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#CampGLP – Redefining Engagement

joe-ferris_9
It has taken me the better part of a month to reconcile what happened at our Camp – Good Life Project event. Something inside shifted while I was there. The weeks that followed have swung wildly between waves of fatigued recovery, and an almost eerie sense of long-delayed decisions & actions happening despite myself.
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What the heck happened back there?

 
I would imagine this is what post-Woodstock could’ve felt like, or maybe Burning Man, or a Kumba Mela.
 
Camp was intentionally much smaller, and intimate. From September 11-14th, 250 rabble-rousers, entrepreneurs, yogis & artists from around the globe journeyed to a kids’ summer camp about 90 min outside of Manhattan. There were keynotes, workshops, group meditations & yoga, Crossfit, climbing walls & tug of wars. S’mores. Dream Socks. Impromptu acoustic jams and crazy-deep conversation.
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But what were we looking for?

Everyone opts into these sorts of things for different reasons. Some want Entrepreneurial Greatness, or a wider network. Some need proximity to people who are living some version of our dream. My own decision to join the Good Life Project 2012 Immersion was based on all of the above.

 

What do we ultimately get out of it?

Connection. To other humans, to ourselves, maybe our Higher Selves, and what my coach and fellow GLP-staffer Cynthia Morris calls our original impulse. Our chaotic lives force a need to reconnect with, and reaffirm that our crazy dreams are good ones. Dreams worth pursuing at all costs. But when you get 249 other dynamos on-site with that same magical seeker/server balance… Something really interesting happens.
 
Deep alliances are formed. Profound commitment to the success of your new brother, or sister takes root. On our third evening together, when everyone was hallucinatory from fatigue, or cold (or both) we witnessed a complete #MINDMELTER of a talent show. All 37 acts exploded into full bloom, held in the blaze of more love & support than I’ve felt in one space. Name a category of talent, and 1 of our campers rocked it the hell out to Vegas levels.
 
Barry Solway read his phenomenal children’s book from his iPhone, and had us all riveted. Erin Moon & Krissy Shields performed a stunning pairs yoga demo. A’capella singers ripping better vocals than just about anything I’ve heard live. The powerful recitation of Christina Solerno’s Quirky manifesto. Comedy. Magic. Greg Faxon’s sick back flip. Scott Dinsmore, living his legend walking on his hands to Miley Cyrus.
 
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The Founder & Chief of a west coast chain of organic juicery & eateries (Beaming), *demo’d jump rope tricks I never thought possible. *Demo-lished, not demonstrated. (Lisa Odenweller was apparently a state jump rope champion 34 years earlier as a kid.)
 
My heart and brain melted, and oozed out of my ears. Every 4 minutes the place went bananas! Part of us was up on that stage, out on the leading edge of our comfort and expression. Each camper’s success had somehow become our collective success.
 
GLP Founder Jonathan Fields is many things, but I’ve never seen the dude jump onto a chair and pull out his phone to video something. The closing act was a ragtag band of men & women who all met that weekend, and recast John Denver’s “Country Roads” as a Camp GLP gospel:
 
Camp G-L-Peeeee
Stay with meeeee
In the place where I belonnnng
Real connection, inspirationnnn
Stay with meeeee
Camp G-L-Peeeee
 
Whenever my toddler spikes a bowl of food on the floor, or an executive calls a last minute status meeting, that refrain from Scotty & The Porchettes starts up again in my head. Will it be there forever?
 
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Don’t believe the inspiring levels of Camp Love?
Peep the 3 minute recap trailer.
 
Connection is driven by engagement, which in recent years has become the most important buzz word in HR & talent development. Engaged employees, clients, and vendors move mountains. The disengaged crush dreams, destroy service, and businesses.
 
My post-Camp definition of engagement is: Antenna up. Hearts open. As a corporate trainer for a company that wins awards for our legendary culture, I’ve learned that trying to manipulate or engineer engagement is futile.
 
People whiff that BS a few miles away.
 

heart

When you align your hiring, marketing, or curriculum design to the core virtues of your organization The Dynamos tend to show up:  antenna up, hearts open. They are fiercely hungry to engage, and be engaged. They came to play, innovate, and create mega-value. Highly engaged people don’t need cajoling or mandates to show up. They are often of the OH HELL YES!!!
-or- OH HAYELL NAW variety.
 
