Our Inner Battle
Each summer, I always share the same talk with the boys. Since they seem willing to forgive this redundancy, I will repeat it for you as well. The talk is about embracing challenges.
The Lake Swim entails swimming across the lake and back (roughly 700 meters). We basically take over the lake, lining it with 26-30 kayaks with 3 boats providing additional help. It is one of the longest standing camp traditions and a true challenge to our oldest campers (the oldest gals go Tuesday morning).
As we talked about the Lake Swim, I offered a view of human nature.
In cartoons, the lead character is often shown with an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. The angel and the devil both dispense opposite advice to the main character. I think this cartoon has it wrong.
We do not have an angel and a devil, but we do have a Warrior and a Worrier. The Warrior faces adversity, tries new things and accepts challenges. The Worrier is rapt in fear and finds reasons to avoid new things or challenging situations. The Warrior says "I want to learn to snow ski. I want to try out for the play. I want to meet those new people." The Worrier answers back "Skiing is too cold. Theater is stupid. Why do I need new friends?" Note that the Worrier is clever - rather than say "I am scared", it instead finds excuses not to try.
The Warrior looks at the world and sees opportunity. The Worrier looks at the same things and sees limitation and fear.
For parents and youth development professionals, we should look for ways to feed the Warrior and starve the Worrier. Let me be clear, I still believe that we should focus on Reasonable Risks (one of our “4 Rs”), not dangerous ones. In my examples, I am discussing challenges that are difficult and out of our comfort zone, but safely attainable.
This week, each camper will have some Warrior/Worrier moments. It is my hope that we create an environment sufficiently supportive and loving to encourage each camper to listen to the Warrior!
I ended by sharing 2 stories from 9 years ago. In the first, a camper had decided that he did not want to swim. As a result, he jumped in the lake, swam 3 or 4 strokes, came back and declared that it was too far. He never even tried.
Later that summer, we had a 7th grader that was 6’ 2” and not athletically gifted. I will call him Richard. Richard was a very poor swimmer. He, nevertheless, wanted to try the Lake Swim. In addition to the kayaks and lifeguards, we had a leadership team member swim with him.
During the swim, the next to last camper completed the swim in 45 minutes or so. This camper, along with the rest of the Aquanauts, went to the cabin, changed, ate breakfast and returned to the dock to root Richard on.
Richard’s time? One hour and 27 minutes. Without question, it was the slowest time I have ever seen by half an hour.
Yet I remember Richard and his determination. I do not remember the winner of the race, but I can see Richard’s face as he touched the dock: exhausted, worn and proud.
I want our campers to have moments where they try things unsure of success. I want them know that the key to triumph is “try”, even if it means not winning or accomplishing every goal.
I love Thomas Edison’s response when asked abut his many “failures” in developing the light bulb: “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”
I hope my children – and yours - develop this belief. It will set them up for one heck of a life!