Choose Your Words Wisely

Posted February 23rd, 2018 by

Parents and teachers are always saying ‘use your words’ when breaking up a kerfuffle or dealing with a frustrated child. It’s actually not an easy thing, especially for boys – our brains do not start using words well until our late forties. (Actually, brain science says it’s earlier – between 18 and 25 – but I’m still waiting for mine to kick in….)

So, when we say ‘use your words’ to young people, we have to be patient with the result. It’s an important process since it provides kids and adolescents a chance to learn how to talk things out. They learn to use their words wisely.

Know what is equally important in terms of words? Choosing them wisely.

‘Hoo Words

Kate, Cole3 and I had a wonderful opportunity recently to visit the University of Virginia. A close friend gave us a behind the scenes tour of the basketball facility before a game – the practice courts, the weight room, the student services section and the men’s locker room.

It was all pretty incredible. Hey – they are ranked #1 right now – Go ‘Hoos! But it was not the sleeping pods, food choices, or entertainment options that impressed me most about the facility itself.

No, what caught my attention were words on the wall.

 

Full disclosure: I’ve spent a lot of time in Charlottesville and continue to be a huge fan of my alma mater. And, I knew a lot of the basketball guys and girls a (very) long time ago. But I had never seen something like this in the men’s locker room. While the teams of my time were good, they were not even close to what’s happening in C’ville now.

Watch the team play and these words are apparent – the play with passion, give the ball up unselfishly, and are grateful the opportunity. When they talk to the media or interact with fans, these words to describe how the players and coaches act.

As a group, they have all ‘bought in’ to these specific words and their actions are guided by them. And this fact, I believe, is a big part of their success both on and off the court.

Choose Your Words Wisely

There is a funny story told by Dr. Larry Arn, the president of Hillsdale College and possibly the foremost Churchillian scholars alive. At one point, his frustrated teenaged daughter said to him, “Dad, you just don’t want me to be happy!”

“Honey,” he replied, “you don’t know enough to be happy.”

Dr. Arn was talking about Aristotle and Plato’s view of ‘happy’ rather than today’s version which focuses more on amusement and entertainment. The latter definition is all well and good… for a time.

We are certainly happy and entertained at camp. But while you are having so much fun, every now and then you’ll realize that we are talking about gratitude, choosing your attitude, courage and kindness… a lot.

These are the words we’ve picked. They are the words that we look for in hiring our staff and the words we base our training on each summer. They are at the center of Weequahic and everything radiates out from that very solid, stable center.

We did not pick these words by whim. We chose them specifically to help us teach what is important and unchanging in our future.

Your Words?

So, how about you? What words will you choose as your center? Don’t feel you have to get it right the first time. In fact, it’s really good to try some on, walk around them in for a while, and see if your actions and emotions match up. And, the more you read and listen to those you love, the better sense you’ll get of which ones make the most sense for you.

Trust me – your future is worth the effort.  Have a GACK-tastic weekend!

Overcoming Fear

Posted February 16th, 2018 by

We have amazing minds. That big glob of neurons and systems between your ears has developed incredible memory, speed, and power over hundreds of thousands of years. In fact, it’s so powerful that our super-computers take 40 minutes just to simulate one second of its workings.

Our brains have helped to keep us, the human race, ahead of natural dangers – and caused a few dangers of our own.

One of the most commonly spoken about systems in the brain is the ‘fight or flight’ response. Basically, when we see a threat, our brain decides that we are going to fight the threat, it helps to come up with strategies and dumps boosters into your system. When it decides ‘time to run’, it comes up with strategies and dumps the same boosters into your system.

That’s right – different outcome but the same physical response. So… what does that mean for us?

We get to choose.

Courage

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela

I’ve always been fond of President Mandela’s definition of courage as it recognizes the reality of fear and gives the reader a way forward. Like anything we want to change, we first have to recognize what is going on. Once we understand the situation, we can choose what we want to do.

So… how can we actually conquer that fear? I can tell you what we do at camp and then we can figure out how to use those same ideas back home.

A Trusted Mentor

One of the worst things we can do is keep the fear inside us. When we expose it – the emotion we are feeling and the future we are imagining – to someone we trust who has more experience that we do, the fear begins to go away.

First of all, you’ve just shared its burden with someone you know has your back, no matter what. That person has just become an ally and they’ll do all they can to help.

