Month: February 2018

Choose Your Words Wisely

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

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.


“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

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.’



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