How Do You Eat An Elephant? One Bite At A Time!

My internship at Build-A-Bear Workshop has been a phenomenal experience so far.  Today I was in on conference calls to Mexico, UAE, Denmark, and South Africa and emailed Australia and Thailand, in addition to other awesome experiences.  I am learning a lot, feeling included in the company and that my work is valued.

My two supervisors, Tim and Karen, have been phenomenal at offering me experiences to get involved, learn, participate, make suggestions, and take action.  Both have made a point to sit down with me and discuss my interests and my goals as well as how my internship is meeting them.  I really appreciate that personal touch and the care and concern they show.  Everyone here has a fantastic outlook and a great sense of humor.

I’ve decided that I really like franchising.  As Tim said, it is as though you are on the board for a lot of small companies.  What an interesting perspective!  As I was reflecting on this the other day, I had another revelation:  I really like the opportunity to learn from/about people and work with them to help develop their strengths.  I like to help other people.  I had thought about counseling/psychology/higher education as possible career paths at various points and while I obviously did not go that route, these are important characteristics to me.  Franchising, at least on the operations/training/development side seems to offer that teaching/coaching/guiding opportunity in the business world.  This could be an intriguing opportunity…

Yesterday we had an all day culture class with the interns.  It was a great way to learn more about the company as well as reflect on leadership qualities  in the realm of the business.  We also had a two hour lunch with Maxine Clark, Build-A-Bear’s CEO.  It was great really meeting her, learning about her and the company, and getting to share thoughts and questions about Build-A-Bear.  She said she would be happy to meet with us (the interns) at some point.  I took her up on the offer and have a meeting scheduled at the beginning of August.  I’m definitely looking forward to this opportunity.

Below are some thoughts/points/observations that I took back from my experience in the class and lunch yesterday:

  • Important company values: teamwork and guest satisfaction
  • “just because we have been doing it this way, does not mean it could not be better”
  • It is important to feel ownership in/of the organization
    • True leaders take ownership
  • Must change behavior to get a different result
  • Overestimate obstacles so that you are not so shaken when they arise
  • How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time!
    • Plan, process, progress
  • Ernest Hemingway: Never mistake motion for action.
  • Impossible is impossible.
  • What you believe today is possible tomorrow.
  • Build-A-Bear gives a lot – i.e. philanthropy
  • Great ideas à execution
    • Go out and do it
  • Look forward, not backward
  • You will make mistakes
  • Look for opportunities to learn, don’t wait for someone to teach you
  • You have the opportunity to learn from people with different backgrounds than yourself
  • Decision making: alignment is about seeing opportunities not obstacles
  • “This is a bear company!  We need to have fun!”
  • Fun begets fun
  • Build a culture of celebration and recognition
  • There may be 2+ perceptions which means there may be 2+ realities.  How do you recognize them both?

This summer has been great so far.  I am looking forward to the next 6.5 weeks.

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B.o.B. – Airplanes ft. Hayley Williams

Airplanes by B.o.B. featuring Hayley Williams of Paramore is currently one of my favorite songs.  I had heard bits and pieces, but first heard the song in its entirety while at Lodo’s in Denver with some good friends.  We were reminiscing and celebrating the end of senior year and the song seemed to have relevance as I was about to graduate and hoped (and still do) that the memories and I friendships I had made would stay with me for quite some time.  I like the fact that the song is hopeful, and has more depth than most of the popular music that seems to be overplayed.  It is also a good song with a catchy beat.

While there were plenty of fake music videos for the song, the official video was only recently posted.  Interestingly, I read on MTV’s website (this may be the only MTV article I have read this year), that Hayley Williams and B.o.B. have never met – and did not plan to even for filming the video.  That’s kind of strange, but it is a great song nevertheless.

Lyrics:

Can we pretend that airplanes
In the night sky
Are like shooting stars
I could really use a wish right now
Wish right now, Wish right now
Can we pretend that airplanes
In the night sky
Are like shooting stars
I could really use a wish right now
Wish right now, Wish right now

Yeah
I could use a dream or a genie or a wish
To go back to a place much simpler than this
Cause after all the partying
The smashing and crashing
And all the glitz and the glam and the fashion
And all the pandemonium and all the madness
There comes a time when you fade to the blackness
When you’re staring at that phone in your lap
And hopin’ but them people never call you back
But that’s just how the story unfolds
You get another hand
Soon after you fold
And when your plans unravel in the sand
What would you wish for if you had one chance?
So airplanes airplanes
Sorry I’m late
I’m on my way
So don’t close that gate
If I don’t make that
Then I switch my flight
And I’ll be right back at it
By the end of the night

