Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Change the World

Posted Friday, April 19th, 2019 by

I get to fly around the country often during the ‘off-season.’ (It’s a funny juxtaposition to my life at camp when I never leave!) When I fly, I always ask for a window seat so I can look at the landscape as we pass high above. One thing that always hits me: the Earth is huge!

When you travel and see things like New York’s Empire State Building, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Grand Canyon, you realize that we people are pretty small. When see a relatively small slice of land from 30,000 feet up, you feel even smaller.

With that in mind, it’s hard to grasp the idea of changing the world. It’s not even comical. If taken as a challenge, this idea is downright impossible.

And yet….

Ripples on Sly Lake

Human culture is too big to change by yourself. Have there been a few people to have done it? Yes. But the massive changes that came from Buddha, Abraham, and Jesus took centuries.

There have been others more recently like Marie Curie, Einstein, Mother Theresa, and Bill Gates who have done so more quickly. (And, yes, there have been some bad guys who have done the same but I’m not going to speak of them.) Their genius combined with the modern technological age allowed their ripples to effect us all.

But making a big change on your ‘world’ doesn’t have to include the whole world. We spend our time running around in our little worlds. Yes, these are connected to others but our homes, our schools, our camps… these are the little worlds in which we truly live out our days.

Do you think have you the ability to change those worlds? Of course you do. And, whether you realize it or not, you influence those ‘worlds’ every single day.

When we sit at the campfire and watch the swallows dip down and fish rise up, we see their ripples expanding ever outward. You create the same ripples with every kind word, every smile, and every helping hand. You also create ripples for the opposite actions and from inaction.

What kind of ripples are you going leave behind today? What effect are you going to have on the world around you? You get to choose. And that choice matters.

Have a wonderful weekend. See you soon!

Gratitude In Action

Posted Friday, April 5th, 2019 by

Around the campfire during the summers, I get to speak with our campers and staff about big ideas. The idea is to enliven their imagination and get them thinking about foundational values. Stories are shared as are quotes from thoughtful people.

Preparing to speak about gratitude for the first time around the campfire, I came across JFK’s quote:

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.

Ten years later, JFK’s quote came up again. In a wonderful conversation with two of my favorite people, Co-Director Kate and Asst. Director Dana, we kept circling back to acting out our grateful feelings and intent. I’ve always thought of it as an ‘attitude of gratitude’ but that’s only a small part of the equation, isn’t it?

Action is more important than words or feelings. Yes, I want to have a more grateful outlook on life but my actions will show me and everyone else what I truly believe. Jerry Sternin said something about this:

It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking, than think your way into a new way of acting.

THREE HAPPIES AND AN APPRECIATE

One gratitude ‘hack’ that we’ve enjoyed for two decades is the sharing of 3 Happies and an Appreciate.

The idea is simple and powerful. Throughout the day, collect the three things you were most happy about, i.e., ‘my child got the therapy he needed’ or ‘it rained on my flower garden today.’ Right before you go to bed, share those three happies with your child and your spouse.

Kate and I started doing this while courting and have practiced it every night for 18 years. When the boys showed up, we extended the habit to them as well. When your voice-changing, smelly, phone-addicted fourteen year old comes back down the stairs saying ‘you didn’t get my happies!’, you know it’s working.

The ‘appreciate’ was a new addition 10 years ago and it’s made a big difference in our lives. At the end of saying your happies, you look at the other person and tell them one thing you appreciated about them that day. Simple, yes, but hearing that you are appreciated is a powerful and wonderful thing.

THANK YOU

I’m grateful you’ve read through all this and hope it will be useful to you. I know your time is valuable and I appreciate you sharing some with me. And, if you’d like to listen to how we think about gratitude, take a listen to Kate and Dana’s recent podcast: Grateful Kids, Happy Adults.

Have a great weekend!

What Game Are You Playing?

Posted Friday, March 29th, 2019 by

Games have taken over the world, haven’t they? I remember playing checkers with Granddaddy as a boy. My brother and I made up games in the woods or on the beach. Dad would throw footballs for hours with us. We played Ms. PacMan and Mike Tyson’s Punchout on the Atari for as long as our parents could stand the music.

(I believe the record was about 34 minutes….)