Secondly, by simply talking about your fear out loud, you reduce its power over you. You start to see for yourself that your fear, while real, may not be as powerful as you first thought.

When are campers are missing home, we ask them to talk about it with their counselor, DH, Camp Mom Judy, or me. It’s a little harder for the boys than the girls but it’s just as important. That mentor can help the camper see what’s really in front of them (which is way, way, way more good than scary) and help them through it.

Little Steps

A lot of our campers have a hard time climbing our 50’ tower or getting up on stage in front of the whole camp. The mechanics, they have covered. All can climb a few feet up and all can walk out on the stage. It’s the perception of those things as big fears that hold them back. So… we help them along the way.

A lot of life is what you focus on. Want to see the bad? There is more than enough opportunity. Want to see the good? There is even more than the bad.

To help our kiddos climb the wall, we ask them to go three steps higher than they feel comfortable. We always have them on the ropes and they are completely safe. They even test it a couple of times.

By heading up three more holds before coming down, they can see a) they can do it and b) they were safe. Next thing you know, they are up at the top of the 50’ tower.

Something Bigger Than Yourself

Most of the time, fear is completely and utterly personal – it’s all about you. You are afraid of this or that. However, when you connect with others and let some of their strength affect you, encourage you, fear starts to slide away.

For me, my favorite time at camp is Campfire. We are all together, outside, around a roaring fire. It reminds us all – from CIT to our youngest JJ, from CMJ to our first-time staff member, that we are Weequahic and that we are stronger together than we are apart.

At home, you’ve already got something great – the love of your parents. As La Tzu said, being loved by someone gives you strength. Use that strength to overcome your fears. Reach out to trusted mentors with your concerns and ask them to help you come up with a plan. Take little steps in the right direction – your courage muscle will grow!

And, remember that you are a part of something greater than yourself. Your family, your school, and your camp… speaking for Weequahic, we are behind you one hundred percent!

Have a great weekend. – Cole

Humble Pie

Posted February 9th, 2018 by

I love dessert. Given the choice, I’d rather have a slice of dessert for breakfast rather than anything else. I come by ithonestly – my mother is a total dessert junkie, too. Of all the desserts, one of my favorites is warm apple pie… or pumpkin pie or lemon chess or key lime pie or…. Well, you get the picture.

While I could have it daily, I know I shouldn’t if I want TRY to keep up with our campers during the summer. That got me thinking, “What kind of pie could I have every day and it be good for me?”

A good book by Dr. Leonard Sax recently gave me the answer: Humble pie.

A Confession

I have a confession to make: sometimes I feel like everything revolves around me. When one of our team helps me to snap out of it (Kate is the best at it), I get that ‘doggone it, I let it happen again’ feeling and promise to do better. Depending on what I read and how much time I spend focused on others, I’m better or worse about it.

Do you ever feel this way, that everything is about you? Sometimes it comes up when you are thinking about plans for the weekend or the dinner you want that night or just getting ‘your stuff’ done.

There is certainly a need to take care of ‘your stuff’ be it school work, a job, practice, etc. But when we get all wrapped up in the cocoon of ‘me’, we lose sight of what’s important – the relationship we have with those around us.

You know what a great time and place is to get out of this ‘me, me, me’ mindset? Ten o’clock on a starry night on Main Campus. Another good time and place? Walking the trails with your counselors and buddies picking and eating the wild blueberries. Want one more? How about huddled around the campfire with the entire camp besides you.

Looking around you in those moments make you realize the community is really fun and takes a lot of people to make it this way. Being amongst the trees makes you realize that we are small and have the power to protect or take away the forests. Observing the stars that are billions of years old and light years away….

When you consider all this in that moment, the realization that we are small puts us in our place a bit. It reminds us to practice humility.

Humble Pie

What is humility? Some people mistakenly think it’s thinking less of yourself. Rather, humility is thinking about yourself less and thinking more about those around you.

In his recent book Twelve Rules for Life, Jordan Peterson suggests the following:

Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you need to know. Listen to them hard enough so that they will share it with you.

This practice of thinking about and being interested in other people as much as yourself can be hard to learn. The rise of Instagram, Snapchat, and other means of broadcasting yourself makes switching focus outward towards other people even more challenging.