Can we pretend that airplanes
In the night sky
Are like shooting stars
I could really use a wish right now
Wish right now, Wish right now
Can we pretend that airplanes
In the night sky
Are like shooting stars
I could really use a wish right now
Wish right now, Wish right now

Yeah
Yeah
Somebody take me back to the days
Before this was a job
Before I got paid
Before it ever mattered what I had in my bank
Yeah back when I was trying to get a tip at Subway
Back when I was rapping for the hell of it
But now days we rapping to stay relevant
I’m guessing that if we can make some wishes out of airplanes
Then maybe oh maybe I’ll go back to the days
Before the politics that we call the rap game
And back when ain’t nobody listened to my mixtape
And back before I tried to cover up my slang
But this is for decater
What’s up Bobby Ray
So can I get a wish to end the politics
And get back to the music that started this shit
So here I stand
And then again I say
I’m hoping we can make some wishes out of airplanes

Can we pretend that airplanes
In the night sky
Are like shooting stars
I could really use a wish right now
Wish right now, Wish right now
Can we pretend that airplanes
In the night sky
Are like shooting stars
I could really use a wish right now
Wish right now, Wish right now

The Camp Gamble Song

I went down to visit S-F again this weekend.  I was there for Dad ‘N’ Lad, a program the Greater St. Louis Area Council runs for Cub Scouts to experience the outdoors and camping (research shows that this increases retention and rank progression).  I wanted to spend time with friends at camp, visit The Ranch, and help out.  I enjoy  being there and contributing.

I plan on posting a few more thoughts and reflections about the weekend later in the week.  While I was at camp and on the way home, I spent quite some time reflecting on past camp staff experiences.  I started working at S-F Scout Ranch in 2004 as a Nature/Troop Counselor at Camp Gamble (full name – Camp Theodore R. Gamble), did not work in 2005 ( I went with my youth group to Poland and Israel), and moved over to Camp Famous Eagle from 2006-2009 as Business Manager.

I think I will always have an affinity for Camp Gamble as my first “home” at The Ranch.  As such, here is the Camp Gamble song:

Gamble’s the place you want to be
Gamble’s the place you want to be
Gamble will never die and here’s the reasons why
Gamble’s the place you want to be

Swimming and boating at the lake
Swimming and boating at the lake
Gamble will never die and here’s the reasons why
Gamble’s the place you want to be

Hiking and camping are such fun
Hiking and camping are such fun
Gamble will never die and here’s the reasons why
Gamble’s the place you want to be

Scouting is here and over there
Scouting is here and over there
Scouting is everywhere
Gamble will never die and here’s the reasons why
Gamble’s the place you want to be

MASA Blog Post

As I wrote yesterday, I have written a blog post for MASA about my experiences at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel.  The article has now been posted and is available here.

Blog Post for MASA/JAFI

As I have posted before, I studied abroad in Israel from the end of July to the end of December 2008.  The Ginsberg-Ingerman Overseas Student Program at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) was an amazing experience and I highly recommend it to anyone who is considering studying in Israel.  Be’er Sheva may not be the usual destination, but it is a great city and BGU is consistently ranked the top university by Israeli students.

The Overseas Student Program (OSP) is also sponsored by two quasi(?) governmental organizations, MASA and the Jewish Agency For Israel.  These groups encourage students to come to Israel and even give scholarships to do so.  I was recently contacted to write a blog post for them about my experience.  It will be posted in the near future and perhaps may also be printed in a Jewish newspaper.  Here is the article:

