Category: Campfire Conversation

The Ruler

This is a story created for Campfire on July 30, 2021. Enjoy!

Not so long ago, grandmother worked with her grandchildren to pick peaches from trees outside her home. They were going to make their famous peach ice cream which the children loved.

The little boy, being a bit rambunctious and possessing a great imagination like most boys, quickly grew tired of the work. Instead, he made a crown out of the little branches and leaves, grabbed a stick from the ground and pronounced himself king of the wood.

The little girl, being just as creative and strong-willed as the little boy, decided she would be create her own kingdom. Making a crown for herself and holding an old branch as a scepter, she walked as a queen should through the yard.

The grandmother smiled at her grandchildren. Being a person with a lot of experience and a lot of love toward the children, she had grown patient and welcoming of their role playing. But this also gave her an idea.

As the little girl tried to coral the squirrels and chipmunks who loved the backyard, she spoke to her:

“Granddaughter, what kind of ruler will you be? Will you be a kind ruler or will be mean? Will you work to serve those around you or will you make decisions that will only be good for you and your closest friends?”

“I’m going to be richest, most powerful ruler in the world! Everyone will bow before me!” (Remember, she was just a little person with lots of imagination.)

“Well,” the grandmother replied, “you certainly can be that way as a ruler. But, remember, you get to choose. How do you think your subjects will respond to you?”

“They’ll have to do what I say all the time! They’ll be happy because we’ll be the best and I’ll tell them to be! And if they aren’t, I’ll throw them in the dungeon!”

The grandmother smiled and turned to the little boy.

“How about you, grandson? What kind of ruler will you be? Will you be a kind ruler or will be mean? Will you work to serve those around you or will you make decisions that will only be good for you and your closest friends?”

Being a bit older and more experienced than his younger sister, the boy sat back on his make believe thrown and said, “I want to be a good ruler. I want my people to like me… but I still want to be king. Can you be both, Grandmother?”

“Children, you get to choose how you’ll make others feel and, to a great extent, how you’ll feel about yourself. In fact, that choice may be the most important one you’ll ever make.

“Things in your life can be all about you – what others think about you, how they act around you, how they treat you. Or, you can decide to serve others, not worry about yourself so much, and draw happiness from the actual connection with those around you.”

The grandchildren were listening. There was something about their grandmother that made them want to listen. Plus, they had begun to eat the ripe peaches and they were so tasty.

“I know you each are pretending to be rulers right now. There will come a time in your lives when you’ll either pick a ruler for yourself or let one picked for you. That ‘ruler’ is an idea or way of being that you’ll listen to and follow in good times and bad.”

“What’s that ruler called,” Grandmother? the little girl asked.

“Well, there are a lot of names,” said Grandmother. “But the best one I know is called ‘attitude.’ Attitude is how you respond to the events around you and even the thoughts inside your head. And, you get to choose how you respond to everything.”

“But as a ruler, we’ll always have good days,” said the little boy.

“Oh, if only that were true, grandson. As you grow older, do me a favor and don’t hope for only good days. Instead, choose to build an attitude that will help you handle whatever bad comes your way.

“Grandchildren, if you remember nothing else, please remember this saying from one of the wisest rulers to ever live: Your life will be what your thoughts make it.

“Now, come help your old Grandmother get these peaches to the kitchen. I know two little Rulers who are excited about some ice cream.”

And they walked off together into a bright future.

What’s Your Scorecard?

The 2021 Leaders-In-Training group is currently reading Chop Wood, Carry Water by Joshua Medcalf*. It’s a simple story filled with short, thoughtful lessons. This is my third time through it and I continue to pick up ideas that make a big difference when applied.

In brief, it’s a story about John, a young man who travels to Japan to realize his dream of becoming a samurai archer. His mentor and teacher, Akira, spends time instructing John through the process of becoming an archer. The lessons are many, useful, and unexpected.

While there are many questions Akira asks of John, one I think most useful right now is this:

What’s Your Scorecard?

We all have an internal scorecard. For some of us, it’s about school grades or friendships or ‘likes’ or ‘streaks’ or college acceptances. For others it may be money or fame or ‘one more customer’ (or camper) or becoming the best.

Tennis great Andre Agassi talked about his experience of becoming #1. He thought realizing his dream would be fulfilling and affirming. He found it wasn’t. In fact, it felt empty. His scorecard was very real and it led him to a place that he didn’t find worthwhile.