But, things that are hard to do are – many times – really important. It was hard for you to learn to walk. Growing teeth was incredibly uncomfortable. Learning to speak, read and write? Really hard. (Once you are a parent, you’ll understand….)

However, these new skills that you developed with lots and lots of practice make you a healthier, more independent human. If we want a happier, more connected, and enjoy a meaningful life, we’ll chase humility.

Humility is the doorway to gratitude. In Dr. Sax’s words, the practice of humility ‘leads to gratitude, appreciation and contentment. The key to lasting happiness is contentment.’

 

Practice

So, in the week ahead, let’s all do a good job in being as interested in those around us as we are with ourselves. Building the habit of humility is just like building anything else – it takes intentional practice and lots of it. But, I bet we’ll be happier for it.

Now, if I could just find that last piece of the apple pie….Have a great week!

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Our Jurisdiction

Posted January 26th, 2018 by

Father Greg Boyle tells a story about walking through a housing project on his way to work and, most days, seeing a man watching the passersby from a window. One day, as Father G rounds the corner, he hears “I LOVE YOU, FATHER G!” Running back to say thank you to his admirer, the man responds, “It’s ok, G. You are in my jurisdiction.’

Our campers and our staff share a very special ‘jurisdiction’ at Weequahic. For six weeks each summer, we get to grow together, create innumerable memories, and laugh… oh, do we laugh!

And sometimes, as we live on earth, sometimes there are problems. And, it’s not always about one specific person. Rather, it’s two groups that are having a hard time.

These two ‘jurisdictions’ grumble, rumble a bit.  A lot of people have something to say about this situation. A little lady from Calcutta said it best.

The Little Nun

If you don’t know about Mother Teresa, you should spend some time getting to know her.

Born in what is now Macedonia, she felt called to do all she could for the least and the lost. Moving to Calcutta and spending literally all of her time with the people considered the poorest in the world, she did incalculable good. Throughout the process, she taught all who would listen.

One of her many nuggets of wisdom is this: If we have no peace, it is because we’ve forgotten that we belong to one another.

I love this idea. We are all on one Earth… and I’m pretty certain we all came from it.

But, yet, we build walls all the time to keep those who aren’t like us out. This happens at school – there have always been the tables somehow reserved for particular groups of kids. We build little jurisdictions in which everyone is accepted… until they do something that gets them kicked out. It happens in adult life, too.

But are we all really that different? Sure, we all look different (thank goodness – how could we tell each other apart!) We all have different aptitudes and interests. But we are made out of the same atoms, built by the same water, and contain DNA strands that are barely, BARELY different from one another.

At our base core, we are all made of the same stuff! So, why do we insist my group is better than that one or that one or that one….

An Illusion

Thich Nhat Hanh said something similar to Mother Teresa: we live an illusion of separateness.

Camp helps us destroy that illusion. We wake up in bunks close enough to see everyone in the room. We share a bathroom, break bread at every meal, together, play, laugh and learn together. At the end of the day, we smile at each other as we fall asleep.  We are completely together, almost all the time. And from this closeness comes magic.

Heck, even Dr. Seuss gets into the act with this short story about Sylvester McMonkey McBean who sells stars to the Sneetches without thars….

It must be a natural instinct to create these smaller groups with ‘ins’ and ‘outs.’

My wanting to eat the entire pan of Chef Daniel’s Sloppy Joe is a natural instinct, too. However, I know it would have disastrous consequences and therefore, don’t. (But, oh wow, it is SO GOOD!)

In other words, some of these ‘natural instincts’ need to be ignored. More often than not, they should be actively fought. But you can’t fight something you don’t know exists.

(That’s the whole point of these little Friday Night Campfire missives – to remind myself of what I need to remember and hope others may remember it, too….)

Bridges or Walls?

When we build up walls around ‘our group’, we run the risk of moving our little bubble, our little jurisdiction, a long way from the other groups. Sooner than you think, you’ll be so far from the others that bridge building between your group and others is really hard.

Do you really want to be on an island with the few who share your same thoughts on… whatever? I’m guessing probably not.

You know what is easier than building bridges? Tearing down walls. If we all belong to one another, the sooner we raze those walls, the better.

It takes courage, by the way. But, when we remember how good it is at camp, we realize tearing down walls are a whole lot better for everyone around you, including yourself.

