• Living as a Leader,  Outdoors

    Same Ground, Different Perspective

    I enjoy hiking, actually I love it. Most hikes I take are “there and back” hikes, meaning you hike to a certain point, turn around and come back the same way you came.  Now if you’re not a hiker this sounds a bit redundant – covering the same segment of the trail twice instead of experiencing more of the trail with the same time and effort.

    But hikers don’t feel this way at all.  The reality is a “there and back” hike is as engaging as a “end to end” hike.


    Because coming back on the same segment of trail never looks the same as going out. It’s as if you’re on a different segment when you walk it in the other direction. The reason is simple,  your perspective changes 180º – what you see and how you see it – is different. A change in perspective always bring a fresh look at a trail you just traversed.

    This is true of most situations in life and leadership, isn’t it?  We often get stuck seeing a situation, an idea, a moment in history, just from one perspective and believe that’s the only perspective there is.  So when we hear a different one, we struggle to embrace it because our first response is – how could be a different perspective than  the mine?

    But there are different perspectives of same section of a trail.  Your perspective depends on how and when you’ve hiked it. The person walking towards me will see the trail totally different than I see it.  Same trail, different perspective.  People will walk through the same situation, wrestle with the same idea, or struggle with a particular moment differently because they’re walking through it from a different place, heading in a different direction, thus have a different perspective.

    So here’s the application – in a world where there seems to be no room for another’s perspective, where mine or ours is the only valid one, never believe you have a corner on the truth. Try to come at the situation, idea, or moment from another direction, preferably from the direction that someone else has come from, so you can see it more as they see it. Always seek out other perspectives because no one comes at a moment from the same place or same time as you.  By doing so, you’ll see more of the trail, have more friends to walk with, and have a more fulfilling hike.

  • Leadership

    The Art of Working from Home – What I’ve learned to Survive

    Like of many of you, I’ve been forced work from home this past week and will be for at least the next few weeks.  During these days I’ve learned five lessons about surviving these new working conditions.  My hope is that they may help you as you try to survive this extraordinary moment in our history.

    1. Plan your work, work your plan:
      • Have a daily plan and make it as specific as possible. Time block (meaning block out time on your calendar) for the specific tasks you want to tackle for the day.
      • Set personal deadlines for each task – i.e. “I’m giving myself 30 minutes to get this task done”. Make it a game, a competition
      • Then follow your plan, adjust your plan and work till you get your plan done for the day
      • Plan a reward for yourself at the end of the day when you’ve completed your work – have a great meal, watch your favorite movie, eat chocolate, put extra butter on popcorn – you get the idea
    2. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”
      • Get out, take a walk, do some prep for dinner, play a short game with your kids, call a family member or friend. Do this once an hour
      • Don’t look at your computer screen for 8 hours straight.
      • Spend a few minutes in the morning and then in the afternoon reading something inspiring – the Scriptures, a biography, a great novel. Or read something that promotes your learning, challenges your brain.
      • Start a journal – capture your experiences during this unprecedented time.
    3. Physical Distancing not Social Distancing:
      • We need each other during these moments, stay connected.
        Do as many calls as you can via video – see people’s faces.
      • Have a conversation with people outside your home, when you’re out – keep your physical distance, but don’t cut out your social interactions.
      • Make the extra effort to connect, to engage with people digitally and physically.
    4. Don’t let distractions become the main attractions:
      • Don’t look at the news or cruise the web any more than twice a day – once in the morning, once at night. If something really crazy happens you can be assured someone you know will be glued to the web and will be compelled to text you with the latest news
      • Check emails no more than once an hour and answer them twice a day, unless urgent.
      • Find a quiet place in your house to do your work, but come out of hiding regularly, it will cut down on interruptions.
    5. “Laughter is the best medicine”
      • Don’t be afraid to laugh, be lighthearted, research shows that in the most stressful and dire circumstances, people who can and do laugh do a better job coping and surviving
      • Find joy in the moment – watch the sun rise or set, listen to children play outside, look at the stars tonight, appreciate the gift of life God’s given you.