In 2005 I traveled to Poland and Israel with United Synagogue Youth (USY), one of two Jewish youth groups I was a part of, along with BBYO.  The five weeks I spent in Israel were some of the best of my life.  But it wasn’t enough.  I wanted more and I knew I would have to return.
I spent five months studying at Masa Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev from the end of July to the end of December 2008.  I attend the University of Denver where approximately 70% of the undergraduate students study abroad – so I knew I would be spending part of Junior Year in another country.  What country that would be was an easy choice.  I knew that I had to be in Israel.  The question was what school.  My options were pretty limited because of the University of Denver’s quarter schedule.  Nevertheless, I knew that there were ways to get around this.
I was trying to decide between Hebrew University in Jerusalem or Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva.  I wanted to have the opportunity to explore Judaism while experiencing the “real” Israel.  I wanted to learn Hebrew and I knew that English was pervasive in Jerusalem.  Much to the surprise of almost everyone I knew, I chose Ben-Gurion.  It ended up being a phenomenal choice.
I loved every minute of classes at Ben-Gurion.  Be’er Sheva is an amazing city, regardless of what anyone says.  The people are amazing.  Our first night there, about 30 lost Americans stood on the street corner trying to figure out where we were and how we could find someplace close by to eat.  A student came up and offered to make us pancakes.  We got to know him well over the next several months.
I kept a blog for the summer to share my experiences and stories with anyone who cared to read them.  I made the following observations in my first real post:
  • There are a lot of stray cats (and some dogs) in Be’er Sheva.
  • The Israeli students are actually finishing up their semester with the next few weeks being their final period. Their schedule got messed up with two different (one professor and one student) strikes this past year. Many of these students will be moving out of the dorms. Their new semester will not begin until mid-November.
  • The school week in Israel is Sunday – Thursday. It is going to take some getting used to.
These observations seem laughable now that I have spent time in Be’er Sheva and Israel for as long as I did.  There were so many meaningful things that happened.
At home now in St. Louis, Missouri for the summer, I have been experiencing an extremely hot and humid summer.  The heat is familiar from Be’er Sheva, the humidity, not so much.  St. Louis is missing the sand though (which really gives the city some character).  The other day I was working in a building looking out at the sun and blue skies.  Someone mentioned spending time at the pool over the weekend and I flashed back to the days of Ulpan, when we would spend the afternoons at the pool, across from Mayonot Gimel.  We would swim, tan, or play volleyball and matkot (Israeli paddleball) with the Israeli students.  We were always welcomed and we began to feel part of the Israeli society.
Back in Denver, I began to get involved in Israel advocacy and programming with student groups and formed relationships with StandWithUs and other organizations.  I took classes on the Israeli-Arab conflict and wrote my honors thesis on Israeli communities rising from discrimination to power.  As part of a liberal international studies program, I often found myself defending Israel, but I was always happy to do it.  I had immediately been a part of the controversy mix, returning to the United States just before my Israeli dorms were evacuated after being hit by a rocket from Gaza (don’t worry, there were no injuries).
I knew that I would not be able to see everything that I had wanted to see during my five months.  I knew I would want to go back.  What was surprising though was how much of Be’er Sheva I did not experience.  Sure, I traveled and explored, but I always figured, “Be’er Sheva only has 200,000 people.  How much can there be here to do?”  Apparently, a lot.  I always said I would return to visit those small museums, but never did.  Hard as I knew it would be, I wanted to get up early on a Thursday morning to go to the animal auction at the Bedouin Market.  I missed it.  That is my only regret.
My Masa Israel experience was amazing.  I would never have given it up for anything.  Now, I know that I need to return.  I hope to do so this December (when I can once again eat way too many sufganiyot! – jelly donuts).  Until then, I will think of Israel often.  See you soon!

As you can tell, they edited it. 🙂 Once it is posted to their blog, I’ll be sure to share the link.

Visiting Camp

Again, this should have been posted a while ago.  I’m trying to catch up now.  Because of that, this post is shorter and perhaps more of an overarching view as opposed to the details I had originally planned on posting.

I visited camp last weekend, June 11-13, and this past Thursday, June 17, night for the Order of the Arrow Call Out Ceremony.  S-F Scout Ranch is truly an amazing place.  I have had so many memories there with so many amazing people (including many of my best friends) that not spending the summer there is definitely a major life change.

It is strange to be at camp and not be in charge of things.  I have worked for the past four summers as the Business Manager at Camp Famous Eagle and one earlier summer as a Nature/Troop Counselor at Camp Gamble (teaching Soil & Water Conservation Merit Badge, among other things).  As Business Manager, I learned the inner workings of the camp and over the years, amassed more knowledge and more responsibility than typically associated with the position.  As such, I have been having nightly conversations with people at camp to both find out how camp is going and offer thoughts/suggestions.  I have spent a lot of time teaching this year’s Business Manager how to do his job, along with referring him to his supervisors for more detail.

It is strange to return to camp without any obligations or responsibility.  I do like the freedom that comes with it.  I even went to Huck’s Cove, the private Scout “water park” on Nims Lake without my cell phone for the first time in four years.  I did not have to be available for any issues – how strange!  Nevertheless, I felt an obligation to help out and a sort of longing to belong and be a part of it all again.  I have certainly been welcomed and have enjoyed spending time with my friends and getting to know the new staff members.