So, get ready to go out there (wherever you find yourself reading this) and BEEEE AWESOME! Hey, you are in my jurisdiction. Have a great week.

The Wind and the Sun

Posted January 19th, 2018 by

It’s so cold outside! Kate, the boys and I have just finished spending a bit of time at camp this week and loved every minute. To do something you don’t normally get to do i.e., sledding down Waterfront Hill, is a blast. But, man – it’s cold!

All of the winter gear – the warm boots, hats, gloves, and coats – made me think of one of Aesop’s Tales about the North Wind and the Sun. If you don’t know it, here’s the short version:

The North Wind and the Sun

The North Wind and the Sun decide to have a contest to see who is more powerful.

They spot a traveler walking with a coat on. The game? The first one to get the coat off the traveler wins. 

The North Wind starts off and sets to blowing. It pounds the traveler with everything – cold, gale force winds, and even a bit of rain. Nothing gets the coat off. Rather, the traveler keeps pulling the coat tighter and tighter for protection.  

After the North Wind has had its chance, the Sun steps up to the plate. Gently sending its warm rays down, the Sun begins to warm and dry the traveler.

Finally, the coat comes off as the traveler finds a shade tree to sit under and enjoy the warmth for a bit.  

Today’s Wind

Sometimes I think what the world wants for our young people is too much. There is a lot of … ‘stuff’… they have to deal with that was not a part of my world at their age.

There is more competition in everything. Comparison is through the roof. People lose the ability to remember who they are with the constant striving to be, well, something else.

I see these forces as the North Wind, pounding with all it’s might. We keep pulling our coat – the brave face, the over wrought work ethic, the effort empty of enjoyment – tighter to us for protection.

A Summer of Sun

At Weequahic, we get to be the Sun. Surrounding our campers with mentors whose focus is the camper – not their phone, not their friends, not their future selves – helps to bring our campers back to their true selves.

Yes, there is competition at camp – but only on the fields, courts, cooking or dance studios AND ONLY if the camper wants it. Yes, there is comparison – but only in choosing which canteen item would taste better right then and there.

By making things fun, by showing that welcoming, gentle smile, by listening and playing along… we get to be the Sun. And those gentle rays of summer sun allow our campers (and many of our staff) to shed what they carry to become who they really are.

Sun Year Round

Here’s the thing: you don’t have to wait to get to summer to feel this way. You just have to surround yourself with people who bring the Sun.

Want to know what’s even better? You can make the choice to be the Sun to those around you.

Sure, it’s easy to be that way towards your friends. You already like them and want them to do well, be well. Even when you are having a bad day, you can normally shake it off and be there for a buddy.

What about that difficult sibling, hard classmate, or, gulp… your parents? This is more of a challenge. And, it’s important. Is their happiness, desire for connection, or worth any less than yours?

Of course not. Your difficult little sibling, your teacher and that kid no one ever speaks to at school needs the Sun in their lives as much as you.

So, will you be the North Wind pounding down or warm Sun helping those around you open up? It’s your choice.

Have a great week!

Change Awaits Us

Posted January 12th, 2018 by

“Change awaits us. What is decisive is our deciding.” – Father G, Tattoos on the Heart

One of my teachers this week talked about epiphanies. We all have them from time to time. They are a moment of clarity when things ‘click.’ I find most of my moments of clarity involve being re-introduced to something I’ve long known but from which my attention had wandered. Father G’s quote represented an epiphany for me.

Thoughts are easy. Living out a new decision, though… that is challenging. Not eating those foods. Getting up off the couch and running. Writing those ‘thank you’ notes each week. Reaching out to a new friend. Going to camp for the first time.

These changes are hard. But, until we are challenged, we cannot change.

Staying where you are – emotionally, physically, mentally – that’s easy. You are already ‘there’ – wherever there is. And, you are as happy as you are going to be ‘there.’

Camp is set up to challenge and, thus, create change. Going away from home, from what and who you know is challenging. Especially if it’s the first time you’ve done so.

That’s why all of our new campers live with and connect with other new campers. They need to know there is someone around them going through the same challenge. We draw strength from shared experience. Its incredible the number of lasting friendships born out of that first summer together.

Second Summer

You know what else is challenging? Coming back to camp for a second summer.

Everything should be the same, right? You loved it last summer. Your counselors were amazing, the friends fantastic, and activities incredible. Sure, you missed home but everyone does there first summer, right?

