Tips from the Bunk: Listen to Those Around You

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I have one simple rule for surviving camp. It’s a personal rule, and not one that I share. It does not affect other people. It does not make me a better leader. Quite the contrary: it’s a survival tip.

So, here’s my survival tip for camp: use the same shower each day and learn which way the knobs turn. Simple enough?

Years ago, early on in my camp ministry, I learned the painful lesson that the hot water doesn’t always turn the same way to shut off. Simply put, I changed showers one day and instead of turning off hot and cold, I turned the cold water off and cranked up the hot, resulting in a scalding.

Last week, my survival tip got put to the test as I took two lukewarm (read: cold) showers, thinking the hot water would kick in eventually. It never did. Until, the teenage boy who was helping me at camp cracked the code: the other knob turned on the hot water. I was convinced hot water was going to flow by turning the cold knob.

I am so grateful for the boy who figured that out, communicated it to me, and blessed my week as a result.

So what’s the leadership lesson? Sometimes, those with less experience have fewer assumptions of superior intelligence.

Here’s a teenage boy who has a fraction of the camp experience I’ve built up over my lifetime, and he had the audacity to try something I had not tried yet. His lack of life experience cannot stand up against my infinite wisdom, right? After all, I have survival tips I live by at camp. He doesn’t have that, so he cannot possibly be as wise as me.

As a leader, fight the temptation to think you have it all figured out, and as long as you stick with your process, it is bound to work. Instead, learn to listen to and trust those around you, especially those who are younger than you.

In the church realm, this may mean including others while re-evaluating a program or event. Other people will look at certain elements through a different lens, and you just might learn something from it along the way.

Arrogance chokes the life out of creativity. Thinking you have every answer negates your long-haul influence.

Who knows, maybe one day you’ll have someone help you learn you don’t have to take a cold shower.

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