Now, all of pop-culture seems to be screaming about Fortnite, the Final Four and Game of Thrones. Games certainly take up a lot of our attention. In fact, I’ve found myself looking at the scores in the WGC Dell Match Play championship writing this!

Those games, the physical ones we can all participate in, are not what I’m talking about with the title to this piece. Instead, I want to focus our attention on the social, mental and emotional games we are playing.

Your Billboard

Tim Ferriss, the writer and podcaster, asks almost all of his guests this question: if you were given a billboard and could write something up there for everyone to see, what message would you offer? Graham Duncan, a recent guest, brought up a quote from Kwame Anthony Appiah:

In life, the challenge is not so much to figure out how best to play the game; the challenge is to figure out what game you’re playing.

In the podcast, Graham talks about the games of ‘making money’ and ‘building power.’ Those games aren’t in your wheelhouse right now, camper.

That’s not to say that you aren’t playing any games, though.

What’s Your Game?

Is your game ‘I want to look good to the teachers and just get by’ or ‘I want to learn as much as I can regardless of what it looks like?’ Perhaps you are older and playing ‘whatever I can do to get into college x.’ Or maybe you are playing the ‘I’m scared and I don’t want anyone else to know’ game.

We all play games, kiddos. Your parents (and your camp director) do, too.

Some games are easy to play without even knowing it. Trying to keep up with those around you that you deem to be doing better in whatever we than you. Going along with the herd. Those are easy to do… and not always worthwhile.

The game I would have you play? Here are two ideas:

  • How can I make a positive difference in someone else’s life today?
  • What I can do to become a better ‘me’ today?

I was going to write down a few more. The more I think about the important games we can play, though, the more I believe these are the two most valuable. If you ‘win’ at each of those games each day, the world around you gets better. And that ripple effect will surely be a powerful thing.

Campers, it’s the quality of the relationships in our lives that matter most. That idea has been proven by both life and science.

Therefore, if you want to lead a life of meaning, fill it full of games that draw you nearer to those you love and the person you want to become. We all play. Choose your game wisely.

Have a great week!

Look Up

Posted Friday, March 22nd, 2019 by

Go to any spot where a lot of people are moving around you’ll see something that used to happen only rarely: people walking with their heads bowed down. College student walking through campus, professionals crossing streets. There even men and women riding bikes and driving cars… all with their heads bowed down.

In the past, this scene was only available at monasteries, abbeys, and convents. The monks and nuns, heads bowed, were walking and worshipping, their aim focused on their God.

I fear we are walking and aiming, too. but on things a bit less important.

Choose Your Aim

Everyone aims. Whether you’ve got a bow and arrow in your hands, a needle to thread, or a potential friend in your sights, you are aiming. Your focus is on the end goal and giving that goal your attention is a huge part of what you ultimately complete.

Campers, what we aim at is important because ‘it’, the goal we want, shapes us. That which we reach for, that to which we give our attention changes us. In fact, this process of aiming even modifies the important stories we tell ourselves.

If our aim is noble, progressing towards that aim point is what brings positive emotion.  If we have no purposeful aim, no focus on some one thing other than to be entertained, then we are just blundering about. Where is the joy in that?

How do we aim? With the eyes in our head and the ‘eye’ in heart. What we seek out with our eyes will affect what we feel in our hearts and vice versa. Take a moment and think, really think, about what you are looking for, head bowed over your phone?

Look Up

One of the joys of being at Camp Weequahic is the surrounding. I’ve heard many a camper, staff member and parent comment on the beauty of the place (and how good the air smells!)

I agree, the place is beautiful. We have towering pines, lots of squirrels, birds, fish and chipmunks. The sky at night is filled with stars we rarely see and we are surrounded by stars who shine even brighter – the people of Weequahic.

With our eyes up and away from our phones, we see everyone around us. We start to live in the moment, fully open to the present which, at camp, certainly feels like a present!

This only happens when we look up and around us. With our aim pointed towards those around us, we are on a path that leads to true connection.

The path on our phone? It may help with connection. But does it really? It may give us access to enormous amounts of information. But is it information we truly need? It certainly gives us a lot to look at. But should that be our aim?

Campers, look up and around you. And help me do the same.

Have a great week!

