By Scott Weighart, Director of Learning and Development

Last Thursday my 12-year-old son went off to Maine for four weeks at a summer camp where the focus is on learning how to do all sorts of new things.  Last night we received our first detailed message from him about how it was turning out.

We learned that “stone carving is very difficult… there is no room for error” but that it’s still very fun, partly because the teacher is so great.  He also reported that “stained glass is hard because everything has to fit perfectly” but that, again, it’s great because the instructor is great.

He went on to report that he gone tubing behind a motorboat and managed to end up face down in the middle of the tube with his head underwater.  “I came up gasping for breath,” he told us.  Again, though, the whole letter was nothing but a rave review for the whole experience that he’s had in just the first couple of days.  The word “great” turned up about 12 times in a letter of about 300 words.

On the same day that my son started camp, our team was up in Toronto holding another Speak Like a CEO Boot Camp with about a dozen executives.  We call this executive development program a Boot Camp because we make people sweat!  On our first day, these executives had a very short amount of time to develop and deliver a persuasive three-minute presentation to a decision-making audience.  On the second day, they had to present a three-minute personal story that could be used to inspire, engage, or persuade their audience to take action.  This was a new experience for most of them, and some were convinced that they could not tell a story.

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And you know what?  It was hard.  But they did it.  They pushed themselves to get better, and with expert assistance from our amazing executive coaches, they made great strides.  In some case, they surprised themselves.

It seems to me that the summer camp experience is not all that different from the boot camp experience.  As learners, most of us thrive on being challenged and pushed to be better—as long as we have really good coaches or teachers to make it fun while teaching us the secrets.

So if you’re looking for executive development solutions, look for challenge.  Make sure you’re going to have a chance to roll up your sleeves and try something instead of being talked at all day.   And by all means make sure you’re giving yourself a chance to learn from experts.

You’ll come home a happy camper.

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