    For a laugh or two watch this video about conference calls – https://youtu.be/DYu_bGbZiiQ

    Good Luck – this too shall pass!

  • Living as a Leader

    What Matters (and what doesn’t)…

    In light of this past year I’ve been asking myself these questions – What should really matter to leaders?  And what should not?  What do we expect of leaders?  What should we expect of ourselves?

    Here’s my conclusions:

    What Matters…

    • Reality. What a leader believes to be true, the way the see and understand the world matters. It’s from their reality that all else flows from the leader.  So, the question for every leader is this – “is my reality true?” Sincerity and conviction can never justify or replace a false reality.
    • Motives.  Why leaders do what they do is absolutely critical.  There are noble and selfless motives. There are also destructive and selfish motives. Too often we believe that motives don’t matter just outcomes.  The truth is motives will drive long-term outcomes – either good or bad, so they matter.
    • Words.  What a leader says, the tone they use, the timing of their words matter.   Also, silence matters, and often says more than their words.
    • Actions. Actions are like words.  The actions by a leader – when, how, and with what motives –  matter. The lack of action also matters – it  can say as much as any action taken.
    • Posture. The posture a leader takes – one of pride or humility, of digging in or openness, protecting one’s reputation first or admitting when one is wrong, is foundational to leadership. Posture, reality, and motive ultimately drives a leader’s words and actions.
    • People. People matter most.  They are more important than strategy, philosophy, victory, success.  Leadership is about loving people, believing in people, and respecting people, especially those who look, think or live differently that us.

    What shouldn’t matter…

    • Personal Brand.  Leaders must care more about the people they lead than their own reputations or brand. They must have causes larger than themselves. They can not be the cause.
    • Popularity. Leaders must not allow popularity, affirmation, the cheer of the crowd to drive their words and actions.  Leaders must do what’s right and best for those they lead and the cause they believe in, even at the cost of their popularity.
    • Personal Gain.  Seems obvious, but leaders must not allow personal profit (of any kind) to be their motive for their actions and words.  As a matter of fact, great leaders are willing to pay a personal cost for the greater gain of their people and the cause they lead.

    One final word on what matters – Accountability.  Leaders must be accountable for their reality, motives, words, actions, posture, and how they treat people.  This means leaders can not blame others for their mistakes, failures, or losses. Instead great leaders take responsibility and own up to them.  Leaders must also own the consequences, including unintended consequences of their leadership. No personal accountability, no true leadership.

    In 2021, let’s expect more from our leaders and more from ourselves as leaders.  Let’s not waste this moment by getting stuck in it, but instead, intentionally grow as people and as leaders from what we’ve learned, what we’ve seen, and what we’ve experienced.

  • Leadership

    Need a Different Perspective on COVID – 19? Hear Jim Collins Message on it.

    Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great, continues to make my top five list of best leadership books ever written.  Many of its findings have influenced my perspective of, and hopefully, my actual practice of leadership.  So I was thankful to learn that he published a video statement about the current COVID-19 situation.  In it Collins talks about how the Stockdale Paradox, a principle outlined in Good to Great, can provide us with an effective perspective for tackling this unprecedented moment.

    Take a 6 minutes to watch it.  In particular, listen to Admiral Stockdale’s goal for his 8 years as a Vietnam War POW – it’s inspiring. Then ask yourself – is this my goal for this current situation?

  • Living as a Leader,  Outdoors

    The Joy and Suffering of Being Unplugged

    There was a time when I unplugged for a 4 or 5 days every year. When I say unplugged, I mean having absolutely no access to both cell and internet service. It was on my annual fishing trips to northern Ontario. It was a place where the armies of cell and the internet service had not conquered. These were days of pure joy, peace, and freedom. Each year, I couldn’t wait to break away from my technology chain and be free. Of course, I love fishing, being in the wilderness and, most importantly, I love being with close friends and my boys. But looking back now, I realize, I also loved, and needed, to be disconnected from my digital tethers.  It was a technology fast or, better yet, a technology Sabbath, a needed cleansing break.

