Lessons on achieving the extraordinary
Stick your neck out, and your odds of winning are at least 50/50. You can increase those odds by careful preparation, by constant learning, and by striving to stretch your own boundaries.
It's not often that, as an adult, you get to go to camp—let alone a camp located in the dunes, steps from the Pacific Ocean off the central coast of California. But this past fall that's exactly where I found myself, at the Jim Whittaker Discovery Camp, the first of its kind, designed to rekindle the spirit of innovation in individuals and organizations.
I was fortunate enough to be asked to be one of the first two Fellows of the Discovery Camp program, and over the course of three days, I found myself amazed by the accomplishments of my fellow campers, reenergized by the opportunities that lay ahead of me in my own career, and at the edge of my seat with every speaker the organizers brought in to share their own extraordinary life's journeys.
Speakers included leaders from many different companies, including Harley-Davidson, Apple Computer, and Hewlett-Packard. There were also healthcare futurists, authors and, the star of the program, Jim Whittaker, the first American to reach the summit of Mt. Everest and the former CEO who helped grow Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) into a cultural icon. Listening to Jim was an incredible experience. I sat in awe of this man's accomplishments and was impressed by his humble, guy-next-door attitude about it all. Just getting to know Jim taught me more about achieving extraordinary results than any management book I have ever read.
What was great about the Discovery Camp was that the speakers focused on three distinct learning objectives: (1) exploring new ideas to achieve extraordinary results, (2) optimizing your potential and making a difference in the world, and (3) creating organizations that foster innovation and creativity to build a unique competitive advantage.
I have long been a fan of lifelong learning and try to seek out one experience a year that pushes me to think outside my own comfort zone and provides me the opportunity to meet people whom I would not have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. That's what I'm most looking forward to at future Discovery Camps—the opportunity to go behind the scenes of successful organizations outside the healthcare and design industries to see what lessons are to be learned from organizations like NASA, the Kennedy Space Center, Microsoft, REI, and Starbucks.
I took away so many lessons from the three days I spent at Discovery Camp. I saw that one becomes extraordinary by tackling the ordinary in unique ways and not giving up until the task is accomplished. I realized that nothing of significance is achieved without passion. I was reminded that to be a leader, one needs to be a mensch, the Yiddish word for a kind, decent, compassionate person. That we should help people, especially those who are not in a position to help us, for no other reason than it's the right thing to do. And, finally, that part of our own individual and corporate responsibility as citizens of this earth is to pay back society in some meaningful way. It's the tax we owe for the success we have achieved. HD