Saturday, September 12, 2020

1993 - The Power of F Sharp

F Sharp Minor
(40 Summers 40 Lessons Series)

1993 - The Power of F Sharp

It is a familiar hum to most who ever stepped foot on the property. I always thought of it and referred to it as the “F sharp.”

There is an episode of the I Love Lucy show where Lucy and Ricky give their son, little Ricky, a drum and he keeps playing the same, “thump, thump, thump, thump, thump.” At one point after several days, he pauses and Lucy and Ricky lunge forward and to the side because the beating drum has stopped.

And there is the Bugs Bunny episode (1946, Rhapsody Rabbit) where he plays on stage Franz Liszt’ Hungarian Rhapsody in F Sharp Minor. It is however, the Arthur Fiedler and Boston Pops album that I had growing up that gave me the basis of my reference to the F Sharp. (Here is a YouTube link and all you have to do is keep the syncopated rhythm thrum, thrum, thrum as you listen to it) 

Hungarian Rhapsody in F Sharp Minor

As I returned to the property for the first time in over 19 months away, it was the sound I anticipated and knew that as soon as I heard it, would mean I was back. As soon as I turned off my car, I knew that Tom was checking the power. The familiar sewing machine sound of the diesel was nowhere to be heard. There was just the waterfall like sound of wind in the trees. It was a spectacular none sound and if you had spent any time on the property, you would know what you were not hearing. Everything lunged forward and to the side like Lucy and Ricky.

Every day, the 50Kw Caterpillar diesel generator was shut down and checked for levels and simple maintenance. I always felt a slow down or lurch forward at those times. It was infrequent that it would stop all together, but several times in the 11 years I was there, the generator stopped in the middle of the night and I would wake up out of a sound sleep when it happened.

The camp was powered by the generator and it kept the walk in refrigerator and freezers working to hold food. It kept  the water pumps pumping from the wells to the storage tanks that operated on a gravity feed to flush toilets, allow for showers and most f all drinking water for the inhabitants. Even the radio telephone required power. That camp was completely self contained and was its own microcosm of the world. There were simple lights in each of the cabins that were powered by that “F Sharp” and so much more.

Caterpillar 50Kw - just for reference, it's the one at camp

The power allowed for the capacity of influencing all things to happen in camp. This was the influence for all behaviors that occurred around the day to day operations. The “F Sharp” allowed the food, shelter, water, communication and basic energy to sustain camp. Power and energy are two different things. Though closely related, energy is the ability to cause change; power is the rate with which the energy is used.

My mentor, John Maxwell says that “leadership is influence, nothing more and nothing less.” I have always believed that that power yielded by a leader can be highly influential. Good or bad.

That engine at camp was a great leadership model that I drew on. It was always in the background. It was needed but not noticed; unless it broke down or stopped. If it was not fed and maintained, those stops became more frequent and sometimes unannounced. When the energy it put out was in that “thump, thump, thump,” rhythmic and positive form, it provided what was needed.

I know it may be a stretch to juxtapose that generator with the power of leadership. I do think of it often as a metaphor for how powerful leadership is and when misused, it becomes problematic. I worked under several different leaders in my time at that camp and the lessons I may have learned the most, where the lessons of how not to behave as a leader.

An old Y guy gave ne some advice on year about my staff training. Let’s call him Dan. He said, “Make sure you hire someone that you know that you are going to fire during that training week. That way you make a point with the rest of the staff and they will do what you want.” Dan, who I greatly admired, was sharing what I thought was a secret bit of knowledge that he thought would make me a better director. (Notice, I didn’t say leader). Like that generator, when it wasn’t performing well; this just did not sound right at all.

And so, I did it anyway because Dan had tremendous power. And during that week, I knew that Gus was that person. He was having a tough time with direction and he was likable. I knew he was going to go in a matter of days. And when the time came, I made it very public and I thought that I orchestrated this so well. We were in the middle of a session and he was getting riled up and I kept prodding him along until he blew up. At that point I told him,” Gus, you’re done. Thank you very much. I’d like you to go and pack up. Your services here are no longer needed.” I won’t describe what happened from there and it was not pretty, nor am I proud of any of it.

I felt like a real boss that day. I felt like my staff would now listen to everything I would ask of them and for a short time (very short) they did. I can also tell you that later, I threw up.

I can’t tell you that I changed that practice. I thought this is what one does, and you must stomach through it all. Dan would not have told me to do that if it wasn’t something that should happen. And folks, for several years, I did just that.

And to Gus, and Debbie and Mike and Pete and Simon and Shirley, let me apologize here and now. It took me some time to realize that directing from a place of fear and intimidation was not at all where I wanted to be as a leader. I can’t say that I have had to fire others. But I can say that for the last 33 years, I have never hired someone to be limited in my expectations.