    But, if you haven’t noticed, there is this onward, ambitious, hungry march of the technology army. First, the internet, then cell service conquered and now occupy my little piece of paradise. To be honest, most of the quests of this special place are thankful the modern world has finally arrived. It gives them flexibility, a peace of mind, and a way to juggle responsibilities back at home and office while being away.

    But, as for me?

    I fought the marching armies as long and as hard as I could.

    At first, I pretended, and told others, I couldn’t be reached, stretching the truth a bit about the technologies available. But hiding from reality never lasts for long – the armies always expose you.  This happened to me during a trips over the past couple of years when a friend texted my wife, and then work peers started answering emails and making calls.  My cover was finally and completely blown. I couldn’t hide from this army anymore.

    Like any effective invading army, there’s this slow but steady conquering of people’s hearts and minds. During these last few years, I’d become the proverbial frog in the kettle, slowly accepting and believing these armies are a necessary evil, believing it’s the way it’s supposed to be, even taking by faith that these armies are a good thing, that to be connected 24/7/365 is to be human.

    Until two of my close friends and one of their sons and I went on a “fly-in” fishing trip.  If you don’t know a what a “fly-in” is, it’s when a float plane takes you to a remote lake where there are no roads or trails, no other access.  You can only get there by float plane.  You stay in a remote cabin (no electricity or running water).  You’re literally dropped off in the middle of no where and you stay until the floatplane picks you up.

    And of course, there is no cell or internet service.  Which meant I was totally and completely unplugged for 4 days, 96 hours, for the first time in many years. I had found my temporary paradise once again, but not without a cost.  For it took me a good 24 hours to stop wanting to check my phone for incoming emails and text messages.  Those 24 hours were a bit challenging, creating some anxiety about all the life changing, important events I just knew I was missing out on.  The first night I even had some problems falling asleep.  During those first 24 hours, whenever the anxiety crept in (which was hourly), I spoke words like this to myself – “just enjoy it, nothing you can do” or “what can happen in a few days?”.  But what was most effective was simply praying “God, you’ve got this, I trust you,  all the people and situations at home don’t need me right now.”  The self talk was simply Jedi mind tricks, so it worked for a bit but didn’t solve the problem.  My prayer of admitting  reality – God is God and I am not, was the key of getting through the technology detox.

    But once I made it through the first 24 hours,  I began to experience peace, the absence of anxiety that I haven’t experienced in a long time.  I felt as if I was finally free from the tethers of technology and could enjoy the people, the place, and experience we were having together.  In other words to enjoy those days as a rare and incredible gift.  It was so good that I committed to not becoming a slave again to my technology. But, instead,  to be its master when back in the “real” world.

    Dallas Willard said in his book Spirit of the Disciplines “Until we enter quietness, the world still lays hold of us.”  On that weekend, I entered technology silence and was freed from it’s chains.  The glow of those 96 hours has stayed with me, but not without effort.  It’s a glow I want to keep, it’s the freedom from and mastery over this invading army.  But I now know it will require a regular dose of total and complete disconnection. Without it, the counter attack will continue the slow but steady march, and eventually I will be it’s prisoner again.

    So, I encourage you, if you’ve been captured by the technology army.  Take a true, extended technology break.  It’ll feel like you’re dropping heavy chains you’ve been carrying so long you no longer notice they were there. But when you shed the chains, you’ll experience a peace and freedom that will be so good, you will never want to be technology’s prisoner again.

