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Lessons Learned from Camp

July 26, 2016

As long time readers know, I work with Boy Scouts. Recently we took 19 boys to a week-long summer camp, and while I always find being around kids to be instructive, this time I realized that some of these lessons apply to techies as well as campers.

1) We take cell phone coverage for granted.
I don't know about you, but I'm online quite a bit, to the point where things like checking email and the news are second nature. In addition, I do web searches and I send myself reminders and notes. Except, of course, when I'm out in the wilderness. At least, none of these capabilities exist where our camp is located. If I had to, I could get a signal by literally climbing a mountain. Inconvenient as it is though, I don't mind putting down my phone for a week. Not only is it less of a distraction when I'm camping (and engaged in activities like swimming, rowing, hiking and horse-riding), I have a greater appreciation for its capabilities when I'm back home. Really, I noticed all of the adults in our camp were more engaged once they realized and accepted that checking for messages wasn't an option.

2) The world will go on without you.
Between work and camping, I will squeeze in an occasional vacation. But if I have access to my phone, I tend to use it, which can make my vacations seem a lot like working remotely. I routinely find myself checking in, answering questions and generally being available. If camping isn't for you, find some other way to disconnect when you're out of the office. Set your out of office message and trust your team members to hold the fort while you go and recharge your mental batteries.

3) We all have adversity to overcome and things to learn. A little enthusiasm helps with both.
Most 12- and 13-year-olds who spend their lives in comfortable suburban surroundings struggle with homesickness, fear of swimming, fear of heights and climbing, fear of sleeping in the woods by themselves (as part of the wilderness survival merit badge), and fear of just being outdoors when a thunderstorm rolls in. But with Scouts, I get to see them overcome their fears and meet the challenges before them. It can be tough facing new technologies and techniques in our careers, especially as we get older and set in our ways. But approaching these challenges with enthusiasm does make a difference. 

4) Meetings go better with food.
When someone orders in lunch or brings treats to a work meeting, it lightens the mood and makes it easier to pay attention. It's the same with kids. Provide the treats and you'll get their attention -- at least for a few moments.

5) We all need plenty of rest.
Kids need their rest, but one thing we learn in Scouts is you have to get your charges good and tired before bedtime so they're too exhausted to run around and play pranks all night. Get them up early, keep them up late and make sure they're active throughout the day. At camp we started at 5 a.m. with the polar bear swim (the staff even throws ice in the pool to really intimidate the campers). Then there were merit badge classes. After that, we had some free time, followed by dinner and campfires. By the time their heads hit the pillows they were out until sunup. The grown-up version of this is get as much accomplished as you can during the day, but when it's time to rest, rest.

6) Being in shape will help you keep up
Whatever you want to do professionally or personally, you'll have more energy and get more enjoyment from what you're doing if you're exercising and eating right.

As exhausting as a week of herding cats -- I mean... kids -- is, Scouts camp was a fantastic experience. I'm already looking forward to next year.

Posted July 26, 2016 | Permalink

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