Here’s the thing: while so much of camp remains the same, things change each summer. We have to! If we don’t change, we can’t get better at our unchanging goal: creating an amazing experience for everyone we meet.

Another thing that changes? YOU DO! Yes, you may feel the same but every year you get older, you can’t help but change. You’ve experienced more. Your eyes have been opened to a larger world. In lots of ways – some big and a lot small – you are a different human being each time you return to CW.

Let’s embrace that change. Let’s celebrate it – together! And, are the challenges worth it? Without a doubt! Whether it’s your first, second, or 22nd (you rock, Camp Mom Judy!), we are excited to have a blast alongside you this summer!

Camp Poetry

Posted January 5th, 2018 by

I’ve shared a lot of poems at Campfire over the past decade for good reason: they share a message much better than my meager abilities! We’ve listened to a lot from Dr. Seuss – Oh, the Places You’ll Go and Yertle the Turtle come quickly to mind. I’ve read Invictus by William Henley, If by Rudyard Kipling, among others.

In reading through a new book recently, I came upon this one:
With the Moon Language by Hafez

Admit something:
Everyone you see, you say to them, “Love me.”
Of course, you do not do this out loud, otherwise
Someone would call the cops.
Still, though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect.
Why not become the one who lives with a
Full moon in each eye that is always saying,
With that sweet moon language, what every other eye in
This world is dying to hear?

Hafez lived in the 14th century in Persia. But he just as well may have been writing specifically for us. Every child who walks into camp is yearning to connect. It doesn’t matter if they’ve been at Weequahic for 9 summers or getting off the bus for the first time.

All have this great pull in them to connect. Want to know a secret?

I feel the same way.

At Camp

At Weequahic, we get to drastically decrease the ‘noise’ of our lives. The cell phone and internet are left at home. Video games are not at the finger tips. Homework? Well… only if you really, really want some. Too competitive? Raise your hand if you want to play and let’s just have a blast. The afterschool run around? Non-existent.

This decrease in the noise only helps to foster connections between the campers and their old friends, new-found friends and mentors. It’s a complete blessing… if we do it right! That’s why we spend 10 months planning for the experience.

So, in this new year, I highly recommend adding a little poetry to your life. It may remind you about what’s important. Have a great week!

Out with the Old, In with the New (Year!)  

Posted December 31st, 2017 by

I’ve spent the last several days thinking on the past twelve months. They’ve been among the most exciting and interesting I’ve enjoyed. It’s been a year marked with a lot of positive experiences, moments, and memories.

It’s also been a year marked with failures from which, I sincerely hope, I’ll learn.

The Positives

Lots of great new camp families joined along with a couple of amazing full-time staff – Scrappy and Maintenance Director Alex.

We created a brand-new program (and huge new building) for our Senior Campers. Based on the comments and the returning campers, it’s been very well received.

It looks like our our campers and staff enjoyed an amazing summer. This thought comes from enjoying the highest return rate on record for both campers and staff members. Wow – that’s pretty awesome! Thank you to all!

We also hit on a few new ideas at Weequahic that look to last:

  • What will be your September Story?
  • We either win or we learn.
  • Don’t let the small rope hold you back.

Areas for Improvement

We want to be better at communicating with our camp families and our staff and will continue to work on ways to improve. Better systems and technology to support the fantastic people we have with us will make a positive difference.

We’ll continue to update the bunks. Inter and Senior Girls – you all get brand new bathrooms, siding and windows for Summer ’18. Gentlemen, you’ll be next. (Ladies first, after all!)

New ideas for activities, special events, and evening activities for our campers are high on the list as well. Thankfully, we have an amazing group of people thinking on this very subject. We can’t wait to watch everyone enjoy this coming summer!

Finally, we want to be better at staying in the moment and enjoying every aspect of the camp experience. The more we model this for our campers, the more they’ll do it themselves.

Welcome 2018

I enter 2018 with a full and grateful heart. Thank you to all who were a part of our community in 2017. We’ve learned so much from so many, it would take too long to list everyone. But, we certainly appreciate everything you’ve done to be alongside us.

It’s going to be an amazing year. Why? Because we’ll make it so… together!

As far as resolutions, I have two that I’ll share:

First, I want to know the people’s names who I see all the time at the grocery store, our UPS person at home, our dry cleaner, etc. Why? Because we interact often enough to know each other’s names.

