So last week was a bit humbling. It was a week that brought another valuable lesson.
Part of what was so humbling was that I’d learned this particular lesson before. And then forgotten it. In fact, it’s probably happened more times than I care to think about.
And it’s such an important one. And – since you may have forgotten it, too - I thought I should share it.
Just stick with me because, frankly, it’s quick enough. In fact, I’ve got it down to ten bullets.
Let’s have a go…
Deirdre’s True Tale in Ten Bullets
- My Rotary club produces this amazing Camp Enterprise event, where we bring more than 80 high school juniors from all over San Diego County to a camp in the mountains of Julian, and then teach them about business.
- And it’s serious business. Over a rigorous three days, teams determine a product, create a full-on business plan, and present that plan to a trio of fancy-schmancy bankers, who then determine a winner.
- Ten teams of students, made up of kids from every neighborhood and every economic background, participate. Each team has two facilitators. I was one of them.
- The first team member I met – let’s call him Todd – was a tall, lanky, blond fellow. I had him pegged immediately. His baseball cap was askew, his hoodie perfectly fitted. Early on it was clear he’d always have a crack to make and an opinion to share. This kid liked to play it a bit punky, but he came from privilege…a striking contrast to some of the other kids who arrived at camp without sleeping bags. And, clearly, he didn’t know how privileged he was.
- When we finally got to the presentation, where all team members had to present in front of the entire group (and many were TERRIFIED to do so), Todd was up first.
- And then? Todd FROZE. He completely forgot his part – which, unfortunately, was the explanation of what the product was and did – and which was supposed to pave the way for the financial, marketing and other business plan components presented by the other students.
- Quite quickly the team sprang into action, covering up his silence and continuing their parts without missing a beat. But, as a result of Todd’s miss, any chances of a team victory were lost.
- Shortly afterwards I mentioned to my colleague that Todd had come to camp to learn a lesson, but it wasn’t about business. It was about the fact that, despite how cocky he might feel, he could crash down just like the rest of us.
- We debriefed as a team, going around in a circle to say what everyone learned. Todd, uncharacteristically, went last. When his time came he said that he’d been through a hard time. His parents had split up recently. He’d moved schools each year. He struggled with anger management. He apologized for what happened, and thanked the group for rallying around him and supporting him after his mistake, for being there in ways he never experienced from his siblings. He said the one word he had for camp was “love”.
- My face flashed hot as I realized how wrong I’d been. Todd’s lesson hadn’t been that he would sometimes crash down. Instead...he learned that when it matters most, others would be there to pick him up.
The important reminder – especially at a time like this when division seems to be winning over unity – that we never know what people are going through. We judge those around us…and we do it so quickly. We think we know what they’re about, what they’re going through, and how they feel.
And we don’t. We simply do not know what’s going on with others. And we need to stop thinking we do and just listen. Because that’s when we make real connections.
So there you have it. Ten bullet points with one easy-yet-incredibly-easily-forgotten-lesson.
Let’s make a pact to remember it, yes? At least for a little while.
PS: While I'd never identify the individual campers, I thought you might enjoy a shot of our full, incredible group (taken by Hubbie while I gave a short presentation). Voila!