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With a blog title like that, I know what you’re likely thinking (cue the dramatic eye-roll) … but, hear me out! I realize we live in the age of participation trophies, but the ‘award’ I’m talking about isn’t a trophy, or a medal, or a certificate at all.

You see, at camp, we focus on the process rather than the product. In our minds, trying something new, or scary, or difficult (even if you’re not particularly good at it or don’t enjoy it) is as commendable as excelling at something you’re already comfortable with. And that’s what camp is all about! You don’t have to be the best, or know the most, or learn the quickest, or even enjoy everything you participate in. At camp, the beauty is in the trying.

In everyday life, however, we tend to focus so much on the final product (and we fear what might happen if that product isn’t exactly what we hope for) that we convince ourselves not to participate in the process at all. My grandfather often quoted an old adage that says, “There are two ways to climb an oak tree. You can climb it, or you can sit on an acorn and wait for it to grow.” If we are too worried about whether or not we can reach the top of the oak tree, or if we’re too focused on what others might think of us should we fall short, we convince ourselves it’s better to sit comfortably on the acorn rather than attempt the climb at all.

There are two ways to climb an oak tree. You can climb it, or you can sit on an acorn and wait.

But, if we focus on the process, even failure itself produces success. You might not always reach the top of the oak tree, but you will better understand and appreciate your strengths and weaknesses. You will discover new passions, or you’ll realize you really DON’T enjoy certain things. You will develop new skills, make new friends, learn new things, and experience so much more of what this incredible world has to offer.

So, to our campers, counselors, parents and alumni, I want to encourage you not to be afraid of participating. In life, just like at camp, you can gain so much just by being willing to try. Don’t rob yourself of all you might gain from simply participating. Try out for that sports team, audition for that school play, enroll for that more difficult class, run for that student government position, or pursue that challenging job/promotion. Whatever oak tree you’re thinking of climbing, don’t be afraid to give it a shot! You might find that the process, regardless of the product, awards you personal growth, self-confidence, determination, resilience, and, perhaps, even the discovery of newfound, lifelong passions.

Now that’s my kind of participation award!

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