You Don’t Have to Fit In

Posted Friday, March 15th, 2019 by

Our team often turns to Dr. Brene Brown when thinking about camp. We’ve read all her books, thought about how her ideas can help shape our culture, and bounced ideas off of her work. One of the big points we keep coming back to is ‘fitting in’ vs. ‘belonging.’

From an Oprah.com article:

“(C)ontrary to what most of us think: Belonging is not fitting in. In fact, fitting in is the greatest barrier to belonging. Fitting in, I’ve discovered during the past decade of research, is assessing situations and groups of people, then twisting yourself into a human pretzel in order to get them to let you hang out with them.

Belonging is something else entirely—it’s showing up and letting yourself be seen and known as you really are….”

Belonging at Weequahic

The idea of belonging is one that drives us at Camp Weequahic. Our campers come from 13 different states and 14 different countries. Each one is different from the next – tall and short, young and old, English speaker and Texan speaker.

Some kids have a lot of camp in their family history while others are jumping in for the first time. Even the handful of twins we have are different people.

So, how do we ‘fit in’ when camp is so diverse? First, by accepting the fact that you already belong. Second, by living out the values of gratitude, attitude and courage. And, third, by having a blast alongside everyone else.

Out There

Yes, it’s easier to feel you belong at camp. We get to create a bubble that shields us from the comparison trap easily found out in the ‘real-world.’ Your clothes, social media presence, grades, background… none of that matters at camp.

What matters is you having a blast alongside everyone around you, treating others with kindness, and striving to grow.

Out there, it’s harder. We all fall into habits and routines that drive us, sometimes blindly, through each day. A snapchat post here, homework there, comparing test scores with that kid, sitting with the same people at lunch.

We want to band together, form a tribe that will keep us ‘safe.’ We just want to fit in. (I know – I do it all the time.) We don’t want to stand out. Wear the same clothes, show up at the same time, ignore the same people, be nice to the same people….

Here’s the thing, though – anyone who made an impact on the world around them didn’t fit in.

Standing Out

The little lady who saved so many in Sri Lanka? She knew she belonged and just did the work.

The man with the funny hair who played the violin (badly) and was dyslexic? He figured out so many big problems that he didn’t have time to worry about what others thought.

The leader who walks around in a robe all day who has written books, played with children, and climbed mountains.*

If you get to the base facts, it’s pretty simple. We’re all humans. We all live on earth. We all share the same air, are warmed by the same sun, and profit from the same blood in our veins.

You don’t have to fit in. You already belong. Have a great week!

*Can you guess who I was talking about? It’s Mother Teresa, Dr. Einstein, and the Dalai Lama

Welcome to the Party

Posted Friday, March 8th, 2019 by

I’m a big fan of learning throughout the year using podcasts. These bite-sized reminders, new info, and interesting stories always give me something to think about. (And, if you’d like to try a new one about the lessons of summer camp, check out the one we are doing: Campfire Conversation.)

Kate and I spent several hours listening to a recent talk between Tim Ferriss and his guest, Graham Duncan. There was a lot in the talk about finding the best people for your team – something we research a lot at Weequahic. Not so important for our campers.

However, there were three points I thought were perfect ‘campfire’ ideas to share.

Subject or Object

Don’t worry – this is not a grammar lesson. (Mrs. Leary, my 11th grade English teacher, still gives me the shivers….)

This idea is all about how you see yourself in relation to what’s going on around you. For instance, it could be pouring down rain. You’ve got two choices in this situation: it’s all about the rain (It’s raining and that stinks!) in which case the rain. In this case, it’s the subject.  Or, you can flip the script a bit and make the ‘rain’ become the object as in ‘Hm… I get to go splash in the puddles!’

The fancy way to say this is you are moving the ‘locus of control’ to yourself rather than putting it outside yourself onto something you can’t control. This has a lot to do with attitude and choosing how you react.

Bring It On

This is a great idea to use when you know you are about to go through something uncomfortable or, gulp… painful.

Let’s say it’s your turn to run the mile in PE class. You never liked running and your normal ‘self-talk’ is to say ‘I really don’t like to run.’ This time, try something different:

Rub your hands together, smile, and say ‘bring it on!’

This won’t make you a world-class middle distance runner. However, it WILL give you the best chance of doing your best.

