the importance of kindness:
“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”
Now, you might be thinking, “But, Cole, being kind to someone who deserves to be yelled at is wrong, it’s being weak! I mean, c’mon – that kid was cheating!”
I completely disagree. Kindness comes from an internal strength that, like courage, can be built over time. Being rude or angry comes from a place of weakness. As Kahill Gibran said, “To belittle, you have to be little.”
(Regarding the cheating, – ask the counselor. They’ll be happy to help out!)
We all have a bit of weakness in us. It comes from our insecurity and our fear. I’ve never met someone without at least a little bit of those things in them. Thankfully, I’ve also known lots of people who are strong and patient and kind and tender in every situation. Many of them are at Weequahic.
Those who are consistently kind have made the decision, over and over again, to act and react a certain way. They don’t just think some kind thoughts or benignly smile on the sidelines. No, they are active in their kindness. They reach out, share kind words, help someone up with a smile, provide consequences in a gentle way. And, they treat everyone they meet this way – those who can help them and those who can’t.
It Takes Practice
No, they are active in their kindness. They reach out, share kind words, help someone up with a smile, provide consequences in a gentle way. And, they treat everyone they meet this way – those who can help them and those who can’t.
This takes a lot of time to build this habit. It’s not the most natural thing for everyone. Like learning a language or understanding finance, it comes easier some people. That doesn’t make it less important, though.
So do your best to start building your kindness muscles now. Like any other habit you want to develop, takes intention, time and practice to build. Start today: be the reason someone smiles today. Funny thing is, it’ll make your day, too!
It’s been an impressive past 12 months in sports. Even if you are not much of a sports fan, you have to agree the comeback victories across the major sports has been stunning.
Let’s recap it real quick:
Down three games to one in the NBA Finals, Cleveland was heading home down, dejected, and out of gas. Or so everyone thought. After some soul searching, recommitment, and game plan changes, the Cavaliers pulled off a three-game win streak and won the championship.
The Chicago Cubs found themselves in a similar hole after four games. The Cleveland Indians, hoping to bring yet another world championship to Cuyahoga County, had a stranglehold on the trophy. It’s very, very rare for a team to come back from a 3-1 hole. Yet, with consistent effort and belief, the Cubs found a way and brought the trophy home.
Most recently, the New England Patriots completed the most improbable, incredible, and unforgettable comeback in the history of football. No team had come back to win a Super Bowl after being down 11 points or more. The Patriots were down 25 with just over 21 minutes remaining in the game. And yet, with persistent hope, laser focus, and lots of good decisions, the Patriots hosted the trophy.
Listen to Julian Edelman and Tom Brady throughout the game – they were leading their guys along. They never gave up! They reminded me of an interesting leadership quote I heard this week: Managers make excuses while leaders figure out how to get it done with the help of others. Listening to Tom and Julian, they are definitely leaders – regardless of how you feel about the team.
Listening to Tom and Julian, they are definitely leaders – regardless of how you feel about the team.
You Choose Your Adventure… and Attitude
In each of these cases above, things looked bleak. However, each team remained upbeat, supported one another and relied on their training and preparation. Sure, in each case, a little luck was needed. However, each team was prepared to take that little luck, that little opening, and make the most of it.
These teams got to practice choosing their attitude on the world’s largest stage. But, it doing so doesn’t require the bright lights and gloss of a world championship. Those teammates chose their attitude daily – when they were hurting through two-a-days, studying film for hours, and giving up a lot of opportunities to focus on their team goal.
We’ve seen lots of comebacks at Weequahic. When Hopi last won Tribals in 2012, they were down massively – way back in 4th place with a day to go. After an enormous effort and another Westerman miracle, they had pulled of an amazing comeback.
But, it’s not only teams that make massive comebacks, it’s individuals, too. We’ve had several campers who, if you asked them on their second day of camp, they were heading home and never coming back to camp.
However, because of the amazing work of our staff, their supportive buddies at camp and parents at home, they not only conquered their fear of being away but wound up loving camp so much they crying while heading home! And, they were among the first to re-enroll for the next summer.
Show the courage to do the work. Pick the attitude that makes you most likely to succeed. Sure, you may need some luck but get ready for it to come your way. You just may have a championship comeback, too!
Earlier in the week, I had the opportunity to head up to Weequahic. Our new caretaker, Alex, and his team had been cruising through some new projects and I wanted to check in with him. Impressive work – these guys can really get things done!
An Early Start
Because of an early Wayne County Camp Association meeting the next morning, I left Weequahic before sunrise. I’m not a huge fan of driving early in the morning during the winter around camp but, thankfully, the snow plows had been very active early and the roads were great.
As I was driving the windy, up and down Hwy 17B, the sky brightened slowly but surely. And then, crossing over the Delaware River, the full glory of the morning’s first light hit all around me.
The sunrise was spectacular. It illuminated the trees on the Pennsylvania side making the snow covered pines literally glow. There were small patches of ice bubbling calmly down the Delaware. The clouds in the sky were a riot of reds, purple, and golds. The fields and the small town I was passing through were idyllic. It was a gorgeous moment.
And then I smelled the skunk.
It hit me full on, head first and was brutal. The smell was so strong, I thought the thing had climbed into the car with me and asked for a breakfast bar. It was over-powering.
To be honest, I got a bit frustrated. I mean, I had just been enjoying this incredible, once in a long while kind of sunrise. I had been fully immersed in this fantastic moment and then, WHAM!, this happens? C’mon!!! I laughed darkly at the irony.
A “GAC” Lesson
To get my mind off things as I sped along, I turned on a podcast I had been listening to the afternoon before. The first things I heard was this:
“The struggle ends when gratitude begins.”
Wait… what? I had to stop the podcast, rewind, and listen to it again because I couldn’t believe the coincidence of it. Sure enough, the person being interviewed had said:
“The struggle ends when gratitude begins.”
All of the sudden, I realized the lesson in my beautiful, skunk-tinged sunrise – I get to choose my point of focus. I don’t have to choose, I get to choose. There is a big difference in those two verbs.
The inputs – the visual beauty and pungent smell – were streaming at me. Because I was driving, I had to take them both in. But, I didn’t have to give them both the same amount of attention. When I started to focus on the gratitude I felt for the sunrise, I actually got happier. Sure, the skunk smell was still with me but I knew that it would be gone a mile or two later. The beauty of that sunrise, though, would stay with me for a long time.
When I started to focus on the gratitude I felt for the sunrise, I actually got happier. Sure, the skunk smell was still with me but I knew that it would be gone in a mile or two. The beauty of that sunrise, though, would stay with me for a long time.
Every day we are presented with opportunities to choose our focus. Things are never perfect – a great game could be marred by a teammate’s turn-overs. You probably will be sent to bed before you want to after a fantastic day. Some kid in your class probably did something annoying today. But, are you going to let those small experiences take away the good?
You get to choose your point of focus and how you react. And, if you choose to be grateful for the good in your life, those smelly moments go by a whole lot faster.