Friday, October 30, 2020

2012 – What Gift Is This Person Giving Me?


A consistent team of 10's

(40 Summers 40 Lessons Series)

John Maxwell says, “Whenever I see my staff, I put an imaginary “10” on the forehead of each individual. This helps me treat each person like a 10, a high performer who makes a difference to me and the organization. Inevitably, they respond as if they are a 10!

If you don’t already do this, why not start today? Put “10s” on the people you lead. Treat them based on their potential, not their performance. You’ll be amazed how both will rise.”

It is John’s law of the lid. “Your leadership is like a lid or a ceiling on your organization.” As you help raise the lid on your colleagues and team members you will see yours rise as well.

My Story:

The moment I had met the new HR manager, I knew that there was something that need clarification. That individual had told me that they were there to help me. I had heard the old adage and had often joked with others about how government folks are here to help. “I’m Dewey Tentical. I’m from the government and I am here to help.” That’s how the joke goes; right?

I went on to listen to the reasons things are done the way they are and that the system was put in place to help me.

Over the next several years, each time I went to the HR offices, I was always met with that manager and the top reasons why what I had just turned in where in fact done incorrectly. (This was the world prior to online on boarding of employees.) I got to the point that it was one of the most dreaded portions of my position. While I loved bringing staff on to develop and lead and grow, the paperwork portion was dreadful.

For those in the seasonal camp industry, the spring time was all about that on boarding process and making sure that the employee that you had spent hours recruiting, interviewing, reference checking to finally have them accept the position. And then, the paperwork.

Not actual picture of Cathy.

Each time I had an encounter with that manager made me more and more frustrated. I tried to make sure that I had things done the way that was required and there were always pieces missing or some item was not in the proper order.

It seems that whatever tactic I approached her with made me frustrated and often resentful of any experience with that individual.

I would recount stories with my staff team of how ridiculous the process was and how hard I would work to make it happen. It seemed that I was missing a crucial piece of information.

Undergoing a transformation is never easy. At this point I had read a dozen of John Maxwell’s books as well as dozens of other leadership and management books. I could not see a way that she would ever change and embrace anything that resembled what I was looking for in the way of service.

I knew that her leadership lid (one of John’s irrefutable laws of leadership) was stuck and something needed to change.

It was during a retreat where I was rereading one of John’s books that it suddenly occurred to me. That retreat was about leadership and I was asking for something from her and limiting my belief about that individual. I had never put a 10 on her forehead.

I had not been grateful in any way for the lesson I was being presented with from Cathy. I had never even thought of her as someone that I could learn from and had made Cathy into a position and not the person that she was and the potential that she could share.

I had a limiting belief about someone and had prided myself for years on how I saw everyone in that leadership capacity of being their best self, with that exception.

I had made that mistake and I changed how I looked at Cathy.

From that day forward each encounter I had started with a silent prayer about the “gift” that Cathy was bringing to me on that day.

I cannot say that all my corrections on HR forms ended that day or that a process was missed in on boarding a new team member. I did however change my reaction and how I looked at a fellow human being who was doing her work and I had just dehumanized her into a manager.

A wise man said “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift… if it is serving, then serve…”



Monday, October 26, 2020

1971 - Things You Learn From Your Grandmother

One of the few pictures I have of my grandmother

(50 Nifty Years in United States Series)

Albert Einstein is known to have said, "You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.”

 ‘Donna Santina’ – Geralda Ferreira – my grandmother (In Portuguese they say VoVo) . Specifically, my grandmother on my father’s side. “Santina” means 'saint' in Portuguese. She was also my Godmother (Madrinha) . And a tremendous influence in my early life.

For a few years, my grandparents (on my father's side) lived with us in our home in South Pasadena, California. They had moved to the US a couple of years after us and as many families from the old country and that generation, we were all under one roof. When they moved out in 1976, they moved to Downey, California (birthplace of the Carpenters).

Anyway, after they moved, I spent about every other weekend at their apartment and a great deal of the summer. I worked from an early age at my father's gas station that he owned about a block away from their apartment. I would get up and spend the day pumping gas, checking oil, cleaning windows, sweeping up and having lunch daily at the hamburger stand right behind the service station run by an elderly Korean man.