It’s something we pride ourselves on at camp. I want to make it a bigger part of my home life, too. So, that’s one.

The second? Lay off the Canteen!

I hope you and your family has a wonderful end to 2017 and a safe start to the New Year. See you in 2018!

Can’t wait for camp,

Cole

A Camp Ode to Joy

Posted December 23rd, 2017 by

“He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy of each separate muscle, joint, and sinew in…that it was aglow and rampant, expressing itself in movement, flying exultantly under the stars.” – Jack London, Call of the Wild

I love this quote from Call of the Wild. It encapsulates what one sees walking around Camp Weequahic during our evening activities, seeing the kids in the dance hall performing with their friends, sliding around Sly Lake on the tube, and dashing up the sidelines with the ball in hand:

Joy.

The gift of camp is, for many, the experience of joy. While we can’t live at camp year-round (mores the pity), it doesn’t diminish our need for joy. So, in a season that talks about joy often, the question is a natural one: how do we get to ‘joy?’

Here are a few ideas from some authors (and campers) who often teach me.

It’s About the People

“To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” – Mark Twain

When our campers do something amazing, they share it with their friends. Most of the time, their buddies are right there alongside them to celebrate. However, our choice-based program allows great friends to try different things – a little separation is a good thing!

Walking through the Dining Hall at lunch illustrates this perfectly. The conversations are full of laughter, cheers, and wonder. “You did that?! That’s amazing!” Campers are not bragging – they are searching for joy by sharing it with their friends.

This is why we spend so much time and effort helping campers build friendships at Weequahic. First-time campers are justifiably nervous about the new experience. Once they have some friends with whom they share their joy, the first-time camper blooms.

Have something joyful? Get the most out of it by sharing it with a friend who’ll love it, too.

It’s About the New

“The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” – John Krakauer

With the holidays upon us, there will be many gifts given and enjoyed. So many will be treasured and loved for a long time. Other gifts won’t be so lucky in their length of service.

There are many times that I received a gift that brought some joy quickly. However, once the ‘newness’ of the thing – a video game, a toy, etc…. – wore off, it was no longer fun and quickly forgotten. I see it in our own boys from time to time.

Joy comes from exploring and finding something new. Discovering something you did not know before brings delight – a new skill, a new idea, or a outlook. Pushing past (normally self-set) boundaries opens up new realms of joy because you now have a larger world.

Combine these new discoveries with those close to you and you’ve got a potent ‘joy mix’ on your hands!

It’s About the Attitude

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Let’s be honest: sometimes you have to fake it to make it. Here’s my train of thought on this point.

Point #1: Our minds are set up to ‘value’ negative things three times more than positive things due to our needing to survive way, way before Starbucks and cell phones. While saber-tooth tigers are no longer a threat, our brains haven’t much changed their weighting system.

Point #2: We’ve gotten to a place of ‘happy stimulus overload.’ As I write this, I’m sitting on a plane flying at 35,000 feet from Tel Aviv to London (and then, hopefully, to Atlanta!) I’ve got 42 moive options, a whole host of tv stations, books, newspapers, and games at my fingertips. Meh…. It’s ok.

We fail to notice the pleasures around us because there are so many! (Personal note: As someone who travels a lot and has been incredibly lucky in life, I find myself being ‘meh’ too often about these incredible experiences. I’m a work in progress, too!)

Point #3: When you smile (with both your mouth and your eyes), you physically and chemically alter yourself, if ever so briefly, into a new state. You become happier along with being more receptive, patient, and empathetic. It also changes the sounds coming out of your mouth.

What do these three ideas have to do with joy? They tell me we have to decide to battle our natural setting (attending to the ‘bad’ a lot more than the ‘good’), treat the world around us with more gratitude, and smile. That combo will give joy a great chance to enter our lives.

Last Days of 2017

So, in these last of 2017, join me in taking a few minutes (or more) to reflect on joy. Watching our campers each summer has taught me a lot about the subject. Their joy has reminds me that sharing new experiences with friends (both new and old) brings even more joy. And, smiling will help joy walk into my life more often.

I hope these ideas will help you en-joy the last handful of days in ’17. Have a great week!

Are You Trying or Doing?

Posted December 15th, 2017 by

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!