Posted by Larry Johnson on October 23
A question we often get asked at camp is “what do you do when there’s no campers at camp?” While a lot of the campers imagine the leadership team spending the days of fall, winter and spring taking turns doing all the favorite camp activities like the zip-line, canoeing or maybe playing sock wars together. The answer is actually none of the above!
While Sally, Ivy, and Frances are out on the road recruiting campers and counselors all over the southeast, I get to stay home at camp facilitating leadership training and team building to different teams that come to camp on weekends. Our counselors go through the same team building during their orientation while they’re learning how to work together for the summer. We eventually get to use a lot of the same ropes course elements the campers are familiar with but my favorite part of team building happens long before they get to go up in the air and push themselves out of their comfort zone and into their personal growth zone of learning.
My favorite part of training is when we teach counselors to be focused and constantly look for opportunities to step up and lead or maybe a reason to complement someone for a job well done. It’s called the “red car theory”, where I ask them “How many red cars did you pass on your way to camp?” They all shrug their shoulders and look around at each other wondering if anyone actually knows the correct answer to such a random question. Their inevitable answer is “I don’t know, but I’m sure I passed several…..” Then I ask them “What if I paid you $100 for every red car you passed on your way here, would you be sure to count every car you saw then?” The obvious answer is a resounding and unanimous “YES!!!!”
Opportunities to step up and be a leader or help make someone’s day are just like those fictitious red cars. They’re all around us everywhere, everyday. We just have to be actively looking for such opportunities and trained to take advantage of the growth opportunity. You know they’re starting to understand the concept when later in their training a counselor may have missed a chance to offer some helpful advice to another team member and someone else will remind them, “that was a red car…..” Helping them see the opportunities they missed makes it easier for them to better recognize the same situation and respond differently later.
Here’s another fun question we ask our counselors and teams. What would you do if when you wake up, you had $86,400 in your bank account and you could spend it anyway you wanted but at the end of the day, whatever amount was left over vanished. The good news is the next day when you woke up you had another $86,400 in your account with the same rules about spending it and the remaining amount gone at the end of the day. What would you do each day?
The answers vary from going on long exotic vacations, buying anything they wanted or doing things they’ve always wished to do. It’s fun to watch them come up with the endless ideas of what would be possible in such a scenario. Then I tell them the scenario is actually very true. Each day they have 86,400 seconds to do whatever they want and make the most of each day. Their options are endless, its up to them to take full advantage of each second every day. But like the beginning of the story, at then end of the day every second they didn’t take advantage of is gone forever. The good news is the next day they get another 86,400 seconds to take full advantage of and do whatever they need to do to help make their dreams and goals a reality.
So while everyone at camp is busy on the road recruiting campers and counselors everyday of the off season, I have to ask you a simpple question……what are you doing with your 86,400 seconds today, tomorrow and everyday? Each sunrise gives you new options.
Maybe you can go out and look for red cars? Have a great week, and we’ll see ya next summer!!!!
Larry is originally from Florida and graduated from Florida State University (Go Noles!). He taught and coached for 12 years before working full time at camp. During the off season, he heads up the winter retreats and leadership training with sports teams from all across the country. He’s married to Sally (who tries to keep him in line) and is an avid pilot and caver in any free time he can find.