My grandmother made sure I got up and always made dinner at the end of the day and sit and listen to what had occurred. My sister and I attended Catholic school and I was an altar boy because my grandmother made sure that I would go to church on a regular basis. Fast forward to my junior high school years and by then we had moved to Temple City all the way from South Pasadena (about 11 miles).

Both my parents were working by then and during my 7th and 8th grade year, I would call my grandmother almost daily when I got home from school. She would ask about my day, and I would talk to her about my homework. Sometimes short calls and sometimes longer depending on the day's events. To this point in my life I had no other person who was always so engaged in what I said and what I was doing. She was an active listener and would ask questions that surprised me. 

When she and my grandfather decided to become American citizens, I spent the better part of a year reviewing the Citizenship history test with them. They had a thick Portuguese accented English as they would answer my questions and prompts. It was a constant review and I would say the answer and they would do their best to recount the proper words. It was a great deal of memorization and listening to my version of the answers. All this coming from someone who had a rudimentary education in rural Brasil. She had this tenacity that she would learn how to answer all the questions in the best manner possible. It was a deep listening when I would recite the questions and answers. It did not occur to me that while she was approaching her late 60s, she was still willing to learn. It was a great example for a young mind.

There are dozens of articles and stories about things that you can learn from a grandmother. My grandmother helped me develop a sense of who I was and how to listen with intent to hear what was being said and not necessarily to respond.

I always think of her example of listening and most of my memories are based on her doing just that. She passed away in 1979 and even now, I think about her and I am grateful for that example to learn how to listen to others. It was a brief time that she lived with us and when I think about these past 50 plus years in the United States, I am all the more grateful for the opportunities it provided, not just to me, but my extended family as well.

Friday, October 23, 2020

1999 – The Foreigner’s Cabin


Not the actual "Foreigner's Cabin, but it looked just like this.

                                                (40 Summers 40 Lessons Series)

“Those children.” (Must be followed by a dismissive wave of the right hand in a direction that indicates somewhere that you may not want to drive to for fear of interacting with folks unlike yourself.) More about that, shortly.

I have been thinking a great deal about perception and how those who live in the United States see themselves. In a career that has been dedicated to youth development and primarily through the camp experience, I have had the opportunity to serve with leaders from all over the world.

One of the great programs available to camps and other youth organizations around the country is that of placing international staff participants as part of leadership. (More information about that at the end of this story.)

Over 300 staff from nearly 30 countries has been a part of my camp experience. I still hear from a handful of them and I gained so much from each one and how our world becomes smaller from the camp experience.

At once I think about how differently many other cultures treat and value youth. These young people who come from all over the world to work in a 24/7 (or as I like to call it 25/8) setting; live in a cabin or tent; share meals that may vastly alter from their diets at home; and be a part of a communal group relying on the kindness of others.

Here are just a handful of examples of where I feel we have had vast cultural differences.

At my first camp, I had an international staff member from Australia and when he sat through our organization's training about child abuse prevention, he decided that he could not be a part of a culture that allowed children to be treated in such a way that something as common as care would need a training in the prevention of abuse. The training at that time was very much about what one could not do with children. He had been working with children for nearly 5 years in his home country and that was never something that had entered his mind let alone any of his work. He left and went back home before the campers arrived.

My second camp as a director, I had arrived and was toured about by the seasonal program director and cook. Just past the Health Lodge was a “storage” looking building with a pad lock door. The cook introduced it as the “foreigners’ cabin.” My first thought was that an international group of leaders built and dedicated it. She quickly told me that this was where the “foreigners” stayed when they were part of the camp staff. During the rest of the year, the building was used to house donated items for the camp. I could not help but imagine arriving at a camp and being shown this as your housing for the next 3 months.

Somewhat appalled, I mentioned to that cook that I did not care for the tone of the term “foreigners” and in fact shared with her that I had been born in Brasil and moved to these Untied States at the age of four. I suggested that any staff from other countries could be referred to as “international” or even better by their name.