  • Experience,  SpringHill Experience

    All Kids Are Special: Why Inclusion Matters & How We Do It

    Every single one of us has a purpose, and every single one of us belongs. This is a guiding principle for SpringHill. Inclusion matters. We do whatever it takes to include every child – the impact means the world to each of them.

    I have seen this firsthand each week of every summer. One particular example is that of a young man by the name of Marcus. I first noticed him one session scooting around in a wheelchair having a blast. Later that summer, I was back at that camp in almost the exact same setting, and curiously, I saw Marcus again, cruising around like he had been doing earlier in the summer. Now, our experiences are a two-week program, so he shouldn’t have been there. But he was back.

    I walked up to him. “Marcus, I see you’re back. Why are you here, doing this all over again?” His answer encapsulates the essence of our experiences. He said, “When I’m at SpringHill, it’s the only time I feel like a normal kid.”

    That is the SpringHill experience – embracing all kids, taking them for who they are and how they’re created, including them. We don’t separate those with disabilities or special needs into subgroups. We include them in the community, and Marcus felt a part of this small community of campers and staff. The fact that he was in a wheelchair wasn’t a hindrance; it was a benefit. He took advantage of it, and he just loved being part of a team and a part of the community as a whole.

    Marcus reflected on the joy that comes with being part of our community. It’s one of my favorite mental pictures when I think of SpringHill: Marcus growing up through SpringHill, serving, giving back, and being embraced by the community. And in that embrace, he understood the love of Christ because of what he experienced in that community, and what he learned in serving.

    We believe that all children, all people, are created in the image of God, and thus deserve the to be treated and served as one. Thus – no matter their situation or disability – are welcomed and encouraged to come. We figure out how make their experience be the best it can be by creating a tailored plan of care for your child, including one-on-one attention. We have nursing and medical staff on hand to address all their needs. And as with all our kids, our staff members are all fully trained to make sure that all dietary and physical needs are met.

    We are all God’s children – our camps reflect this. SpringHill exists to create experiences where Christ can transform the lives of young people. These experiences include embracing all kinds of kids, regardless of who they are, what they’ve done, or where they’ve come from. We hope you’ll give your child – no matter their personal challenges – the opportunity to experience SpringHill and to be embraced for who they are. Learn more by visiting, springhillexperience.com

  • Outdoors,  SpringHill Experience,  Summer

    4 Ways to Mentally Prepare Your Kids for the Best Week of Summer

    It’s May!  The best week of your child’s summer is just about here.  To help them prepare for an amazing week, consider having a conversation with them about the following four ways to prepare for, and maximize, their time at SpringHill this summer:

    1. Be open to adventure and new experiences. Campers will face challenges and adventures right alongside cabin mates and their leaders. After all, we don’t go through this life alone; we get to go on this adventure together! From the heart-pumping zipline, to kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddle boarding, where campers learn how to navigate their way through the summer camp waters, and from The Gusher, a new twist on the waterslide, to our fifty-foot climbing wall, SpringHill summer experiences spurs children to grow and mature, to gain independence. When kids come prepared to try new things and be open to adventures, they experience greater self-confidence and inner-strength.
    2. Be prepared to find God in unexpected ways. There are lots of different ways to learn something. At SpringHill, we want kids to learn about Jesus, but we also want them to experience the truth of the Gospel through doing something they will remember for the rest of their lives. Kids hear about Jesus throughout their week, they see Jesus through our leaders, and they experience Jesus by doing things that require courage, community, trust, and faith. Even after two decades at SpringHill, I still marvel at how the young people find Christ not only in quiet contemplation and Bible study but just as likely on the zipline, or talking quietly at the evening campfire about God’s presence in their day. We believe those are the things that kids will be able to refer back to time and time again on their spiritual journey, and we believe that’s what makes the difference. Experience is everything at SpringHill, and we know it’s what kids take back home with them after a week with us.
    3. Look to your leader as a source of support and friendship. Our leaders are the ones who make all the difference at SpringHill. Far more than anyone else in our ministry, they embody The SpringHill Way. They are specially trained to impart God-centered values without being preachy or judgmental or overly pious, for young children and teens are still forming their ideas about faith. We designed SpringHill to have fairly low ratios of leaders to kids, both for our day camps and our overnight camps. Even when we do retreats, we have that same kind of requirement. The beauty of this design is that throughout the week, when kids and counselors are doing things together, maybe on the zipline or riding horses or participating in water activities, they’re all doing these things together. Those shared experiences become a key part of community building.
    4. Unplug and connect with peers in the best way possible. SpringHill campers have the opportunity to hone their social skills. Perhaps more than at many less personable camps, SpringHill engages kids in conversation with leaders as well as fellow campers. They’re not having discussions about what’s on Instagram or TV. SpringHill offers children an environment where they are encouraged to interact and talk to other children and their counselors. This helps build interpersonal skills and takes children away from the computer screen and into real, face-to-face interaction with others. While at SpringHill, our campers will make friends and build relationships, many of them blossoming into lifelong friends. The young people build relationships on solid foundations of trust and camaraderie through small-group time, camp activities, quality time around campfires and meals, and in one-on-one chats with counselors or between campers.

