Are You Trying or Doing?

December 15th, 2017

We’ve done a bit of a movie marathon in the Kelly house lately. Cold days coupled with a few sick kiddos made it a good use of our time.

With the new Star Wars coming out, I thought it helpful to walk the boys through a few of the great ones, just to prime the pump, so to speak. “The Last Hope”, “Empire Strikes Back”, and “Return of the Jedi” got us ready. (No, we didn’t watch the ‘first three.’)

For those who don’t know, Yoda, the Jedi Master and teacher extraordinaire, features prominently in the latter two as he prepares and guides Luke Skywalker towards his confrontations with Darth Vader and the evil Emperor.

Luke trains. He listens. He sweats. And, like any student, he whines, pouts a bit, and questions.

When tasked with something seemingly insurmountable, Luke sullenly replies, “Ok, I’ll try.” Yoda, not waiting a bit, jumps on this waffling with:

“No. Do, or do not. There is no ‘try.’”

Ok, I’ll Try….

Why do we use the word ‘try?’ I think it has a lot to do with setting ourselves or others to

be ‘ok’ with our failure. We are putting our toes half into the water, risking a little rather than a lot. Rather than diving in a getting after whatever it is in front of us, we waffle.

I’ll try to climb the wall.

I’ll try to be nice to her.

I’ll try that new food.

All of these are said in a way that is half in, half out. When you put yourself into such a situation, you go at ‘it’ with half a heart, half a mind – and normally get half the result.

Wax On, Wax Off

If you’ve not seen the classic ‘Karate Kid,” you should. (The new version is good, too, but I’m partial to the older version.)

It’s a true underdog, ‘hero’s journey’ story. Teenager Daniel moves to a new state and new school, wants to fit in, and gets bullied. Daniel then stumbles onto a wise teacher who helps him gain both the tools necessary to defend himself and the wisdom to know when to use those tools. Daniel is challenged and comes out the other side victorious… and different.

In the middle of the dark period, our young hero is trying to make a deal on something big. “Maybe I can do just this much and that will be ok,” Daniel is saying. His teacher, Mr. Myagi replies:

“Daniel-san, walk on one side of the road, ok. Walk on other side of the road, ok. Walk down middle… SQWEECH! Crushed like grape.”

Let’s Do

When we decide to do something, we aren’t always successful. We can put every ounce of effort into the task, do all of our homework, have a great attitude and… we do not succeed. That’s just life. And, you know what? That’s totally ok!

At Weequahic, we’ve adopted a saying that fits: ‘Either we win or we learn.’

The key is to really get after it – whatever that is. To DO. When you approach tasks this way – leaving nothing in the tank – you not only give yourself the best chance of success, you avoid the mean big brother of “I’ll Try”: “What if…”

You want to have a lot of friends? Then be a friend. You want to climb the wall? We’ll support you all the way up (and down!). All you have to do is commit. Trying a new food? Act like you are going to love it.

And, should things not go the way you wanted, then you’ve learned. Keep learning! It’s the only way to get from where you are to where you want to be.

Go on. Give it your all. To borrow Yoda’s voice, ‘happy for it, you will be.’ Have a great week!

A GAC Swim

December 1st, 2017

When I visit a family in their home, we sit together and look through a big book of pictures from camp. Arriving at the picture of our big, beautiful Sly Lake, I normally make the joke, “As long as you have on your life-vest (which is required, by the way), the only thing you really have to worry about is the shark.”

Sure, it’s corny but more often than not I get some huge eyes and a ‘REALLY?!?’ from the camper. “No, I’m just teasing,” I tell them. “There is no shark in our lake. (The monster squid however….)”

We laugh a bit about it and keep on going.

But, in reading a book by Mark Batterson lately, I’ve learned the story about one person who really did swim with the sharks.

Gratitude, Attitude, Courage… and Sharks

Diana Nyad wanted to see Cuba when she was 9 years old. Looking out from the beach in Fort Lauderdale, her mother pointed her in the right direction and said, “It’s there. You can’t see it but you could almost swim to it.”