Richard Bach said, “Argue for your limitations and they’re yours.”

“I learned that if you limit your team, they will live down to those exact limitations.” John Maxwell talks about this in the Law of the Lid in his 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. No team rises hirer than that of the leaders lid and once I started to raise my lid, I saw the power of how others would rise to the occasion.

There is a rhythm in everyone’s life and how they lead. I believe that mine is in the key of F Sharp.





Friday, September 4, 2020

2020 Summer's End – “You’re crying, so I know you are doing it correctly”

Night Hike from Castle Rock, Big Bear Lake, CA


(40 Summers 40 Lessons Series)

During a recent meeting of the American Camp Association Upstate New York Community, we were all reminded by our membership director that, “if you are too comfortable, you are probably doing it wrong.” This was part of his description of the camps that had in fact run this summer and how they were adhering to the safety protocols and pushing themselves, their campers, and staff teams through the season.

At the beginning of summer 2020, I wrote on this blog that I would be sharing 40 summers and 40 lessons. I mentioned what I have learned about life and leadership in what has been handed down to me as a manner in which I have shared with hundreds and thousands over the last 40 summers. “Camp is all about beginnings and endings.”

It is a leadership lesson that as I think about this year, is still relevant and truer than ever before.

Labor Day weekend always represents finality to the camp season. As I mentioned about Memorial Day weekend, many of my summers spent at Bluff Lake often ended on Labor Day Monday evening with a hike to Castle Rock. I spent a few of those with friends and co-workers on top of Castle Rock overlooking Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern California.

There was one particular Labor Day that my lifetime friend, Chris and one of our staff team, Katie (daughter to George, whom I have written multiple times) spent together. We had hiked out to Castle Rock and were heading back in the darkness wandering the 1.3 mile long trail back to camp.

At some point in the darkness we had heard loud animal noises and had dispatched several rocks into the woods and brush to hopefully scare off anything that may have been watching us. (I’ll share a tale of a mountain lion encounter at a later date). We were all a bit apprehensive about those kinds of encounters.

We had stopped cold in our tracks and pitched those rocks and sticks and when we heard nothing else, we just stood still for a while. Chris suggested each of us find a rock to carry for the rest of the trail. And so, we did. Chris took the point and Katie marched behind as a brought up the rear.

Our conversations were always intriguing and in low toned voices. It often evolved about summer memories and what we would take away from those lessons. Endings always seemed to bring that out in each of us and as mentioned, camp was in fact, all about that (at least 50%).

I think about this summer and juxtaposed to that night and I long for that connection that occurred for us as we strolled along the trail. I have recently returned from a trip out of state and besides having to self isolate for 14 days, decided for peace of mind that I would go take a Covid test.

As I pulled up to the drive thru Covid test, I immediately had that sense of anxiousness that seems to creep up in daily life over the past six months.

The LPN was dressed head to toe in protective gear and I could tell he was smiling underneath it all. He greeted me warmly and pronounced my name correctly as he told me to keep my window rolled up. He described the process and that I would need to insert the probe to the back of my nostril until I felt resistance. And then, hold it there for 15 seconds as he held the stop watch. Oh, and then do that again for the other nostril.

I must have made a face as he assured me, “you’ll do great Mr. Ferreira,” as he smiled again under the mask and screen. I followed the directions and my eyes began to water under the pressure point that I assume was how close I was to an ocular nerve.

Upon completion of the second nostril, I placed the item in the tube, snapped of the end of the probe and sealed it all into the plastic hazard bag to return to the LPN.

As I rolled down the window to hand it all to him, he stated, “You’re crying, so I know you did it correctly.”

The irony of it all made me laugh and I thanked him for the levity and comfort that he offered.

Laughing and crying, it is all related. It has all been quite a bit uncomfortable. The distance from fear to funny is quite close when you consider it.

End of Summer's trail, "what was that?" moment.

Back to that night on the trail. As we approached the outskirts of camp Chris and Katie suddenly jumped as a loud thud occurred in the woods near the trail. It was an abrupt stop. I lurched towards them attempting to stop and bent over in a sudden realization of laughter. They both stared at the woods and then at me.

The last few hundred yards we had quieted our conversation. The only sounds at that point were our steps and our breathing. We were emerging from the tree line and I saw the lights near the camp generator shed across the meadow; I decided we no longer had to fear the sounds in the darkness.

Still bringing up the rear of our hike, I threw away the rock that I had been carrying.

Their fear, and my laughter, that set the memory and the emotion of the end of that summer. I have to believe that this summer’s end will be likewise. It is the human experience after all that this year has brought us so far. The human reaction is what it is. We laugh, we cry, we react to the circumstances of our lives.

“So if you’re crying (or laughing), I know you did it correctly.”



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