That time I went to Camp…
…was just this past weekend. Seriously. I just returned from something that was billed as “summer camp for grown-ups.” And it was an amazing experience.
Whether I consider myself a grown-up varies depending on the day and situation, but let’s just put that aside for a moment and pretend that I fit the spec. Who on earth would create – and why would I want to attend – such an event?
The answer to the first question is Jonathan Fields – author, speaker, serial entrepreneur and creator of The Good Life Project (which is growing and morphing and becoming not a program, not even a business, but a movement – stay tuned).
The answer to the second question is more complex. We all make decisions based on “what’s in it for me.” In this case, I knew I’d see some friends that are very special to me, I’d be in surroundings that I find beautiful and inspiring, and that I would probably learn a thing or two. I was also pretty sure, knowing Jonathan and what he tends to create when he puts a group of people together, that there would be some magic. That said, I have had personal experience of a Jonathan Fields-curated group causing massive disruption and discomfort for me personally, so I was somewhat apprehensive. All that said, what happened was beyond my expectations, and quite extraordinary. As the kids say these days, “Mind….blown.”
“Camp GLP” as it was called, was three and a half days of honest to goodness summer camp – in bunks, boys and girls separated (well, mostly), comfort food cafeteria style, arts and crafts, bonfires, Color Wars, friendship bracelets and, yes – S’Mores (campers from outside North America had their worlds rocked with that alone!).
The weekend was first and foremost just plain fun. We’re all pretty serious, aren’t we? Particularly in the very corporate circles where I travel most frequently, being “silly,” “playing,” being trusting and open and, heaven forbid, not worrying about the image you’re projecting are all pretty much taboo. So to find myself in an environment where the exact opposite of all of that was true was simultaneously hilarious, uncomfortable, curious and oddly right. But beyond the general mood and tone, there were many aspects of the event that I marvelled at:
- The sight of over a hundred people up at 6:00am to meditate (with the inimitable Kristoffer Carter at the helm), in spite of the unforeseen sub-zero temperatures and widespread lack of sleep.
- The seamless mixing of young and old, gay and straight, corporate and New Age, creative and analytical, introvert and extrovert, tall and short (hey, it mattered in the Color Wars games!), from all over the world – all talking, hugging, learning and laughing together.
- The unwavering generosity of all of those colourful characters across all categories – time, information, experience, ideas, arts and crafts supplies, blankets and gloves, workshop recommendations, tech support, toothpaste…you get the idea…it was truly a case of if you needed it, you just asked and someone helped you. Right away. With a smile. Even if they weren’t on the staff or volunteer team (which, by the way, ROCKED!).
- The focused attention of small groups of people on artistic and creative endeavours as diverse as tea blending, juicing, personal branding, podcasting, making green smoothies, story circles and illustrated journaling – the list went on and on.
- Two hundred and fifty people NOT on their phones. All at once. By choice. Although the threat (promise) of being tackled if caught walking and typing was motivating.
- The very real care and complete acceptance that total strangers can have for one another, no matter what each of us was experiencing (and I personally witnessed people in sadness, overwhelm, hopefulness, loneliness, exhilaration, fear, pain and joy, just to name a few).
So what did I learn?
I learned what it means to create a truly “high performing team.” Not in the usual, corporate, “drive for results” kind of way, but in the purpose-driven, shared values, total trust in and acceptance of each other in full commitment to the customer kind of way. Jonathan and his wife Stephanie brought together an extraordinary team that delivered beyond any and all expectations.
I learned that it’s possible for a couple of hundred people to come together and TOTALLY TRUST that we were all there for similar reasons, that we were all good people at heart, and that we were all committed to making the space safe for everyone, no matter what they had going on or why they were there. Human beings, when they feel seen and heard and loved and cared for, are naturally generous with each other (corporate culture creators – take note!)
I learned that it’s possible to challenge oneself to change and play a bigger, better game even if you’ve been living every day already thinking you’re doing your right and best thing.
I got reminded that impact can be big or small, and that both are meaningful and good, and to help one person feel safe and cared for can feel as satisfying and powerful as revving up a room full of people.
As an adult, particularly if you’re on a growth and/or change path, it’s sometimes tough to find your “people.” And if you consider yourself a “difference-maker,” someone determined to create positive change in the world, I think it’s that much harder. Camp GLP was an uplifting moment in time that I think will have lasting impact on each and every one of us who attended, and then by extension on the work that we’re doing, and I am profoundly happy that I got to be there. Plus, the S’Mores were great.