Fifty-five years later, and after several attempts, Diana did just what her mother said – she swam to Cuba. At 64 years old, she had become the first person to swim the 110 miles, shark and box jellyfish filled waters between the US to Cuba… without a shark cage.

But, she didn’t do it alone. And, she did have a message to share. Upon completing the feat, Ms. Nyad had three things to say:

“First, we should never, ever give up. Two is you are never too old to chase your dreams. Three is it looks like a solitary sport, but it’s a team.”

Here is a person who had just swum over 55 hours straight to cross 110 miles from Florida to Cuba, and she is passing along wisdom and drawing attention to the 30-odd people who helped? Incredible.

Swimming, Laughing, and Learning

At Weequahic, we have a tradition of swimming the lake during our Olympic Session. A flotilla of lifeguards patrol the path and over 100 kids a summer take the plunge during the early morning hours. While there are no sharks (I promise!), it takes a lot of courage to even attempt.

When the campers complete the feat, they are greeted with hot chocolate, warm towels, and high fives. They have swum together with friends, showed a ‘let’s get this done’ attitude, and accomplished something memorable.  All are grateful in the end and thank everyone who helped.

So, take a page from Ms. Nyad. Never give up. You are never too old (or young!) to chase your dreams. And, remember: this thing we are doing here called ‘life?’ It’s a team sport.

Have a great weekend.

Cole

We Get To….  

November 24th, 2017

What are you most grateful for in your life? When you think of it, what does it feel like? I’ve got several things that come to mind and, as you may imagine, one of them is Camp Weequahic.

Kate and I are so lucky to get to do something professionally that we enjoy so much. And, even better, we get to do Weequahic with friends who are as close as family – Chopper, Dana and Scrappy, Jerry, Cammie, Nuge, Food Fairy Leigh, the Overfields, Chef Daniel….

And, even better, we all get to work with amazing young women and men from around the world to create a remarkable experience for everyone we meet through gratitude, attitude and courage.

Even more, we have all of these incredible young people who are the biggest part of our community. Coming from 15 countries and 14 states around the US, they bring their laughter, curiosity, joy, and huge open hearts to Weequahic each summer. We’ve watched many of them literally grow up in front of our eyes; many of the ‘kids’ who leave one summer return as young women and men ten months later.

Even more, we enjoy the trust and support of so, so many families. Without the support, belief, and trust of our camp families, many who have become friends as well, none of this would be possible.

We are lucky at Weequahic to have so many who love the experience of building a community together each and every summer. This Thanksgiving weekend, I’m thankful for each and every one of you!

Where ever and whenever this finds you, Happy Thanksgiving. Cole

How Summer Camp Cultivates A Growth Mindset

November 20th, 2017

Camp Weequahic is focused on developing the whole child in a way that is healthy and fun. And although all of the running, jumping, swimming, climbing, dancing, and playing is great for their physical health, working on their emotional well-being, their character, and their self-confidence is just as necessary. This is why we put so much emphasis on having a growth mindset vs. a fixed mindset.

 

By definition, people with a growth mindset “believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. On the other hand, people with a fixed mindset “believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.”

 

Campers come to camp with the labels and expectations that the world has put on them, and many have come to believe that these traits, both good and bad, are just an integral part of who they are. Some have been told they are smart their entire lives, and their fixed mindset makes them believe that their intelligence is something that comes naturally to them and doesn’t require effort to improve upon. The same goes for athletic performance, relational ability, and their character. Campers who have been told they have anger issues will begin to believe that they are incapable of handling their anger; it is a fixed part of them that can’t be changed or improved upon.

