While I love the outdoors, spending time in the sun, late nights around the campfire or even hiking, for those who know me - I’m not a camper. Growing up, while we vacationed – enjoying much of the great faces and great places of South Dakota – camping was never part of our vacation routine.
As I grew up, I had no interest in camping, even after friends, colleagues and even clients in the tourism space told me I needed to try it, if only just once.
I should have known that it was only a matter of time before my brother Kevin (a semi-seasoned camper) decided it was time to take me out of my comfort zone to go camping with him and my sister-in-law. After much protesting and procrastinating, I relented to join them on a one-night camping trip to Lewis & Clark Recreation Area in Yankton, SD, before the leaves officially turned and summer was over.
You might think, “What’s one night?!” When it’s your first time camping…in a tent…on a night when temps drop to 45 degrees…and you forget some needed essentials…you learn a lot. Even in just one night.
My first time camping not only taught me lessons to keep in mind for my next trip, but also it gave me fresh perspective to raise my game for my clients and team members.
To give back what camping gave me…here are my top takeaways from my one night under the stars.
1. Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
- I knew camping was going to be a new experience for me, so I was prepared to be less than comfortable, especially sleeping outside in colder temperatures. How did I handle it? I realized that the only way you learn new things and can get new ideas is by doing or trying something new. Even if that means being dressed in two sweatshirts and covered with three comforters to keep warm that night. Brrr.
- While I was cold, being in a new environment did bring fresh perspective. I had time to think about opportunities for our clients and even challenges some of my team members were working through. With a clear mind, I could create new connections and new solutions. Being uncomfortable even inspired me to write this blog. See, new surroundings do spark new ideas.
2. Plan for what you can expect. Prepare for what you can't.
- Normally I’m a strong Type-A personality who likes organization, process, details and taking lead (surprising, huh?). But I paused my natural inclination for this trip and left the planning and coordination to my brother and sister-in-law.
- While they had the best of intentions, they forgot several essentials for the trip: a few cooking utensils, enough clothes for the next day, etc. We even ran into trouble when one of our tent poles snapped and the left side of the tent caved in.
- The lesson? While you can plan for what you know, you can’t for what you don’t. Instead, you need to be willing and ready to tackle the unexpected and learn to roll with it – and sometimes get creative to find a solution (see lesson #3 & #4).
3. Ask for help
- In life, as in business, you’re not going to know how to do everything or always be prepared – which we were reminded about in lesson #2. When one of our tent poles broke, we needed to get resourceful. Without any type of bonding material with us, we leaned on the kindness of fellow campers, one of whom graciously came to our rescue with duct tape.
- Try as hard as we might to be prepared, we can’t do it all - and we certainly can’t do it all alone. We need to be willing to lean on others for help and to help others when they ask. While logical, this advice is easier said than done.
- It’s a good reminder for L&Sers to not be afraid to actually ask for help – even for something it feels like you should be able to fix yourself. It’s also a good reminder for our clients. Don’t be afraid to ask your L&S team for help – even if it’s something you’re not sure that we’ll know how to do. Our job is to be your duct tape – to solve problems and make things right again. 5280 means going the Extra Mile in any way we can to make our clients successful.
4. Be resourceful
- In my 7+ years at L&S, I’ve learned to be resourceful – that’s at the core of our “passionate, relentless, impactful” motto. But I didn’t realize how much that would come into play camping until we forgot the lighter fluid to start our campfire and had to get resourceful to get the semi-damp logs sparking in what was bound to be a cold, chilly night.
- Luckily, my sister-in-law (who’s also a high school science teacher) remembered that maxi pads and Chapstick are flammable when put together. Within just a few minutes – we had a roaring fire. #WhoRunTheWorld…girls.
- There will be times in our jobs when we need to be resourceful. I’ve had more than a few focus groups, intercepts and research projects where we had to change mid-course to get the best outcome. It’s about being resourceful with what you have and never settling for not getting it done.
5. While it's not perfect today, it'll be better tomorrow
- Change is challenging, but inevitable. We’ve recently undergone a series of changes at L&S as part of a strategic planning process to chart the agency’s road map for the next five years. I love change, and while I often approach it with excitement and readiness to jump right in, I was reminded while camping that new skills require time and practice to be perfected.
- Take our kayaking excursion. I’ve kayaked before in the warm waters of Jamaica. But when you add South Dakota winds and cold water, kayaking was not only more physically challenging than I remembered but uncomfortable. The constant splashing frustrated me, and my choppy movements didn’t mirror the graceful strokes I envisioned. It wasn’t until I was nearly across the lake that I realized kayaking wasn’t a task to master – it was supposed to be fun. After a rest on the other side of the lake (and the winds died down), I was able to control the paddling a little better on the way back to shore, and I noticed improvement in my own kayaking skills.
- This was a good reminder that while new skills are exciting, they take time and practice to be perfected. It’s okay to struggle with change and new ideas today, as long as you keep working towards being better.
6. Don't forget to have a little fun
- With my brother being the lead planner for the trip, he was more than a little frustrated and disappointed with our consistent mishaps. But while we were a little uncomfortable here and there, I laughed off our challenges.
- It was more important to have fun than have the trip be perfect – which is a good reminder for everything we do at L&S and for our clients. Advertising is a business, and while important and influential, it can serve other purposes: it can be meaningful like Dove’s Real Beauty campaign, or funny like K-Mart’s Ship My Pants.
- In our business, work should be fun. If it’s not, you’re not doing it right.