Writer Jonathan Foster Wallace spoke about this idea in a thought-provoking way in his This is Water speech. (Warning: the speech is excellent but should be read by adults first before sharing with kids.)

What If…

Rather having than all the things we can accumulate on the scorecard, what if we put behaviors or characteristics that we could practice every day on the scorecard instead? How much better could our lives be if we showed gratitude, picked our attitude, demonstrated courage, behaved justly, loved mercy, stayed humble, remained curious and so much more every day?

To start, Akira suggests John think of the people in his life that he admires. Then to write down the characteristics that they exude which he admires. From the resulting list, pick a few that resonate most and make those the new daily life scorecard. It’s a great exercise.

Our Scorecard

Camp Weequahic has a scorecard.  It’s one, we believe, that helps create a community that pulls the best out of the participants, be they campers or staff members. It’s by no means perfect but it does help to keep us grounded and striving toward a goal that will make the small world around us a better place. And that matters.

Scorecards change over time. But they always exist. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about a business, a school, a camp, a third grader, college student, or 90-year-old. We’ve all got them. We also all get to choose how we measure our lives. And that’s the great part.

So, what’s your scorecard?

*A portion of the book sales from the links above will go to SCOPE, a summer camp charity that we support.

Summer camp sports league play

Imagining Failure and…

I just received my 25th College Reunion notice today. Which made me think about what I was doing about this time 25 years ago. One thing that stands out: waiting to hear whether or not I had been accepted to the Masters of Sport Psychology program at school.

My parents, always supportive, told me I’d get in. My golf coach had written a great recommendation and thought I’d get in. I’d taken classes with the head of the program and worked as hard as possible to keep up. I thought I would get in… but I wasn’t sure.

And, if I hadn’t been accepted, I had no idea what my next steps would be.

Looking back on it, that lack of ‘what if’ planning was a big problem.

Learn to Fail or Fail to Learn

Failing to imagine how to handle failure is pretty common. In fact, during the two years it took me to earn that Masters in Sport Psychology (yes, I got in), I cannot remember ever once hearing we should help our athletes/kids/friends visualize failure. I was taught to help others imagine and plan their future success.

Say you wanted to complete a perfect tumbling pass in gymnastics. I’d ask you to see every move in your mind’s eye, imagine the pressure on your hands, the explosiveness in your legs, the feel of the floor, the sound of the music. Imagine, in every detail possible, the successful completion of the event. Even the high-five from your coach at the end.

This is all you need to succeed: hard work, visualizing the perfect outcome, and trusting the process of improvement. Right?

Wrong. It’s vital that we spend some time visualizing failure… and how we’ll handle it.

How You’ll Handle It

Dr. Stefi Cohen, world champion powerlifter, author, and business owner, recently spoke with Tim Ferriss about failing to make some lifts that were ‘easy’ for her in a competition. As a background, Dr. Cohen was the first woman to deadlift 4.4 times her weight – 540lbs. Crazy!

When she didn’t hit that ‘easy’ first weight, she lost it. Couldn’t continue. She was totally wrecked, both mentally and emotionally. This had been on ongoing issue for her.

A few days later, she decided she needed help with her approach. Working with a sports psychologist, Dr. Cohen started to visualize failing and how she planned on handling it.

After several months of work (and lifting), she got back into competing. And promptly failed her first lift. And her second. Then she ADDED weight and won the competition on the final lift.

How was she able to make such a turnaround? She had decided how she would handle failure – with thoughtfulness, humor, and resolve. And, she had imagined the experience in great detail over and over and over.

Failing at Camp

Believe it or not, we spend time during the off-season imagining why some of our as-yet-untried new ideas for camp did not work. Andy Stanley talks about this as a future ‘post mortem.’

By taking this approach, we’ve made our ideas better. We’ve found challenges and potential issues and planned our way around them. We’ve even decided not to do a few things after putting in the work.

Campers, this is also why I’ve asked every one of you this question: ‘When things don’t go well at camp – because sometimes they won’t – how will you handle it?’

Plan for missing home. Get ready for a miscommunication with another camper or a counselor. Prepare for a meal you don’t love. The more you plan for the (very rare) challenges at camp, the better you’ll be at handling them and getting back into the fun.

Preparing for Summer ’21

The good news? We’ve got lots of ideas on how to help you through the challenges. In fact, next week’s Campfire Conversation with Rikki Goldenberg is focused directly on this topic for campers, parents and staff. She’ll help us all get ready for a great summer! And, of course, we are always here for a call or Zoom chat. Let us help!

Have a great week, Weequahic!