 

At Camp Weequahic, we focus on fostering a growth mindset in each camper. When they succeed, we praise their efforts by saying things like “you worked so hard at that” instead of “you are awesome!” Although the latter can be helpful to hear, hearing specific praise acknowledging the effort that the camper put into a specific task is more rewarding and builds their self-esteem. Camp staff and counselors work hard to praise the process instead of just the person. Campers will hear us say things like:

  • Tell me more about what you did
  • How did you figure that out?
  • Are you pleased with how it came out?
  • You must be so proud of yourself

 

We try to avoid labeling campers or putting too much emphasis on the labels they put on themselves. We want to encourage them to see themselves as capable and worthy of improvement in all areas of their lives. We want them to strive to be the best versions of themselves instead of being complacent with the label they’ve grown so comfortable with.

 

As campers step out of their comfort zones and try new things, they realize that they are capable of so much more than they thought and that their qualities, strengths, and abilities are not fixed. We want campers to be intrinsically motivated; to try new thing and preserve through hard things to feel good about themselves, not because they are seeking the approval of anyone else.

 

A summer at camp is about growing, maturing, and improving in all areas of life. Our goal is that campers leave with new friends, new experiences, and a stronger sense of who they are and what a valuable asset they are to the world. And it all starts with how they think about themselves.

 

The Best Thanksgiving Sandwich

November 17th, 2017

I’ll admit it… I really enjoy watching Iron Chef America. For a person who likes to cook, what the men and women are able to create in such a short period of time is stunning. One night recently, I caught the tail end of the Thanksgiving Leftovers battle. Alton Brown, the host, quoted Cicero at the end.

Cicero? The Roman writer, philosopher and statesman who lived over two thousand years? Yep, that guy. At the end of a food show. But, it was a completely apt use. Here’s the quote:

A thankful heart is not on the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues.

I really like that quote. And, as you would expect, it (along with the sweet potato soufflé and turkey tortellini) got me thinking about our upcoming Thanksgiving holiday here in the States.

Thanksgiving Daily

When I’m in the homes of prospective families, our major values of gratitude, attitude and courage come up at least a few times. And, when I ask the prospective camper what gratitude means, I get a quick ‘yes, I know what it means.’ When pushed to define it, however, I normally get a smile and a shrug.

To me, gratitude means be thankful for what you have in your life and reflecting on them. And, there are a whole host of reasons why practicing gratitude on a daily basis is good for you: you become happier, more patient, more thoughtful with others, and calmer.

So, if I told you that one five-minute daily practice would lead to those results in your life, would you do it? We are talking about .5% of your normal waking hours. So, what is this magical practice?

Simple – take 5 minutes each day, think of what you are grateful in your life, and write it down.

That’s it! Well… kinda.

In Walks Courage

While I do love the Cicero quote, I don’t think I completely agree with it. I do absolutely agree that a thankful heart can help you practice all other virtues fully. But, I think we have to add courage into the mix? Why? Let me quote two other great thinkers for my back up.

Aristotle said that “courage is the mother of all virtues because it makes all others possible.” And CS Lewis said “courage is not just one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point.

So, does it take courage to take 5 minutes and write down what you are thankful for in your life? Actually, I think it does.

If you don’t already practice the habit, then it’s a change. And any change, if you are going to make it permanent, takes the courage to start the perseverance to stick with it.

A GAC Thanksgiving Sandwich

So, if you want to be happier, more patient, calmer, and better with those around you, it’s time to make a new kind of Thanksgiving sandwich: one slice of gratitude and one slice of courage. The middle? That’s for the great attitude that you’ll continue to practice.

Regardless of where this note finds you, I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving and re-double your efforts to practicing gratitude daily.

Have a thankful week!
Cole

It is OK to Act Your Own Age – How camp allows kids and young adults to enjoy being young

November 13th, 2017

Many first time parents are guilty of rushing their babies from one milestone to the next, pushing them to sit then crawl then walk, while seasoned parents have learned to appreciate each step and understand how fast each stage flies by. As kids grow, they too can find themselves wishing their childhood away, always wishing they were older and on to the next stage of their lives. In this fast-paced world, kids are hurrying through the most joyful times of their lives in pursuit of freedom and independence, and before they know it they’re paying bills and reminiscing about “the good ‘ol days”

 

Camp strives to meet kids right where they are; to embrace their innocence, their goofy-ness, their awkwardness and their curiosity. Camp is a safe place for kids to act like kids without the fear of being judged. Camp Weequahic is serious about fun, and has become a place where kids can be fully immersed in childhood play. Instead of taking selfies and worrying about where they fit in with their peers, they are chasing lightning bugs, judging belly flop contests, singing songs around a fire, and putting on shows. They are being kids, which is exactly how they should be spending their summers.