Here’s the thing, you either bounce off of pain like it’s a wall or you get through to the other side. If you create a habit of ‘bring it on!’, you’ll start to get to the ‘other side’ of the discomfort.

Welcome to the Party

‘Welcome to the party. I’m your amiable host.” I love this idea because it makes me think about the first day of camp. We get stand up with all our campers and yell ‘welcome to the party!’

When taken in the right context, everything is our ‘party’ as our senses draw everything in towards us. So, with this in mind, welcome to the party joy and pain, contentment and fear, bravery and anxiety. I’m your friendly host, let’s rock it out.

Graham, in the podcast, talks about his young son leaving his parents’ bedroom late one night saying, “Welcome to the party, ‘scared of the dark!’” He got back in bed and went right off to sleep.

If it’s a party and everyone is invited, you get to be the type of host you want. Want to welcome experiences in a friendly way and shoo out anything that doesn’t fit? Or, do you want to sit back, let everything come at you and hang around, whether you want them to stay or not?

You get to choose. Welcome to the party!

Hat tip: Graham Duncan and Tim Ferriss

Road Signs

Posted Friday, March 1st, 2019 by

On a recent trip to West Virginia, Jack and I got to ‘enjoy’ the most winding, vertically challenging, foggy roads I’ve ever driven. To make matters more interesting, this was at night and at the end of an eight-hour journey.

For 90 minutes, we had switch backs and hairpins. Down the side of one mountain and up the side of the next. The experience moved from hair-raising to giggle-inducing and, finally, into quiet determination – for both of us.

You know what kept us safe on a night we could see only about 100 feet in front of us? Lots of road signs.

The Road Ahead

After settling into our hotel room and turning off the lights, I was still too jazzed to sleep. (Jackie-boy had no such problems.) As I lay there thinking about the crazy roads and the bright signs, it dawned on me: that road-trip was a lot like becoming an adult.

We knew our final destination. And, at the beginning, all was easy. The highways were clearly laid out, the sun shining, and several good options for breaks and rest. Kind of like growing up – work hard at school, play by the rules, play time with friends, etc.

All was fine and dandy with the regular bumps in the road until the darkness fell. There was some traffic, a poorly timed bathroom break, some bad radio. Just like growing up: some friend-drama, (a few) failed quizzes, some mistakes I needed to make.

But, for the most part, fine sailing. Then, just like the road at the end of our journey, there arrives moment after moment of confusion and darkness.

For me, this started during in the first few years of college and ended… well, I’m not sure that it has!

You head out on your own for the first time. You start to make choices for yourself and the path forward is not as clear. In fact, sometimes, the path ahead can barely be found, even with all the looking you can muster.

That’s when it is so important to have bright road signs to point the way.

Your Signs

We all have signs, many of which are created when you are growing in your family, in your school, and in your camp. I can’t speak about what you’ve learned at the first two (though I can wager a pretty good guess), I can remind you what you are learning at Weequahic.

  1. A grateful heart is a happy heart.
  2. You get to choose your attitude.
  3. Courage is a muscle – use it or lose it.
  4. Be kind – it’s a choice, not a feeling.

So how do these habits become road signs for those dark and foggy days of your future? I’m glad you asked.

When you are grateful for all that you have – air in lungs, a supportive family, a bunch of opportunity, and so much more – you approach challenges with a better frame of mind. You are more likely to pick an attitude that will help rather than hinder your progress.

With courage, you’ll approach the challenges ready to reach out for help and expand your self-set limits. And, the more kind you are to all those around you, the more likely you are to have help happily offered.

My Signs

You’ll have a lot more signs in front of your if you pay attention. People with whom you work and study, opportunities that are scary and important.

You won’t have a lot of clear vision past the next turn. I say this is a former college golf coach, fund-raiser, frozen yogurt pourer, youth team coach, student, farmhand, substitute teacher and camp director. The signs laid out by my parents, teachers and mentors gave me direction in those foggy moments when I could have steered wrong.

Camper, take some time now to reflect on the signs building in your life. The path ahead is winding and not always clear. But, taken with the right attitude, it’ll be (mostly) fun and they’ll be plenty of road signs along the way.

Have a grateful week!

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.