Did you know we have a Better Authentic Recipe™ for becoming a Worthwhile Man developed over 116 consecutive years of running camp?
Hanging behind my desk is a rough, hand-typed quote by Theodore Roosevelt that I’ve never noticed. Until this year after Andy and I watched Brené Brown’s “The Call to Courage” special on Netflix where this quote is a keystone to her presentation. Andy pointed out that Roosevelt’s words have been watching over me for years. It reads:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
There are many things I love about this quote as it applies to a summer at Highlands. Heck, it even uses the phrase “who spends himself in a worthy cause.” As a place that puts supreme value on being “Worthwhile,” this quote radiates the Highlands Way.
At camp, boys are challenged at every stage. From the time they’re tearfully dropped off, to nervously waitering their first meal, to unsteadily playing basketball for the first time, boys are tested. They are inherent “doers of deeds, large and small.”
The successes and failures of your boys at Highlands are their’s alone. He repelled blindfolded at the low-ropes course. That’s Tyler’s achievement. He shot a bullseye at archery and built a really cool shelf in the wood shop. Those are Leo’s wins alone. But the triumphs are easy.
What about he “who errs, who comes short again and again”? When John drops the football during a scrimmage? Or Jacob loses his temper with his cabinmate and says something he’s not proud of? That’s all their defeat, too.
I’m guilty of it. Making life easy for my kids. I advocate for them, I attend all the things (well, mostly), I proofread vocabulary at 10:30 the night before it’s due (shakes fist at sky). But that’s what makes camp so important. You. Aren’t. Here. To. Help. Them.
Boys and young men are desperate for ways to differentiate themselves, especially during adolescence. Individuation is critical to developing into a healthy adult. That’s why teenagers do all kinds of ill-advised things – they just want to prove they are NOT their parents. They’re looking for a unique community and for validation, but in order for it to work it has to be authentic. Enter all today’s ills: drugs, recklessness and the underbelly of the internet. Ugh.
But at Highlands, we’ve got a Better Authentic Recipe™. Our counseling staff (of whom exactly 100% are returning this year!) are expert facilitators of the ol’ individuation process, although, I doubt that’s what they’d call it. They allow your boys the space and opportunity to “fail while daring greatly” in the words of Roosevelt. And it’s not just by learning skills in baseball or canoeing. The real impact comes after persevering through tough days on the trail, overcoming homesickness, making new friends and being a little bit uncomfortable on a cold afternoon. When the days and activity credits (ACs) are counted up at the end of the season, your boys are a better, more worthwhile version of themselves.
Highlands Better Authentic Recipe™
1 part self-reliance
1 part courage
1 part willingness
1 part screen-free, pristine, north woods environment
Mix together in a 116-year-old vessel lined with support, experience and leadership. Add a dash of a loon’s call. Dip in Plum Lake 2-3 times. Repeat.
Moms, dads and all the caregivers out there – don’t kid yourselves. You’re also daring greatly by letting your boys come to camp. It’s not easy to let them go for 3, 4 or even 7 weeks. But you do. And we thank you for the opportunity to be a part of the process on their path to manhood.