 

And kids aren’t the only ones acting like kids. Camp counselors come back year after year because of the freedom and joy that comes from being at camp. Camp counselors use their summers at camp as a way to escape the rules and restrictions of adulthood and embrace their inner child. They play games, dress up, sing songs and fully engage with the campers every day. They use this time to free themselves from the ridged expectations of their everyday lives and participate in the activities that make them feel like a kid again.

 

The school year is full of schedules, deadlines, and commitments that can sometimes overshadow the importance of play. With clubs, sports, family obligations and school expectations, kids can bogged down with responsibilities that takes the fun out of being a kid. Although a healthy balance of work and play is vital for growing minds, the summer should be a time where kids can relax a little and enjoy this fleeting time of their lives. As adults, we know how fast this time goes, and we should encourage the children in our lives to spend as much time as they can playing, laughing, getting dirty, trying new things and being silly. And that is exactly what Camp Weequahic aims to offer each and every camper.

 

Where in the World….

November 10th, 2017

We are coming up on the worldwide #CampTShirt day on November 14th and we’re excited to join in on the fun. To see all of our CampWeequahic campers and staff showing off their camp spirit that day would be fantastic. Preparing for the day got me thinking of our campers who are literally from all over the world.

Weequahic by the Numbers

Here are some fun facts about where our Summer 2017 campers came from:

  • 11.5% of our campers this summer came from 14 different countries. These include Spain, France, Mexico, China, Thailand, Russia, Italy, Canada, Columbia, Czechoslovakia, Uruguay, Japan, Belarus, and Switzerland.
  • 88.5% of our campers were from fifteen different states spanning every corner (literally!) of the United States.
  • The state from which most of our campers come from? New York with Maryland, Florida, and New Jersey all tied for second place.

And, if you add in our 225 team members (why wouldn’t you as they are a huge part of the experience!), you get another six countries and twelve more states. Wow!@

Citizens of the World

While the physical size of the world has not changed much at all over the past billion years, our ability to connect with others in distant lands has improved in countless ways.

I have plenty of camp stories about kids staying up a little too late in Italy to facetime with their buddies in California. I’ve seen best friends (one from Moscow and the other from NJ) spend time together apart from camp. I’ve got personal experience in taking my boys to see their best friends in the world… all over the world.

Camp, it turns out, is a bit like the United Nations. Some alum families tell me that being a part of the camp experience prepared their children for college in ways no school could match. Being a part of our community allows people to connect to others from different cultures, places, and experiences and prepares them for a wonderful future.

The best news? Regardless from whence they come, all in our community have something in common – the love of creating amazing experiences the Camp Weequahic way.

This allows our campers to literally travel to every continent and know someone who lives there. (Well… ok, I’m still trying to get a penguin to camp. The Antarctic visa process is really tough!) And that aspect of Weequahic truly opens eyes and hearts and minds… and doors.

Combine this with the independence, teamwork, maturity, and curiosity our campers develop while at Weequahic and you’ve some pretty well prepared young people for the world around them.

So, campers, here’s the takeaway. If you keep your eyes and hearts open, you can build friendships with people from almost every major culture in the world. Sure, you may not speak the same language back home as your new buddy or mentor. However,  you all are fluent in ‘CAMP’ and that can really open up your world.

Camp Weequahic Pride

We hope you’ll join us on November 14, 2017 by wearing a piece of your Camp Weequahic gear. If you care to, please share a photo of yourself on Instagram and Facebook with some CW clothing. Make sure to tag us at @campweequahic1953 on Instagram and @campweequahic on Facebook. Also, please use the #camptshirtday in your post.