Later at that camp, I asked about a manila file folder in the drawer that was labeled the “Banning Kids.” It was the volunteer board chairperson who shared with me that the camp “allowed those children” to attend on scholarship and that I would need to go recruit them later that spring. It was at this time that he waved his hand in an easterly direction in a dismissive posture indicating somehow that they were from someplace else.

For those who do not know California, Banning is a desert community in San Bernardino County with at that time a high percentage of Latino families. That individual made it sound like anyone outside the community had the privilege to be allowed and should be grateful for the opportunity.

At one point, at this camp, we had a international staff person who had a difficult name to pronounce and one of the staff decided to refer to her as “Dory” because it was “just easier to say.”

When I was at the camp in Florida, that organization had a partnership with the equivalent organization in Colombia. The program director mentioned that most of the youth who attended where there as a result of their parent’s involvement in the drug trade. It was a bit derogatory and stereotypical of any child from that country must somehow be involved in illegal activities.

When I moved to the camp in New York and was meeting with the Human Resource manager, they also started talking about the “foreigners” and what additional paper work would be needed if I was going to have “those people” as part of the staff.

One of my favorite leaders, whom I have had the privilege of working with over 5 summers, was Diego, who happened to be from Colombia. On his second summer as part of the team, he wanted to address the other staff about culture and specifically about the way folks in the US use the word “love.” During our staff orientation week, he presented information and best practices around welcoming youth and fellow staff from different cultures. The best lesson I had was that often times, a US staff person would say how much they “loved” someone within hours or a day or so of meeting them. The word and emotion of “Love” is something that was exceptionally personal and intimate in his culture and wanted the staff to be aware of how it may sound to those not from the same culture. It set a tone for the staff team and one that had a lasting impact on everyone during those summers at that camp.

Camp is a place that often reflects our culture in a hyper sensitive manner. It is a short time and somewhat bubble of what the world is like. My goal has always been to include everyone and make sure that everyone is welcome. I know that goal has fallen short many times over. Like Diego, I also know that my team has demonstrated the best parts of lessons learned.

Inclusion is a tricky word sometimes because to be in a group means that it implies there is always someone outside the group. As a child and young adult, I longed to be part of groups. I wanted to be part of a baseball team, Cub Scouts, orchestra, choir, drama, and for those who know my story, I wanted more than anything to be an astronaut. I found that the place that allowed me to be my true self was when I discovered camp. Specifically, when I became a part of the team at a YMCA day camp and overnight camp.

It was a group of leaders who may not have been much older than me at a Christian Leadership Conference (CLC) that inspired my journey. I often joke that I saw all those good looking, tall, gregarious individuals who had long tan legs leading and playing guitars and just knew that I had to work at camp. I felt included even though I would never meet those standards I saw.

"Smitty" leading a song at that CLC - I am sitting between "Smitty" and the camera.

All these and more have been great lessons learned about diversity and inclusion.

I have spent the last two months in a certification program on diversity and inclusion called “Another Seat at the Table.” I am applying my lessons learned in a lifetime of service to youth development through the camp experience to help organizations lead from a perspective of inclusion. Feel free to contact me at my email  if you would like additional information.

Perhaps the lesson I reflect on the most, is that I have worked (with a great staff team) every year to provide a place that young people come to and strive to be the version of their best self. I am grateful for the opportunity to have glimpses of my best self along the way. Let’s continue to strive to create a world where we don’t need to have a “foreigner’s cabin.”

(If you are interested in learning more about serving at a camp through an exchange program, please contact my friend Jeff at the International Exchange of North America - IENA, or one of the many other programs that help place leaders in summer camp settings.)



Monday, October 19, 2020

1970 – Hold On to Sinbad - Staying En Pointe

Jerry and Suzanne Watts

(50 Nifty Years in United States Series)

Jerry and Suzanne were my sister’s ballet teachers and our family friends. They had such grace and seemed like they had a perfect life. They were always doing things that seemed like they held on to life, and at the same time, had few cares. They had dinner at 11 o'clock at night. They had multiple businesses and redesigned their ballet studio. They were always moving forward.

In the early winter of 1973, they left to go work in the Nixon administration (Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare). Packed up their lives and moved to Washington. On the day they arrived in DC, the Secretary of that department resigned to take a different position with the Nixon administration.  Since their contact was no longer in charge (and you may have read about it - several months later that contact also resigned completely rather than obey Nixon’s order to fire someone) they turned around and came back to California. They recovered and went back to ballet. 

