Don’t Get In Your Own Way

I was on the phone recently with a camp executive friend of mine. We were talking about an upcoming camp conference and the needs of camp professionals as they progress through their careers.

Don't trip over your own ego.

This conversation got me thinking about what can keep a person from reaching his potential in the camp world or in many other types of work.

If you have ever met me in person, you probably came away with two thoughts:

  1. “Wow, what a huge ego!”

  1. “I liked him better before I met him.”

The ego is the thing that I would like to focus on. As I considered the conversation I had with my camp executive friend, I begin to think of all the stuff I didn’t know as I began my summer camp career.

Here are a few of them:

  1. Leading staff (not a clue)

  1. Making a schedule (what’s a schedule)

  1. Training staff (don’t they come pre-trained)

  1. How to drive a bus (sort of like a car, but longer)

  1. Making a food order (does drive through at McDonald’s count)

  1. Fund-raising (how many $5 gifts to get to $100,000)

  1. Volunteer cultivation (what)

  1. Board development (does this involve a game of foursquare)

  1. Talking to parents (intimidating)

  1. Setting expectations (I can’t meet my own expectations)

The list could go on and on about what I didn’t know, but the reason I was able to find some success during my career was because I was willing to ask for help.

When I have found myself in trouble over the years, it is because I let my ego (“I know how to do everything!”) get in the way of seeking guidance and not making a huge number of mistakes along the way.

I have had this thought enter my mind more than once during my career: “They hired me because I know what I am doing, and if I ask for help, it will show that I don’t. I better keep my mouth shut and hope for the best.”

This is not the best thing for your long-term career success.

There are a number of camp conferences that will be happening over the next few months. These are great opportunities for our younger professional staff and us seasoned veterans to still learn.

I am aware that the biggest obstacle that stands in the way of me being the best I can be is how good I think I already am. Because of this, I am going to refocus my efforts on learning more, on asking more questions, on listening, and on attending workshops eager to grow professionally. Will you join me in not being content with how good you think you are, but on striving to be the best you can be?

Dave Bell has directed day and resident camp programs for more than 15 years. Currently, he is the Executive Director of the YMCA of Greater Louisville. He is a former American Camp Association Southeast Section board member, a certified Y-USA Day Camp Director Trainer and a Y-USA partner YMCA camp consultant. Reach him via e-mail at .