Segment to segment of our day, we either opt in or we opt out.
 
When our antennae are up, we actively seeking. When our hearts open, we are able to receive. We’re also much more willing to serve.
 
Each morning at 6 am I had the honor of leading meditation for 120+ campers. These were people who didn’t get much sleep, and had 18 hour days of activity ahead of them. Their antennae were already up, and if I did my job their hearts were open by 6:30. The central theme of my meditation training is always to help people “discern signals from static.”
 
kc_meditate
What kind of magical days might unfold when we’re fully engaged by 6:30am?
If you’re ready to solidify a life-changing meditation habit, I gotchu. 🙂
 
Cell phones became seemingly nonexistent by the end of Day 1. Eyes locked, and often welled during conversation. I thought, “…companies would K-I-L-L for this level of engagement.” Highly-engaged dynamos have the ability to catalyze entire divisions, or even full markets. Antenna up / Hearts Open individuals can be quietly magnetic, or outrageously infectious to those around them.
 
Imagine rolling 250 deep for a weekend and beyond with THAT. 

We. Are. SpARRRR-TAHHHH!!!!!! Lol.

 
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10 lessons every organization & event planner
should borrow from Camp-GLP to achieve the
highest levels of engagement.

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1) Aligned values. Jonathan & his wife Stephanie openly shared their longstanding dream of creating a summer camp for adults. It felt authentic, and that we would be part of a dream coming true. In the decades since having the idea, they created a powerhouse boutique brand with “The Good Life Creed” at its core. These beliefs helped attract and align the staff, the workshop leaders, the venue, volunteers, and eventually the campers.
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J&S
2) A stellar venue.  Iroquois Springs summer camp costs 5 figures to host your kid for 7 weeks for a reason. Their team is obsessed with details. They’ve sunk more than $8 million into ongoing renovations over the last 14 years, and their director (Brian) radiates a sense of purpose in connecting his guests to nature, and one another. And the food kicked ass. In their peak season, they serve more than 2200 meals per day. Brian and his team were genuinely fascinated by the quality of our guests.
 
3) Adjacent possibilities. No matter what door I exited across the camp, I would run into another engaged camper and deepen my experience. We may not be accustomed to, (or let’s face it, comfortable) with dining, or bunking with other adults. Serendipitous interactions are a total game changer. No one likes the hustle of campaigning your way through a networking event. The physical space allowed random connections to deepen.
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4) Staff & workshop leaders who are Doing The Work. Regardless of professional achievements or certifications, everyone on the team was selected by their willingness to learn and serve. No one person has all the answers, but they are fully comfortable rocking out their own perfectly imperfect example. Every expert was equally accessible. It could’ve been Jadah Sellner & Jen Hansard breaking down their global Simple Green Smoothie community of 300K+ subscribers, Dinsmore discussing Live Your Legend’s awe-inspiring 150+ global meet-ups, or John Lee Dumas spelling out how he monetized his Entrepreneur On Fire podcast, earning over $200K in August alone. They were there to share, but also to reflect and continue their own work. All of them hung out, and continued to give late into the evenings.
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5) Balance between scheduled & unscheduled. There was already more to do than I could possibly participate in. The spaces between events helped me rejuvenate, and refocus.
 
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6) The daily fade-in dimmer. Morning meditation into yoga or physical activity, followed by a break and breakfast. We started quiet to create an empty canvas for the amazing days that followed. Minds, heart, bodies opened… All before the first knowledge bombs were dropped. 
 
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7) Legitimate Fuel & Rigorous Movement. We all had access to plenty of salads, Bulletproof Coffee, smoothies, and well-prepared, fresh food. We also had endless options to get out in nature and move our bodies.
 
8) Rally for a cause. Not only were we there to better ourselves, but maybe we could help better our world through packing Denise Logan’s Dream Boxes. 
 
9) Camp Campiness. Who hasn’t craved a campfire, Mad Crafting, talent show, or friendship pins lately? C’mon. Stephanie’s superpower of Delight made everything feel special, if not sacred.
 