In the mean time, I got added into several performances when they needed an extra small boy for their shows (which took place at the Mission Playhouse in Southern California). For example, I was a prince in the “King and I” and little Barnaby in “Babes In Toyland.” I would often spend time during my sister's class sitting in the hallway. All those shoes led me to try them on when no one was looking. Especially the point slippers that were always scattered in the entry hall. Week after week, I would wear those over sized shoes and found it easy to step up en Pointe. Believe it or not, for years I could stand on point and would occasionally share that Balance' gift (fondurelevĂ©fondu). Several of the girls in my sister’s class were always envious.

Lessons in the hallway.

As I said, they were my sister’s ballet teachers and I always went along to her classes. Suzanne and her mother were from Russia and I am sure if I had paid attention, I would have heard some amazing stories. I did not. I recall talking a lot and saying things that only 6 year old can get away with. While they seemed so sophisticated, they were folks who liked to camp. We spent several summers with Jerry and Suzanne camping at the beach in Ensenada Mexico. (Camping keeps going on for over the last 5 decades by the way.) 

Jerry and Suzanne had a dog (a German Sheppard, named Sinbad). It was on a walk at the beach in Ensenada that I convinced Suzanne to let me hold his leash. It took some convincing; Sinbad was bigger than I was. Suzanne told me to hold tight and to never let go. So I did.

Did I mention Sinbad was scared of waves? He was. And a big one crashed and Sinbad was off and running back to the campsite and their trailer. I never let go. To this day, I recall the wind and sand and bouncing off the dunes as Sinbad dragged me without any notice that I might be there at all. I recall exhilaration and just a bit of fun. I don’t recall being hurt or crying or even getting anything other than being covered by beach sand.

I share this story because I felt I learned at an early age to just hold on and focus on a goal (point). What’s the worst that can happen? Banged up and dirty from the experience. Trying different things whether it was holding a leash of a 100 pound German Sheppard or getting on point when others could not. Moments like that allowed me to fly like Peter Pan when I was 20 years old (another story for later). I have kept moving forward during some of the most difficult times in my life .

I am grateful for that lesson about applying myself to get en Pointe and just holding on when things did not go the way one would expect. Thanks to Jerry and Suzanne…and Sinbad for an early lesson as I celebrate over 50 years in these United States.

Friday, October 16, 2020

2009 - Flash Light Lessons


(40 Summers 40 Lessons Series)

Albert Schweitzer said, “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”

Children love camp and one of the best parts of the camp experience is campfire. It’s that rock star moment for a child to be up on stage and share their skill, talent or otherwise, with their cabin group and cohorts. When I arrived at my new camp in 2009, campfire was a rich part of that experience. I also knew that I would be able to share some new traditions with that camp and further their well established culture.

Having a campfire usually involves campers bringing their flash lights to make sure they know their way back to cabins (led by the leaders). Part of the culture at that camp, was that campfire was often a bit out of control and hard to reign in the energy. I have been a big believer that you can harness the energy for your cause and regain control. 

I learned early on that flashlights during campfire meant that often lights would fly all over and into the faces of performers (those on stage) and lead to lack of attention/respect for those who were indeed having their rock star moment (s).

Upon arrival at campfire (the first night of camp), I would pick out a volunteer (asking them if they would help me with a demonstration and being on stage for a few minutes.

When everyone had arrived, I would invite my volunteer up. At that point I would announce that we were about to have a demonstration of star wars and light sabers. I would ask everyone with a flashlight to turn them on and wave them in the air. Then I would ask them to flash them at my volunteer. I would then ask them to point them all to a tree or bush on the left. Then tell them to pint them back at the volunteer. Then point them at a rock in the distance. And back to the volunteer. I would yell form left to volunteer to right and back. In a grand crescendo of lights pointing everywhere and all directions; I asked that everyone practicing their best light saber move. I would count to three and say to point back at my volunteer and then turn all lights off.

In a smaller voice, I would then politely ask that all lights stay off until otherwise directed. If anyone turned a light on, I would walk over and ask them to hand it over until the end of campfire. Usually within an example or two of that message, no lights would come back on.