    We can’t wait to have your child with us this summer to encounter life-changing experiences.  Learn more about all the camps we offer by visiting, springhillcamps.com

  • Experience,  SpringHill Experience

    Core Values: How to Identify & Use them to Guide Your Actions

    In the quiet moments of the day, do you ever reflect on what’s important to you and why? Have you stopped to think about why your priorities are what they are?  Each of us is driven by different motivations based on what we value.  God created each one of us to be unique for a reason, which is what makes getting to know one another so interesting and fun.

    Identity is one of the most important things we will ever discover. Have you really thought about who you are? What drives you? What motivates you? What makes you different from everyone else? We all have goals in life, yet do we know how to achieve them? Are you guided by just your desires, or do you have a set of core values steering you?

    At SpringHill we needed to figure out who we were before we could help anyone find out who they are.  We made a priority early on to figure out what our core values were and to make sure our decisions reflected those values, always. After careful consideration and reflection, we discovered a unique set of four core values:

    1. Contagious joy: creating life-transforming experiences by combining faith and fun, innovation and the hope of the Gospel.
    2. Relational focus: working in the context of personal, loving, and caring relationships.
    3. Adventurous faith: leaving room for God to work, being open to taking risks, knowing that He can do immeasurably more than we can imagine.
    4. Holy discontent: always striving to grow in Christ through professional curiosity, continuous improvement, and professional and personal sanctification.

    Interestingly, we don’t just apply these core values to our campers’ experiences but also to ourselves as well. These four values provide understanding around why we do things the way we do, what we call The SpringHill Way. And these values truly are our core. They aren’t something I brought to SpringHill personally; they’ve been with us since the very beginning.

    When it comes to creating SpringHill experiences, we only align ourselves with people who can live those values, truly. What that measure does is allow us to end up with a team of people, not only our team of staff and the people we hire in the summer but also donors and board members and volunteers who line up with those four core values. So that’s our secret sauce. And it really is the tangible expression of those values that we hold dear, and those beliefs that we hold in our hearts to be true.

    Take the time to figure out your core values and what you want to accomplish in life.  When you do, the ability to achieve those goals will only improve and you will find success!

  • Uncategorized

    Meetings, Priorities, and Not Enough Time in the Day

    At SpringHill we’re in what we call the “Spring Snarl”. This snarl typically starts around the first of March and goes through the first week of summer camp. It’s our busiest, craziest, most stressful time of the year. Too many meetings, too much to do and not enough time for it all.
    Below is a note I sent to my Leadership Team addressing this moment, and how we can not only survive the Spring Snarl, but grow through it and ultimately slay it. I share it with you, with hopes you may find something useful to help you and your team’s snarls.

