The Best Weekend Ever

I'm still on a high a week after spending 48 hours with 20 directors.

Now in its second year, Directors' Camp 2011 brought together some of the brightest minds in camps, schools and summer programs for an intense exploration of personal and professional issues.

Rather than passively receiving how-to tips from Scott Arizala and me, the group coalesced around common struggles, and we challenged each other to change: change old habits; change outdated missions; change dysfunctional attitudes.

We also challenged each other to preserve what's real: preserve core values; preserve time-tested programs; preserve an electronics-free space in which young people can thrive.

Many adults experience conferences as helpful, but increasingly superficial. The frenetic pace, competing sessions, commercial atmosphere and crowded hallways take away from learning, rather than adding to it.

Directors' Camp unfolded at a refreshingly sane tempo, kept the whole group together for the entire time and plunked everyone down in a pine grove in central New Hampshire. It was about as far from a hurried, harried hallway as a person could get.

Missed Directors' Camp 2011? No worries. So did Steve Maguire, who dreamed up this whole adventure with Scott and me back in 2008. We'll give Steve and his wife, Jess, a break (and hearty congratulations!) because they just had a baby boy.

But I won't give any of you Week-Ender readers a break. Now is the perfect time to set aside a couple of days to turn off your electronics and sequester yourself for 48 hours with a few other directors whose judgment you trust.

Take a weekend and go somewhere peaceful to dive into serious self-examination.

Sounds great, right? Yet few people have the courage and motivation to take such a risk. Push yourself, Week-Enders! I promise that it will pay huge dividends.

Consider discussing these questions with your group:

1. Why did I get into this business in the first place?

2. How have my responsibilities evolved from that initial place of passion to what I currently do day-to-day?

3. What would I need to change -- starting today -- that would return me to my roots?

4. What could I add -- right now --that would allow me to tap into some of my signature strengths?

5. Who in this business do I trust enough to share this journey with me, and how will we do that together?

That's just scratching the surface, but it's enough to build significant energy and momentum around your work in a way that's quite different from a boxed lunch and a handout.

Are you feeling ready to take the plunge?

Last weekend, we asked the group to consider how they would behave differently in any aspect of their personal or professional lives if they knew they could not fail. Then we sent everyone on a one-hour solo.

When we returned, we did not debrief the solo in predictable experiential education fashion. Instead, we asked people to soul-search and tell the group what their biggest challenges were related to being a director, working with staff and dealing with children and parents.

You can only imagine the cathartic and inspiring discussion that followed.

The last activity of the weekend invited participants to submit anonymous questions on half-sheets of paper for Scott and me. We laughed and gasped at some of the queries, but did our best to model honesty and wise disclosure.

Questions included:

"What is the stupidest thing you've ever seen a director do?”

"What's the worst training experience of your professional career?"

"What is the secret to balancing work and family?"

"What is the most important thing for directors to do to succeed in the 21st century?"

No important stone was left unturned.

Save one.

By chance, the last piece of paper I pulled out of our cardboard box asked, "What have you done with Steve Maguire's body?" That brought down the house.

Steve, as I mentioned, is alive and well and feeling sad that he missed Directors' Camp 2011.

We'll all be back in 2012, of course. But if you, like Steve, missed our event this time around, consider my challenge to protect some time this month to unplug, unwind and introspect.

Dr. Christopher Thurber is a board-certified clinical psychologist, father and author of The Summer Camp Handbook, now available online for free at He is the co-creator of, a set of Internet-based-video training modules for camp counselors, nurses and doctors. He can be reached via e-mail at