There are multiple messages in this light show. 1) Often times, my volunteer was someone that had been pre-selected by a staff member as someone who needed a moment to shine. 2) The light show and subsequent rule about turning a light back on set the standard for why we follow the rules in camp.

3) I firmly believe that everything that happens in camp (some 973 things a day) is and should be intentional. The best pranks are played in that none of the campers know that their spontaneous prank was planned days and sometimes weeks in advance of their arrival. 4) In my time at camp, I have often argued vehemently with staff who want to change a horse in mid-stream that I have found upsets more than it promotes.

One of the most amazing things to watch is a group of 8-year-olds walking back to their cabin after campfire. They all have their flashlights and seldom does one of them shine that light on the path in front of them. Inevitably somewhere in the darkness one will hear a “thud” or more and I often picture a domino effect of campers tripping over the one that fell first.

5) For the last few two decades or so, I have tried to convey this as a metaphor for our staff and leaders. “Campers shine their light everywhere.” It is part of the energy and enthusiasm of camp. That spirit lingers on site well into the fall when all the campers and staff are gone. (More about that later.)

The metaphor is about where you want to put your energy, your light. I find it fascinating that some leaders spend all their time focusing on what is wrong and what needs to be corrected. Your energy (light) flows to what you measure. If you are all about catching folks in what may be wrong, that’s what you will see.

6) Like the Schweitzer quote above, we provide a light for one another when we focus on what we value in each other. I believe like my mentor, John Maxwell, that I am everyone’s biggest fan. I believe that they are here to do a great work and find the best in each of them. Finding and holding on to the best in others, even when you and they may be struggling is one of the greatest lessons learned in all my camping experience.

“Where do you want your light to shine?”



Monday, October 12, 2020

1969 – Early Influences – Nothing More, Nothing Less


(50 Nifty Years in United States Series)

I know some of you might be thinking, Al, in 1969 you were 5 years old and watching the first season of Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers to learn how to speak English. (True story).

John C. Maxwell graduated from Ohio Christian University and went on to a Masters of Divinity and Doctorate of Ministry. He was just out of college and assigned to his first pastoral duty. He is my friend and mentor. While we did not meet until February of 2014, his influence began here and led to the dozens of books (of over a 100 he has written) that I have read and enthusiastically adopted those teachings.

In 2014, I met John at a Maxwell Leadership Certification program. I had adopted his readings about a dozen years earlier and his books kept showing up. I had received as a gift in 2005 a copy of “Leadership Promises for Every Day” from the CEO of the Capital Region YMCA. (Thanks again Peggy Conklin). The book is a 365 daily devotional. (I take February 29 off when it rolls around and apparently so does John.)

Here is what I have adopted in his teachings. I have a tremendous amount of potential and I have harnessed that with those around me to always move forward. As early as 1980 when I began my work with the YMCA, my friends (who worked along with me there) were never limited. I think about those days and no one told us we couldn’t do something that we wanted to do.

When we were told that we needed more children in our program, we went out and got more locations so we could serve more children. We did not have the youth signed up, but when we had the location; we filled the sight.

It was our mobile marketing Y-Van. With permission from a school, we would show up as the school was about to ring the closing bell. As the bell rang, and kids would empty the building, we would open the van doors and come out with an earth ball, parachute, soccer balls and other activities. We would engage kids for half an hour and as they walked away, we would hand them a flier about signing up for the program. (I know many of you are thinking, that could never happen today.) It was the creative use of our imagination and a director that led us by asking questions (another trait I gained form many mentors including John).

In 1984 over the span of 7 months, we opened 11 after school sites serving the communities that were under served.  

We discovered that our small group of dedicated folks could do just about anything for the Y and that community when we put our minds to it. I have so much appreciation for those early lessons and especially for those whom I served alongside.

I read a story from John in 2016 about his life in 1969 and the lessons he learned. I realized I had lived a version of them as well. Here is the link for that story.

Since it is always about beginnings and endings, I choose this year that set his path towards my own. After all, “leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.”


