Secret Sauce

Today is Thursday. We’re back in Westchester, NY for two final camp performances, helping our camp clients say “goodbye” to their campers after a successful season.

I think camp directors (and schools) like us because we’re pretty darn good – professional, high-quality. We offer children solid lessons in addition to our entertainment value. Oh, and we’re also very funny which is what I’ve always thought of as our “secret sauce.”

That said, our first camp outing today was one that caused me to lose some sleep over the last week. It was for our longest-running client and they asked us to do something new, not out of our skill set but enough so to cause me a bout of “will I do it right and earn the trust that they’ve placed in me?”

Truthfully, I don’t like to admit it, but I suffer from perfectionism. No, I don’t try to be perfect and I don’t think I am. To me, a perfectionist is someone who constantly worries that he/she is going to screw up somehow and the world (or the client) will discover the truth and, perhaps, feel like they made a mistake in trusting them. It’s also called imposter syndrome.

Yeah, I know. It’s crazy. Thirty years in the biz consistently doing well and exceeding expectations. Why the hell would I feel like an imposter?

Some folks have brass balls, a suit of armor that protects their fragile self. But not me. My jam is my vulnerability. I am, for better or worse, honest about what I feel and it ain’t always walking on sunshine. I get sad or have anxiety and I’m learning to be okay with that. In my opinion, these feelings are warranted and very human.

I am convinced that my therapy, time participating in men’s circles, 12-step groups and a very open relationship with my wife and close friends has turned me into something other than the tough guy some boys hope to be. Instead, I’m a sensitive, new-age guy and proud of it.

It may surprise, but I used to think I was someone who might frighten kids. After all, I am a 6’3″, 250 pound guy with a beard. In my late 20’s, an adolescent kid said I look like a “former cop,” and that made me feel like I was tough. But that isn’t true anymore. After thirty years of being with kids and raising two of them, I have transformed the energy I walk into a room with. To my knowledge, no one’s scared of me and that’s how I like it. I walk softly and I don’t carry a big stick.

So, what am I saying here?

When we performed at the camp and came to the last songs, I asked 300 kids and counselors to take a moment and seek out a friend with their eyes. I then asked them to give that person a hug, if they felt comfortable doing so, or put their hands around that person’s shoulders. And they did it. For five minutes, that camp looked exactly like I knew it was, precisely as the founders who hired us twenty-five years ago wanted it to be forever and ever. As we sang, I watched 300 happy and tear-filled friends sway and sing along. They were saying “goodbye”and feeling the mixture of love and sadness that was inside of them at that moment.

So, why was I anxious about coming to this camp? Because I didn’t know if I had the strength to be soft and to ask them to be that way, too. I got caught up in the logistics of doing well and forgot, for a moment, that I’m alright – we all are – and what we really need in this world is a safe place to be ourselves and care for one another openly. And that’s what I do for kids and adults. That’s my real secret sauce.

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