Don’t Just End Camp, Finish!

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How to finish camp strong

Can you see it yet?  Because it’s there. That’s right, the end of summer 2021 is approaching fast and will be here before you’ve had a chance to prepare.

No more smiling kids. No more exhausted (but exhilarated staff). No more Eggs Erroneous. And while the end is certain to come, whether you FINISH remains to be seen. Don’t just end camp, finish on a positive note. What do I mean? Well, if you don’t keep reading, I guess you’ll always wonder and then one day you’ll wake up and 30 years will have gone by. You’ll look in the mirror and not recognize the face staring back at you. That’s right, amnesia baby. This blog post is cursed and anyone who doesn’t read it all the way to the end is doomed. Sorry, we need the clicks. 

Ending Camp vs Finishing Camp

Everything ends, but not everything gets finished.  Anyone who has worked at camp feels me.  The end of the week comes all summer long, but how many weeks go by unfinished. Things left undone. Loose ends left to dangle. Let’s make this summer different. Let’s not just end. Let’s finish.   

Does this mean that you drive yourself crazy to complete every single item and if you fail, you feel like hot garbage?  In short, no. I’ve tried that regimen and it doesn’t work as well as you’d think (Unless you think it leaves you empty and depressed, in which case it works exactly as well as you’d think).  No friends, what I am talking about is prioritizing the key things and making sure you finish strong. Make camp end on a high note and not just for the campers.  Here are some ways to ensure you and your staff finish strong: 

Lead To The Finish

  •  You knew it was going to start here, didn’t you?  Humans do what they see.  If you want your staff to finish the summer strong, you’ve got to lead the way. I know you’re tired. I know it’s easy to let things slide, after all “it’s only a few more weeks”.  But those last few weeks might be someone’s first experience with your program.  Or their last.  If you knew that ahead of time, you’d want to make it one to remember, wouldn’t you?  Err on the side of caution and act as if it is.  Give him/her a name.  Make it a personal rallying cry and make it awesome for Shadowdancer (or whatever lame name you choose instead).  Lead the way on standards and protocols, not because “Rules!” but because they will keep everyone safe and having a great time and avoid the Lord of the Flies Debacle of 1984. It starts with you. Just like everything in leadership. 

Show Appreciation

  •  They’re not perfect and some of them smell.  But many of them you kinda like.  Let them know.  Tell them, show them and tell them again.  Create some end of the year staff awards (the more niche the better).  Long after they forget how much they got paid, they will have that show of appreciation and that feeling of being seen (whether they have the actual award on their shelf or not, but they’ll likely have that too).  If you want them back, tell them that too.  Make it clear that you valued their contribution to the team and that you want that to continue.  If you can, challenge them with some things to grow in before next summer.  They know they’re not perfect and will appreciate the feedback, especially in the context of feeling valued and accepted. 

Prepare For After Camp

  •  Part of finishing strong is preparing for life on the other side of done.  Being ready for the post-summer landscape will go along way to shaping your priorities today.  You’re not just solving the immediate crisis (or, knowing camp, crises) now, and because you are lifting your gaze to see what you need to do to finish, it drastically increases the odds that you will, in fact do so.  I have always* found that knowing a project exists is helpful in the process of doing said project.  If you start to think about the projects you want to tackle when summer is over, oftentimes the steps to prepare need to happen during summer and coincide with a strong finish. 

Edit Your End Of Camp List

  •  You are only one person (I think?) so if your plate is full, we can’t add things without taking things off (I re-learn this every Thanksgiving).  Finishing strong may very well require you to let go of good things in order to focus on the best things.  The old adage (btw, has there ever been a young or new adage?  Are they still making adages anymore or did the last adage factory close when your great grandfather was a wee lad?) is “focus on things that are important and only you can do”.  It’s likely, if you are not John Maxwell, that upon reflection you might find some things in your day that don’t exactly fit that description (but I always test out the water slide before the kids get on it, I have to make sure it’s safe!).  Make a list of those things (there are probably many).  Then decide which to these things don’t need to be done and which can be done by someone else, who will do them and an action plan to prepare them to take over.  Some items on your list might be scary to delegate.  That’s ok.  Not everything scary is dangerous.  You can do it. 

Conclusion

Obviously, we could go on for much longer, but this is a blog, and those are called books.  Like this one.  So let me close by saying, I understand that all of the above requires work on your part.  Work you feel too busy already to do, perhaps.  I hear you.  It will definitely require more of you.  All I can say is, look at the alternative.  You will still have felt busy (maybe even been busy) and still not have finished what you hoped for.  It’s time to try something different. 

In any case, you’ve read to the end so the curse has been broken.  You will still wake up 30 years from now and look in the mirror not knowing who you are, but it will be more of an existential question and will have nothing to do with the blog post curse. 

* – Always might be a strong word.  Sometimes it’s less helpful and more dread-inducing.  Like when I found that the septic tank was currently overflowing into the soccer field.  But mostly helpful. 

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