I hope you and your family have a fantastic week!

Cole

Why Weequahic?

November 6th, 2017

Camp is not your ‘normal’ summer experience. Indeed, if done right, it can be an incredible gift that continues to give over a lifetime. Why? Because where else can a seven to 16-year-old girl or boy enjoy everything we have to offer?

 

It’s About the People

First off, camp is all about the people. You can have a great camp in the middle of an empty field if you have the right collection of campers and staff. To us, the perfect camper is one who engages, who gets excited about meeting new friends and learning new activities. While our campers are mostly (90%) from the US, we also enjoy a few campers from eleven different countries each summer.

Our campers spend their time with other children their same age and gender during their program day. In the bunks, campers enjoy spending time with up to eleven bunkmates and three college-aged counselors. (More on them in a moment.) This living arrangement and activity schedule allows our campers to build new friendships and try new activities while at Weequahic.

 

Our staff members are no less important to the great experience at Weequahic. Our year-round team spends nine months interviewing, hiring and preparing the best staff we can find. These young men and women all are in college or are recent graduates and are hired for two main roles: bunk counselor and activity teacher.

 

First, our staff members have to be great at creating a remarkable experience in the bunk for the community of children they lead. Secondly, they have to be able to teach a specific area for our campers to enjoy. Only staff members who can fill both roles are hired at Weequahic.

 

It’s About the Learning

By being away from home and interacting on an hourly basis with great staff members and interested kids from all over the US and larger world, our campers gain several new skills:

 

  1. Independence: Our campers build this invaluable skill under the watchful eyes of fun and patient mentors. Choosing their own activities, making their bed, and building new friendships away from home are important experiences for our campers.

 

  1. Community and Cultural Differences: Our campers begin to know the American culture through spending time with campers and staff members from all over the US. This opens their eyes to a different experience and place.

 

  1. Language Immersion: For campers coming from overseas, there is no better way to improve their use of English than living with our staff and campers. We help to guide them through the process and make sure nothing is left to chance.

 

It’s About the Fun!

Don’t forget the most important aspect of camp – it’s incredibly fun! With over 60 activities from which to choose, modern and wonderful facilities, special events and evening activities, and more than 450 campers to get to know, there are ample opportunities to laugh, learn, and grow at Weequahic.

 

Please don’t hesitate to call or write if we can be helpful with any questions about our three-week or six-week options at Camp Weequahic. Located just 2.5 hours northwest of New York City, we do our best to make the camp experience easy for our campers and their families.

 

We would be happy to learn more about your family and help however we can.

 

Can’t wait for camp!

Go Out There And BEEEE…..  

November 4th, 2017

We have this thing at the end of lunch where all of the campers finish the phrase in the title. One lucky kid (usually sitting close to my table) gets to yell ‘AWESOME’ in the microphone while everyone else yells at the top of their lungs. It’s a fun way to end a meal and get ready for what’s next.

And, it’s a way to remind our campers and staff that ‘being awesome’ is a choice.

But, what does ‘being awesome’ even mean?

Lesson at the Beach

I’ve recently spent some time in southern California seeing families. On a particularly beautiful morning, I spent time at Venice Beach walking and watching. Near a pier with a bunch of roller coasters, I ambled past an interesting exercise area. What I saw left me shaking my head in wonder.

On two ropes hanging 30’ down and about 5 feet apart, one guy was going up with a hand on each rope. At the top, he put his feet on top of the support bar and hung there like a bat. Then, he came down the ropes – upside down!

Nearby there were a set of 10 rings, each hanging eight feet off the ground and spaced evenly about ten feet apart. One lady was going through them like she was flying, gliding, sailing.  She was spinning and twisting with an almost joyful expression. The next guy up looked like Tarzan, flying through the rings just as effortlessly.

The final stop on the show was a pair doing some sort of combined ground based acrobatics. He was the base and lying on his back. She was like a human pinball that he spun and supported her only with his feet.

