I had an awesome opportunity to build with a group of about 60 young men and another 40 or so coworkers a couple of weeks ago. I went with my school to the Leadership Academy at Outdoor Odyssey in Boswell, PA. I'll be the first to say that this program was physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually demanding. I have never experienced a more physically demanding program in my life! I'm sure many of the young men would also agree. The sad reality of this program is that it was intentionally demanding! Why? Well, it's because of a concept called "shared adversity". Simply put, when people go through tough times together, they naturally grow together and bond. That was exactly the point! As a platoon, our young men and male faculty grew together, shared weaknesses, became vulnerable to each other, and relied on each other for support to make it through a very tough week. What stood out to me is that some young men were more athletic, more emotionally stable, more spiritually sound, and more mentally balanced than others. It was awesome seeing this group of young men use their strengths and weaknesses to keep each other ACCOUNTABLE. Not once did I hear any of the young men say anything discouraging to another as we went through the tough obstacle courses, physical training, a cave, and burnout. As a matter of fact, everyone found a way to encourage others at points of weakness. Again, it was TOUGH! I heard some of the guys say "I can't do this...it's too hard...I'm gonna die" etc. but every time they said those negative words, their fellow comrades immediately shut them down and said "yes you can" while physically pushing them or running beside them. They wouldn't let each other quit!
What I told the young men after the graduation ceremony (and something that I'm going to tell you) is that the Leadership Academy program is symbolic of life. Every one of us has gone through (or will go through) tough times; some tougher than others. The good news is that when you surround yourself with people who can hold you up when you're falling, they push you beyond your limits. They tell you "you can do it" when it looks like you're about to hit a wall. They're also there to keep you from making life-changing negative decisions. This is called accountability. As I have said in previous tips, be sure you have friends that encourage you to make the right decisions, never quit when it gets tough and hold you ACCOUNTABLE (see Tip #2: Life is a Team Sport).
Written 6/23/2013 by John Weaver