Archive for February, 2019

Necessary Boredom

Posted Friday, February 22nd, 2019 by

Here’s a fun conversation starter: In sixty seconds, tell me how many ways a cat and a refrigerator are alike. Go!

Both purr, produce heat, are cold towards humans, hold milk and cream, can have hair balls…. You get the idea.

Why do this? First of all, it’s funny. Secondly, it requires that you get rid of the conventions that you’ve built up over time in your head. Finally, if you do this as a team, it’ll really start to get the creative juices going.

Paper Clips

Did you know that 98% of five-year-old kids come up with 100 ways to use a paper clip over the course of one hour? Guess how many 35-year-olds could do the same. (The answer is 2%!)

Sir Ken Robinson, he of Ted Talk fame, tells of this study in an attempt to explain divergent thinking. This is not the same thing as creativity, or as Sir Ken says it, “the process of having original ideas that have value.” Rather, it’s an important aspect of creativity – being able to see the same thing… differently.

When I walk through the Boys’ bunks at night, there are a lot of examples of divergent thinking. Tennis courts laid out with duct tape on the bunk floor. Towels hung from the ceiling to change bunk beds into forts. Little pieces of tape everywhere (including the porch) marking the place from which someone had made a nerf hoop basket. And, don’t get me started about porch ball….

The girls are no different. I’ve seen BBG played hundreds of times and I still have little idea on how it’s played but they sure do. The few moments that I’m allowed to watch Panic, our girls’ favorite skit game, easily displays divergent thinking. (Plus, ladies… c’mon. I don’t sound THAT southern….) The costumes they create for Twinner Dinner with all 11 in a bunk together? Stunning!

Creativity at Camp

Creativity at camp comes from a number of sources. First, we remove a whole lot of external stimuli – no phones, precious few screens, and no homework. Secondly, we’ve got great support and encouragement from the counselors to stretch those creative muscles. Finally, we give the group a chance to be either bored.

Yes… I said it – I don’t mind a little boredom at camp.

It inspires creativity, especially in a community that really comes together. Without these moments of ‘umm… what are we going to do?’, we wouldn’t have Bench Ball, BBG, Night at the Races, Trash Bag Fashion, Queen’s Request or dozens of other fun ideas.

So, knowing all of the benefits of boredom and the power of divergent thinking, how can we get more creative back home? It’ll take three c’s: courage to actually put the phones down and turn off the tv, connection with each other and, finally, a bit of creative thinking.

Have a creative week!

Love Letter from Camp Weequahic

Posted Thursday, February 14th, 2019 by

Dear Parents,

Hi. This is Camp Weequahic. (Yes, the actual place – not that crazy guy Cole who runs around all the time.) I know we don’t talk much this time of year. Hey – it’s really cold and I’m not one for talking much.

But, in mid-winter, I get a chance to think a bunch without all the commotion of the summer.  One thing I realized I need to express to you is this: thank you.

Thank you for sending your children to come play on my grounds, learn in my classrooms, & swim in my lake. I’ve been around for a long time and each summer feels like the first.

Starting in April, all these great young men and women pour over me for several weeks, giving my grass a cut, fixing up the little dings from Mother Nature’s winter, preparing great things for the coming party.

These staff members get so excited when talking and thinking and planning about the kids arriving. I do, too.

And then it happens: cars and buses arrive full of kids! Young and old, new and returning, happy and (a few) fearful. They arrive from all over the place – different backgrounds, different experiences, different states and countries…. It’s so much fun!

What amazes me is how the pageantry and party of the first day transitions into the ‘normal flow of awesomeness’ so quickly. My Dining Hall literally rocks with the singing and dancing. My fields are full. My arts facilities smell of paint and clay and wood dust. And it all just works and sings and shines, no matter the weather.

(Yes, my grass gets pummeled but I’m here to help grow great kids, not grow grass….)

I can’t tell you happy it makes this old camp to host so much love and joy and laughter and learning. It’s a gift to see these children grow into young adults. It’s even more fun to see so many return as staff members to help the next generation of campers grow into independent, courageous, competent, and confident people.

Parents, I’m old enough to realize that this would not happen without your trust and your desire to give your child the gift of summer camp. Without you, I’d probably be a condo complex or sub-division or field for cows to enjoy. Being a place where kids come to learn and grow is so much better.

Your kids are a gift to me. And the community they get to create at summer camp is a worthy launching pad for their limitless futures. I can’t wait to see what they have in store me this coming summer.

So, since it’s Valentines Day, I wanted to express all this to you.

Love,

Camp Weequahic

Now. Here. This.

Posted Friday, February 8th, 2019 by

As you can imagine, there are a lot announcements during a day Camp Weequahic. Not all start the same, though.

In the dining hall or around the flagpole, you’ll hear ‘THREE, TWO, ONE, SHHHhhhh….’ to get everyone’s attention. For the activity day announcements, you’ll hear music from the speakers and the melodious voices of our office team. Moo Call is announced with, well… mooing. (Seriously!)

It wasn’t always this way. In fact, not too long ago ‘Now hear this’ was used to get everyone’s attention. You’d hear it barked through megaphones and read it in newsprint. It was everywhere, normal.

