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.