These people were awesome and did incredible things I’d never before seen. None were professionals – all just did it because they loved to move. I asked the first three people how they learned and all basically said ‘by watching others and trying new moves out that looked like fun.’

It can be intimidating watching people do things that you can’t do yet. All we see is the current fruits of their past labors. And, labor they did!

Pound the Stone

None of these people showed up on the boardwalk, jumped into the air, and could do what I saw in that moment when they started. In fact, the upside-down guy gave himself a fist pump when he got to the bottom – he was pretty excited he’d just completed the move.

Becoming great at something takes months and months of effort and thought and practice and learning. It takes building on top of what you’ve learned and loving the process. (There is a great book about this called Pound the Stone.)

And, you have to be careful about comparing yourself to those who have already put in the work to be Awesome at something. If you want to act like Streep, dance like Baryshnikov, cook like Flay, or shoot like Steph, you’ve got to put in the same hours they did. And, that’s a lot of hours and a lot of dedication.

It’s not enough to know what you want. It’s more important to find something you are willing to work for. Once you’ve found that something for which you are willing to put in the time, effort, and learning, then get after it and enjoy the process!

But the process isn’t always fun, is it?

A Good Exercise

I recently read a great example about this. Imagine the one thing you really want – becoming a professional athlete, creating an amazing company, whatever it is…. Now, imagine that you wake up tomorrow morning and that goal has been accomplished.

It would be fun, sure, for a few days. But then you’d get bored with it and start looking to build something else. It’s the struggle, the journey, the process that we truly love the most.

Those men and women on the beach, they had loved the process of becoming awesome. And, they will continue to strive to get better at what they’ve found they love. You can do the same.

Now, go out there and be awesome!

Have a great week,

Cole

The Courage to Choose

October 28th, 2017

This past week, I spent a good bit of time between the Washington, DC and New York City areas visiting families. In fact, I did the trip by car twice in less than a week. I know – not great planning on my part but when parents call….

Late Sunday night, I was about two hours outside NYC when my navigation told me to leave the highway. “Hmm,” I thought to myself. “This doesn’t seem to make sense but maybe there’s an accident or something up the road I don’t know about.”

So, dutifully following the directions, I pulled off the highway.

Four minutes, two toll gates and a few embarrassing moments later, my trusty navigation system had led me onto I95 north – the same road I had just been traveling. Not something you want to happen late on a Sunday night but not the end of the world.

Thirty minutes closer to NYC, my navigation decided it was time for me to get off the highway again. Driving along at highway speeds on my own, I decided not to look at my phone and just give it another chance.

Five minutes, two toll gates, and a few frustrated laughs at myself later….

A Lesson from Circles

Here’s the thing – I’ve driven the road between Baltimore and New York City probably 50 times over the past twenty years. I know quite while how to get from one metropolis to the other without outside help. So, how could I have made the same mistake twice?

I was listening to the wrong voice.

This happens a lot to us in our lives. Sometimes, the voices coming at you are negative and hurtful. Sometimes, the voice speaking to you comes across as helpful, patient, and interested in your well-being. However, whether or not you listen is up to you.

My navigation app has saved me a lot of time and has very, very rarely steered me wrong. However, in this case, I trusted an outside voice over my own knowledge and experience and paid the price.

After getting over the embarrassment, I started to think about all the other voices I let into my life. The people with whom I spend, the books I read, the podcasts to which I listen, the websites I visit, the music I play…. All these voices have an effect on me even if I don’t realize it.

The Courage to Choose

The great news? These are all my personal choices. I get to decide what I listen to, attend to, and focus on. I get to decide with whom I’ll spend time.

I recently read a book by Ray Dalio, a smart man who built a large company doing things differently than most in his profession. One of his central themes includes one of our values. His key to a successful life is a two-step process: you have to first know what the best decisions are and, two, have the courage to make them.

We have to have courage to do things that feel hard or different or weird. Rather than blindly following directions or going with the flow, we need to take some time to think and reflect before going forward. Otherwise, you might find yourself running in circles….

Have a great week!