Father Greg Boyle, founder of the largest gang rehabilitation program in the world, wrote a book that captured me for a week. In it, he uses this ‘Now hear this’ phrase in a different way.

Now

We often get caught up revisiting and reliving the past or imagining the future. Some of this is certainly useful.

Reviewing our past mistakes to learn the lessons therein is useful. Remembering times when we did something really well leads to confidence. So does imagining ourselves doing something perfectly in the future.

But when we get caught in those spots, we fail to live our lives now. And, when we fail to be totally immersed in the ‘right now’ we miss opportunities, delights and simple joys.

Here

Be where your feet are. I’ve noticed this saying a lot lately. Rather than focusing on somewhere else, be fully immersed in where you are.

Walking around camp the first few days of the session, you’ll find a few campers thinking about home. It’s completely natural and missing home is a real thing. Rather than being ‘where their feet are’, these campers have one foot at camp and another back home.

Like Mr. Myagi said, you can’t walk down the middle of the road. You’ve got to choose one side or the other. At Camp Weequahic, we do everything we can to help our campers revel in being ‘here.’

This

What you are doing right now is important. Doesn’t matter if you are making your bed, laughing with your friends, or learning a new skill.

We spend a lot of time in our own heads. Even when someone is in front of us, we are often making lists of things to do, thinking about what’s for dinner, or looking around. Often, we are thinking about our response to what they are saying rather than truly listening.

Whatever is in front of you deserves your attention. (Except for your phone. Put that down. J) Focus completely on what is in front of you.

The more we practice the Now. Here. This. Idea, the more joy you’ll get and give to the world around you. Yes, there is a need to review the past and dream of the future. Careful, though, that you don’t sacrifice the present.

 “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” – Mother Teresa

 

PS – Amit Ray said, “If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” I enjoyed a great campfire conversation with Bob Ditter about just this topic. I hope you’ll take a few moments to listen.

I Want You to Fail

Posted Friday, February 1st, 2019 by

Yes, you read that right. I want you to fail. And not just once but again and again and again. I want you to screw up, mess up, flub the line, tangle the string, drop the pass.

Why? Because, if you take it correctly, it’s the only way you’ll learn.

Learning from Mistakes

When you’ve made the mistake, take a moment and think. Review what happened. Where was your attention? What did you not understand? Is there someone who can help think through it, diagnose the problem?

I know you are probably upset but remember – the space between what happens and how you react is yours to use as you want.

Once you’ve thought about the recent past, take some time to think about the near future: what will you do differently next time? In fact, once you have the knowledge you need, I want you to go so far as seeing yourself doing that ‘thing’ perfectly.

(Make sure to include the joy you’ll feel in accomplishing it!)

Then, get after it. Again.  Remember…

Competence Is Earned

When I was in elementary school, my friends and I watched a baby bird coming out of its shell. Seeing it start to struggle at pecking through its shell, I reached out to help.  Before I could get to the shell, the scoutmaster stopped me and said, “No, that bird has to get out itself. Otherwise, he won’t grow.”

I don’t know if that’s true or not but it made sense. It still does today, four decades later.

Like that baby bird, you have to struggle in order to know how to overcome. When you realize that challenges are there to instruct you, inform you, and engage you, you’ll start to develop grit, stick-to-it-ivness and confidence.

It is not easy and it is really important.

Want the good news? The people at Camp Weequahic can teach you how to make this learning fun.

Learning from Mistakes at Camp Weequahic

First off, your parents aren’t at camp. That automatically takes some pressure off of you. You can fail all you want! (And, those parents who are there act like they aren’t!)

Camper, speaking as a parent and for our parents: we don’t mean to apply ‘pressure.’ We don’t want you to be perfect. We want you to be a good human who can handle the challenges and joys of life as you grow old. And, we want you to call us often when we get old!

Instead of your parents, you are surrounded by all these great mentors and teachers, people who are only a few years older but have the experience to teach. They also have fresh memories of their own mistakes and are excited to support you in the learning process.

Secondly, you realize at Weequahic that some of ‘struggle’ is internal – building the courage to make a new friend, try a new activity, be vulnerable. And, some of it is external for all to see – muffing a line on stage, dropping the baton in the relay race.

The good news is you are surrounded by a TON of friends who are going through it, too. All they want to do with you (rather than at you) is laugh and have a blast. Again, this takes the pressure down a notch.

Finally, we try a lot of different things and do our best to make sure they are fun attempts. (And, of course, we keep things as safe as possible!)

Healthy Habits

In the end, you learn to frame the mistakes as ‘learning opportunities’ rather than failures or losses. And, when you pile up enough learning, you’ll start winning. Not just at the game or with that tricky part of wood shop work, but in building a life of meaning.

And that, campers, is something we should all get after.

So, go out and fail today. Just don’t fail to learn from it. We’ll be watching and supporting you the whole way!

Have a great week,

Cole

PS – If you’d like to listen to a Campfire Conversation Podcast on this subject, you’ll find a short conversation between me and some good friends on iTunes, Spotify, or Stitcher.