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10) The focus away from booze, and our gadgets. With bunks of 9 other dynamos, Jonathan’s Tackle Policy for cell usage, and the absence of drinkypoos, we had nowhere to escape! Lol. I’ve attended hundreds of industry events where attendees are lost in their wine or their phones. Alcohol may help some people ease certain social situations, but it was inspiring to see a deeper level of group connection without it. The usual hustle or anxiety around “when is the bar open?!?!” simply didn’t exist.
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I can see how these could seem to be pretty radical “values” in a corporate setting, but the long term impact of booze & tech on engagement may be a fascinating exploration.
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I can’t help but wonder about the potential ripple effects from the engagement levels of our campers.
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In the comments below, I’d *LOVE* to hear how (or if) you took some higher levels of engagement home with you. Direct examples or links are of course welcome. What are you working on post-Camp?
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For those who couldn’t join us this year, what ways have you found to drive engagement and connection?
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All ears,
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kc
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epic
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6 Responses

  1. Where do I begin? First, a thank you for your full body and full spirit dedication to making Camp GLP a peak experience for everyone. I know enough about what you had going on before and after to be astonished at what you pulled off that weekend. Mostly, though, I appreciate that you took time to reflect and ponder before writing up your experience, because what you just published is, in my view, good to go as a document for every senior level HR, Talent and Culture executive in the world to read, absorb and work to take action on. You’ve got something special, sir – and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

    1. Loved talking to you today, and thanks so much for geeking out with me on the #ENGAGEMENT topic.

      It’s really what it’s all about, AMIRIGHT? At least from an Org Dev perspective. People just need people who CARE.

      Will definitely circulate this in my T&D/HR circles. Much love,

      kc

  2. Great article, KC! I love your writing.

    Things shifted for me too. Two major things:

    I am going for my art in a new way. More commitment. More engagement. As a result of this new commitment, I feel more happy and alive and energized. Who knew that getting off the bench would bring such joy?

    I am more connected with others. Specifically, I make more time for others. This is a not an easy adjustment, since I get a lot done with my time, and stopping to engage with others takes away from productivity. But I am tilting toward a balance of time alone/time with others. So far so good.

    I also have felt more of a trust in my work and in my place in the world. I am accepting that I can have all this joy and abundance and love and don’t have to shun it or minimize it.

    Thank YOU for being a big part of all of those things, and for being my pal in this grand adventure of life.

  3. For me, the real big game-changers (event-wise) were

    (1) no booze no phones
    (2) all staying together (so lots of bumping into each other again and again)
    (3) Everyone being all heart

    My favourite way to describe to people what made it so rad, is that on the drive home, one of the two aussies I’d been hanging off for the entire weekend and I, discovered we knew almost NOTHING about each others’ lives. Even though we’d been talking almost solidly for four days, we’d just hit the ground running into best friend mode, no discovery needed.

    Gosh it was lovely!

  4. Wow KC, Amazing recap for an experience I’m still struggling to articulate.
    Ripple effects are a definite, but they are almost like ripple waves and I am just keeping my head above them! At a stop on the long drive home from camp was a really great indicator of the initial impacts of the community and engagement (experience & take-a-ways) at camp. While in a store I made eye contact with someone and before I could help myself I was all smiles, introducing myself and asking them how they were. Quickly I realized that they probably thought I was crazy and on drugs, but hey, if they were open to it they could have made a new friend.
    Spending 10 hours in a car on the way back from camp was an amazing opportunity for me to let the experience sink in but it was not nearly enough time. Immediately following camp I was dropped right into one of the busiest months of the year and am finally just coming to a close. Finally now, I am starting to plan my course of action and my personal shift to take all the incredible insights and ideas and put them into action.
    One of my favourite shifts so far is when discussing personal values along with some of the day’s woes with my husband, I challenged him hard on not pursing something. I surprised myself and threw down the line “do you really want to be a half-baked cake?” Of course he didn’t understand and I had to explain in depth what I was talking about but afterwards he had a bit of an aha! moment.
    Being able to clearly express one of the ideas shared at camp was absolutely uplifting and motivating for me. This blog is the perfect outline of 10 lessons to achieve engagement which can be applied in corporate companies or right down to a party of two. BTW, love Antenna Up, Hearts Open so, so much! In a few get togethers recently I have been making a conscious effort to really act with an open heart and trying to make it easier for others to open theirs without the fears that are often tied to it. I know its small steps but in 3 different settings I’ve noticed an impact; deeper conversations, significant support for ideas and opinions and a whole lot more smiles.
    So thankful to have had this experience and meet the amazing individuals I would otherwise never crossed paths with.
    xoCarla

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