Monday, October 5, 2020

1968 - Celler & Hart - Leaders I Never Met and Changed My Life


Representative Emanuel Celler

Senator Phillip Hart

(50 Nifty Years in United States Series)

It really goes back to 1965 when The Hart–Celler Act was passed in Congress. Senator Phillip Hart introduced the administration-backed immigration bill which was reported to the Senate Judiciary Committee's Immigration and Naturalization Subcommittee. Representative Emanuel Celler.

Effectively it abolished the system of national-origin quotas that had given preference to Northern Europeans. While the unintended consequences of the act may be argued to this day – it allowed for our family to come to the US in 1968.

Jerry Kramer wrote for the Center for Immigration Studies and reported in 2015, "The 1965 legislation was named the Hart-Celler Act for its principal sponsors in the Senate and House of Representatives. It abolished the quota system, which critics condemned as a racist contradiction of fundamental American values. By liberalizing the rules for immigration, especially by prioritizing family reunification, it also stimulated rapid growth of immigration numbers. Once immigrants had naturalized, they were able to sponsor relatives in their native lands in an ever-lengthening migratory process called chain migration. That unintended consequence is Hart-Celler's enduring legacy."

Hart a Bronze Medal decorated soldier was wounded on D-Day and received a Purple Heart as well. Celler was involved in drafting and passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as well.

I never met them and to my knowledge have never met any of their family. But I am grateful for what they resolved to do to lessen racism in our world. They seem to encompass the idea that leaders gain authority by giving it away. (John Maxwell Law of Empowerment) How secure that they felt in their leadership and in this country that they invited so many to share in opportunity and in power.

Thanks gentlemen for this lesson and for my/our journey to these Untied States.

Friday, October 2, 2020

1994 - Great Customer Service and My First Child

Bob Telleen at Camp Manito-Wish YMCA


(40 Summers 40 Lessons Series)

“You will be a better father because you are a camp director and you will be a better camp director because you are a father.” Bob Telleen

Building rapport with others is a basic tenant of the sales pipeline. It happens in a matter of moments in any service relationship.

Bob Telleen was the YMCA of the USA’s Camp Specialist (the title has changed over the years) for the first 10 years of my career as a Camping and Youth Development professional. His role was at a national level and he worked to support the nearly 300 plus YMCA camps around the country. When I was back as the Camp Executive with Bluff Lake in 1993-98, he would often call and share resources with all the camp folks in similar roles. I had met Bob at an American Camp Association (ACA) and YMCA camp gathering of professionals.

While Bob had a sage like quality, he came across as more of a mentor and somewhat folksy. There was an instant liking to his charm and he had a very deliberate speaking style (often attributed to those in the mid-west).

My camp at that time was less than $1 million dollars a year budget. It was a three season camp; meaning we did not operate year round. It had only been around for 45 years. It was on 120 acres of land surrounded by National Forest Service. It served about 1500 to 2400 different campers each year. In contrast with the larger camps in the YMCA world, it was considered small. It is not my intention to downplay the significance; it is just a contrast in how it was perceived from many colleagues in the camping world.

Often times, at conferences, I would join in on conversations with fellow executive directors who would gather and talk about their financial accomplishments or building projects. In joining a group of directors, one would often hear, “I raised over $2.7 million for my new dining hall.” “I had over 3000 new participants for our outdoor education program.” “I am working on our Board development with Tim Allen.” “My camp is accessing another 2700 acres of property.”

It was always a measurement of added assets, greater dollar value and self accomplishment. I spoke to Bob about this and he would assure me that our value was just as much as those of those larger camp programs. I recall a few years later at a camping conference at a large camp facility where the building I was staying in was almost as large as my entire camp facility.

I had another great coach at the time, EJ Lugo; who told me I was trying to play in a pond that I did not fit in. She coached me toward changing the rules of that measurement game. The next year, at that same conference, I walked up and played a new game.

It sounded like this.

The YMCA camps have a self improvement program at called the “Ragger” program. Essentially, participants choose to challenge themselves in a year-long (or longer) time span to improve a quality of aspect about them. They receive a Rag (7 different colors representing different levels) and the first one is Blue in color. The Rag is an outward symbol of an inward goal and is just a rag, a piece of cloth. There is a ceremony where it is tied around the participant’s neck and they talk to a “counselor” about their individual challenge (s). I have seen life changing goals that youth as young as 12 have taken on.

