Entrepreneurial Lessons I learned as a Kid at Summer Camp

A few weeks ago, I returned from a week at 4-H Camp Overlook, situated in the beautiful adirondack mountains of New York State. This is the camp I attended as a little girl from the age of 9 and this it the camp that I consider my first “job” as a teenager. I spent my summers there from 1985 to 1996, ages 9-20. Needless to say this place had quite an influence on my development into womanhood.

I went back for an entire week to volunteer teach a sewing class to the kids that attended for that week. I figured this place gave me so much, the least I could do is give a week of my summer to spread the sewing magic to the kids of upstate New York. You guys – I cannot tell you how happy I am that I did! The week was pure summer bliss and I am seriously considering doing this every summer.

Being back there for an entire week has also made me realize all the things that I learned at 4-H camp as a kid and teen that I truly feel has shaped my entrepreneurial life.

A Solid Routine Can Actually Be Pretty Awesome

I’m not great at routine. I like to do what I want, when I want.¬† I would guess that any entrepreneur can perhaps relate. Normally¬† any two days of my week, probably don’t look quite the same. But I was reminded pretty hardcore that that I flourish as a business person when I stick to a routine.

My week at camp started with the first bugle at 7am when everyone is supposed to wake up. Then we had five periods of class time each day. We were served three balanced meals at the same time every day. Finally the taps bugle would blow at 9:30pm each night, signaling it’s time for bed. As I sit here and write this, it’s kind of reminding me of what a day of life in prison might be like. But there was actually something really quite refreshing about it.

I don’t know about you but sometimes when my day aren’t as planned out as they could be, I waste A LOT of time. It was so nice having my day sort of dictated out for me so that I didn’t have to make any decisions about what I was going to do. now that I’m back from camp, I’m trying to remember this and get some sort of routine established so there is no room for me waffling over when I’m going to fit some yoga and/or meditation into my day or when I ‘m going to work on the sewing tutorials I need to finish.

It’s (More than) Okay to be Different

I knew as a kid I was different. I always had lots of friends and could easily get along with others because I knew how to act the part when I needed to.  But I also knew I walked to the beat of a different drummer.

And as a kid, you don’t always know that’s a good thing. You get caught up with your school friends, trying to act a certain way that will help you to easily fit in. But I’m only now realizing as an adult, when I left for summer camp those pressures to fit in could go away for awhile.

At 4-H Camp being a little weird was a badge of honor in a way and I was totally reminded of that the minute I set foot on camp grounds in Owls Head. You knew it was okay to truly be yourself at camp. And you never judged someone else for being a little weird either. Thank god this is still the way it is even today.

All the Women, Who are independent – Throw your Hands up At Me

Who knew the words of Destiny’s Child would be so true still today? Heading off the summer camp at age 9 was truly my first taste of true independence and I wasn’t looking back! You stay in a cabin with other kids your age, there are no parents and the “adults” in your life for the week were *maybe* heading into their junior year of high school. Heck yes, sign me up!

Once you’re on the grounds of camp, you could for the first time in your life not be tethered to your adult and you were (sort of) free to do your thing and fend for yourself. If you didn’t feel like showering the entire time you were there, that’s your choice. If you wanted to have sugary cereal for breakfast every day, you could. If you wanted to tie dye all the white shorts you brought with you, that was an option. These were the days!

One of my most favorite conversations I had with a little boy this summer at camp went like this in my sewing class. He was walking back from the bathrooms at free time looking squeaky clean with all his shower gear and I passed by him on my way back from a swim at the beach. He said to me “That was my first 4-H Camp Shower.” And I replied, sort of knowing what was coming “How many years have you been coming to camp?” and he let me know this was his 4th summer here. Thank goodness, camp sessions are only 6 days long and swimming is mandatory for all kids. He was doing what he wanted and LOVING it.

Don’t get me wrong, being back there as an adult this summer, at first I was a little in shock at how it seemed at first like the supervision was a little lacking. But through the week you slowly realize, everyone is perfectly safe. All children are being supervised just fine and no one is going to get lost. But kids are free to live their life in a way that doesn’t exist during the school year with so many adults all around you. I’m sure this alone was one of the reasons I was immediately in LOVE with summer camp from the moment it began. And I think it helped me to become the truly independent woman I am today.

A Solid Nights Sleep is Life Changing

Overall I am a pretty good sleeper. I know that if I don’t get a solid 8 hours, my ability to function the next day might be a little compromised. But I can also get super distracted by my phone, especially in the before bed hours of the day.

Somedays I feel like superwoman and plug my phone in our guest bedroom right before I crawl into bed at night. I have a cute little alarm clock on my bed stand so I don’t have to rely on my phone for an alarm in the morning. But then there are other days that I feel like I need my phone to just wind down at night. I KNOW that is never the case and that clicking around on my phone before i fall asleep is only distracting me and making me stay up way past my bedtime. But sometime knowing that’s bad for you isn’t the problem is actually doing.

For my week at camp, most nights I slept in my tent on a cushy air mattress that I brought with me from home. Each night at 9:30pm the taps bugle blew (care of a recording from someone’s phone, I’m sure) that signaled to all of camp that’s it’s time for lights out. Yes, I had cell service out in my tent and yes, I’m now a grown up. But those nights I tried really hard to comply with the taps bugle and turn my headlamp AND my phone OFF and go to sleep.

Even though this is no where near perfect for me then or now that I’m home. It was an excellent reminder to me that when you hear taps, it means light out.

When you Need to Turn it All Off – Go BE in Nature

Being in nature is definitely my go-to for when I need to turn off all the noise in my head. I have been living in a very urban area for the last 20 years and there are days when I cannot take it. It feels like you cannot breathe and everyone is on top of you. Whether you’re in your car, walking down the sidewalk or in line at the grocery store. These simple things can be overwhelming sometimes because there are just so many people, everywhere you go.

Being in nature for me is not only about being in green and surrounded by wildlife and nature. It’s about not being surrounded by hundreds of people at every moment of every day. My time upstate at camp was an amazing time to be by myself, stop and listen to nature and try to bring a little slice of that home with me to Jersey City.


Comments Off on Entrepreneurial Lessons I learned as a Kid at Summer Camp