    I know that there’s been some discussion about the amount of meetings we’re having and that so many meetings can keep us from working on our priorities. A few thoughts:

    1. Make sure our meetings are productive – moving us forward on key priorities. That we take good notes, have clear action plans when the meetings finished, make decisions and don’t kick them down the road, and know what needs to be communicated to who as a result of the meeting.

    2. Have the right people participate in the meetings. If someone just needs to be “in the know”, send them the notes. Also, be willing to ask, do I need to be in this meeting? What’s the downside if I’m not? Am I invited out of courtesy or because I’m really needed?

    3. Error on the side of scheduling a meeting for less time than you would normally schedule it for – 30 minutes instead of an hour. Try to get work done faster. Create a sense of urgency for the meeting. You’ll be surprised how little time you actually need.

    4. Be clear on the purpose of the meeting – is it a status meeting like a daily huddle or scrum huddle? Make it 15 minutes. A working meeting? Be clear of the goals for the meeting and then acheive them. A planning meeting? Have a clear process to map out a plan.

    5. Finally, read this article, it has some great ideas about how to get work down when you’re in meetings. Very practical and helpful ideas.

  • Holiday Season,  Jesus Christ,  SpringHill Experience

    How I Lead SpringHill by Submitting to God’s Wisdom

    When I was younger (and a bit naïve), I believed I could fulfill my personal mission of serving others, especially young people, through ownership in successful businesses thereby donating tons of money and free time to changing the world. But as any good entrepreneur knows, start-ups require every ounce of your time, energy, talent, and financial resources. At the end of the day, I simply had nothing left to give.

    At the time, my good friend, Mark Olson was President of SpringHill. Both of us were married, both of us had four kids, and our families spent a lot of time together. Mark and his father had created not just a place but an experience at SpringHill, an experience that was both innovative and extremely popular. The ministry had finally grown to the point where it was decided to open a second camp in southern Indiana. Mark wanted freedom to travel to Indiana and spearhead the effort, but the SpringHill board was reluctant to have him do this if he didn’t provide a replacement for himself at our camp in Michigan. That’s when he asked me to take over as the Michigan SpringHill Director. Needless to say, I was both humbled and thrilled. Business with a purpose, the two things I loved.

    Then tragedy struck.

    Mark became ill and would pass several months later due to an aggressive form of leukemia.  Not only had I lost a dear friend, but SpringHill had lost its leader, its heart. Our team worked to make sure the magic and impact of SpringHill would live on, but we would need to understand what the future looked like without Mark.  Little did I know; the board had devised a succession plan long before Mark was ever sick. And I was in the middle of that succession plan.

    Zero to sixty: I had gone from being the Michigan Camp Director to being the President of SpringHill in three short, fast years. It was then that I realized the opportunity before me to truly be a leader who leads as a servant. To pick up the reigns and serve a greater purpose despite my insecurity of not being Mark Olson, or even an Olson.

    I knew I had a love of learning, teaching, coaching, and nurturing the spirits of others to help them become better leaders and followers of Christ, eager to share His word – but, was I ready for this?

    How often do we feel like Moses, being asked to accomplish something that seems entirely too big for us to achieve?  How many of us respond to those calls as Moses did, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11, New International Version).

    I too asked God, “Why do you have me in this job? I’m no Mark Olson.” But something occurred to me not long after that must have been the reassurance Moses received when he had verbalized his concern: “And God said, “I will be with you…” (Exodus 3:12, New International Version).

    God has a plan for each and every one of us, above and beyond what we could possibly anticipate.  Each of us has a calling to become an influential servant leader if we chose to let go of our fear and insecurity.  God uniquely equips us to accomplish the tasks that He’s called us to, we need only have the faith to press on.

    As leaders, we must always remember we’re never quite ready for the assignments that come our way (whether we know this or not), but in humility, we must submit to God’s wisdom, seek the input from trusted advisors, and lead from a posture of listener and learner.