So, I shifted the conversation at those conferences and meet ups. I would introduce myself and follow up with, “last summer our camp had 463 new Blue Raggers challenge themselves.” I may have been mocked and made fun of by some of those executive types and I knew that I was leaving a significant impact on those young people’s lives as well. And 100 years from now, I know that those buildings and fund raisers and the fact that Tim Allen served on a board will have little significance.

I share this because Bob had such an impact on my life and how he approached his work serving camps around the country. It has only been 30 years since I worked with him and I am still impacted by his generous spirit. Others; well, when measuring the top 30 camps (of over 300 in the system) they always seemed to have well over 65% of enrollments, finances, and assets. Bob still gave my camp and me a great deal of attention and mentoring. He saw that what I did was as valuable as any other and he helped me to find that in myself.

In 1994, I had just met Bob a few years prior and just in passing. He had promised that while swinging through the West Coast, he would stop by my camp sometime in 1995. (He did)

And it was on October 21, 1994, the day after my son Alec was born, that I got a call from Bob at home. He had tracked me down. I have no idea how he got my home number and this was before the full force of the internet and smart phones were still over a decade away.

He called, because he wanted to congratulate my wife and I on the birth of our first child. “You will be a better father because you are a camp director and you will be a better camp director because you are a father.”

Those words and that care from someone I had met in passing and who really believed that his role was to serve his “customers” that made a forever impact on how I approached my work and service. I had believed that I was really small and insignificant and Bob saw me as a vital part of the mission that we all performed in service of youth. He established a rapport and genuine connection that I took a hold and made it part of my own leadership style.

On his work at his former camp he said, “Manito-wish, most of all, is giving — to friends through support given, problems listened to, ideas exchanged — to a group, a goal, a shared experience.”

My experience with Bob and the leadership lesson he shared was that he taught me about giving, listening and sharing. He was one to follow and respect and his “leadership quotient” (As John Maxwell surmises) had people naturally wanting to follow him.

Simple Great Customer Service and a great way to lead.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

50+ Years & Leadership Lessons In These United States

As we approach Election Day, I am inclined to consider the last 52 years that my family and I have spent living and dreaming the American experience. There have been difficult years, challenging years and in all, I have always learned a great deal about the world and about myself.

At the time, I wrote a leadership lesson from 50 individuals who made an impression on my life and I gained from their influence. I have had a few notes from folks who read those initial posts on social media from 2018 in celebration of the first 50 years asking if I would publish the collection. A very flattering thought and I am grateful for that encouragement.

Every Monday for the next year, I will post one of those years (chronologically, unlike the initial posts). I am re-visiting each year and making a few edits to add to the leadership lesson garnered from that influential individual of that year. And I will end with three new lessons for 2019, 2020 and in great anticipation, 2021.

I am not forgoing my 40 Summers and 40 Lessons from my service to youth; I am just adding in for my readers this additional series. Look for those posts to continue and the every Monday post about my grateful life in these United States.

Below is the excerpt I wrote back in winter 2018.

"On July 24 (2018) this year (also my birthday) I as well as my sister, Jackie, and my parents will have been in the United States 50 years. Yes, we came to the US on my 4th birthday from Brasil. That’s just 18,262 days that my family and I have been a part of this American experience.

I feel like I want to say so much about this. Our family came here as part of the South American migration in the late sixties for the promise of opportunity. My parents rarely talk about the process they went through. My mother said that the entire decision making conversation was my father came home and said that there were jobs in America. She told him, I’ll go where you are.

438,288 hours in the US. Okay, I have been to other countries for short vacations. But most of that to me was spent living, leading, in school, in work, in camp and in so many more ways, living."

This year (in regard to the election) I hope you consider the times and the desperate need for servant leadership. I ask that you educate yourself on these matters and VOTE for a candidate that inspires you in a way that John F. Kennedy once articulated, 'Ask not what your county can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." And know that what Ronald Reagan said in 1984 that we have the opportunity to say it is in fact, "morning again in America."

A wise man once said, "Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks..."

I know I will vote this year. 


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