We (can I still say that?  I think so…) have a great staff and I do like many of the first year staffers.  Hopefully, I can impart some of my knowledge upon them and help them in their experiences.  I have helped/trained the staff with check-in and assisted with behind the scene details for the Order of the Arrow ceremony.  I am glad to be a part of the camp, even in a minor way.  It is definitely an internal struggle though to refer issues/questions to other people who should deal with them – especially when I know the right response and they may not yet know.  It is part of the learning/growing process though.

I’ve enjoyed my visits thus far.  I plan to visit again this weekend and then, hopefully, another two weekends throughout the summer.  It is a great “escape” from the city life for me, a chance to visit friends, an opportunity to return “home”.  I do need to balance spending time with friends and family in St. Louis with my time at camp.  I hope that I do this successfully.  Spending time at camp off and on throughout the summer is definitely something I look forward to.  I am excited to see how the summer at Boy Scout camp progresses – and what my friendships look like at the end of the summer.

Summer Thus Far

I should have written this post (or perhaps several posts) a while ago.  My idea of having free time this summer seems not to be working out.  Don’t get me wrong, I do not mean to complain – this summer has gone amazingly well so far.  It is just a change from the past.

I have recognized the need to move on to a “professional” summer job with an internship at Build-A-Bear Workshop that I like a lot.  I think the internship itself has been less of a fundamental change than everything that goes with it.  As opposed to walking to work at DU or living where I work at camp, I am driving through traffic to and from work.   I have to dress up, wake u pearly, look professional (at least to some extent) – all of those “grown up” things.  It’s actually kind of cool, but I do miss living with my friends and working with some of my favorite people.  I reflected during the first week on the way home one day that I felt like my dad! 🙂

The days are crazy busy.  I have been waking up between 6:30 and 7:00 in the morning to shower, shave , and get to work early, before 8:30 a.m. (I seem to have been tired all summer so far.)  I work until 5:00 p.m. and have not been getting home until 5:45 p.m. or later.  By the time dinner happens and I catch up on life (email, phone calls from the day, etc.) , there is not much time for hanging out, going outside, or generally doing non-work summer things.  It’s probably a good – and important – experiential shift.

I have seen some friends and I have done some exciting things – like go the Cardinals game today where I sat in the Centene suite with my friend who is interning there.  I have learned a lot this summer and met some great people.  I hope that experience continues – along with the opportunity to spend time with friends and family and visit camp.

Quote #12 – Advice from Build-A-Bear

Corey, the International Marketing Intern, and I have had meetings with a lot of people at Build-A-Bear Workshop over the past two weeks (I cannot believe my internship is now 20% over!) in an effort to learn more about who works at the company, how Build-A-Bear operates, how the international team fits together, our own career paths, etc.  It’s really a great opportunity.  One of the questions we have asked is for advice or wisdom, based on personal experience or working at Build-A-Bear.  Today, the following quote was offered, which I found particularly meaningful as I struggle with letting go of my past summers and moving forward – a.k.a. “growing up”.

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
– Soren Kierkegaard

Soren Kierkegaard was a Danish Philosopher and Theologian, generally recognized as the first existentialist philosopher.  He lived 1813-1855.

Of course, general advice has also consisted of find your passion, don’t just work for money – actually enjoy what you do and who you work with, etc.  The standard “work smart” and “work hard” that I got through Boy Scout experiences has continued at Build-A-Bear as well.

My internship has been great so far and I love the work that I am doing.  Unlike the stereotypical stories of interns filing papers all day, I believe that the projects I am working on are actually affecting the operations of the company.  Build-A-Bear really does believe in its people as key to the company’s success and I have been amazed at how much they seek to develop the interns.  I could not be luckier this summer.

Quote #11 – Disney!

I like Disney a lot.  Walt Disney also has some great business advice.  Check out this quote relating to customer service.  I definitely think it is true.

“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.”
– Walt Disney

Walt Disney and (early) Mickey Mouse

The Camp Famous Eagle Song

I need to post about my visit to camp this past weekend, but in honor of today being the first full day of campers for the 2010 camping season at Camp Famous Eagle, S-F Scout Ranch in Knob Lick, Missouri, here is the Camp Famous Eagle song.  I will post other camp songs throughout the summer.  Enjoy!

Chorus:
Rolling hills, winding trails
Famous Eagle’s challenging you
Building friendships, camp under the stars, the stars

Famous Eagle land of a million Scouters’ dreams
Famous Eagle time to discover golden schemes
Famous Eagle chance to find out what Scouting means

Chorus

So if you’ve come and you want to understand
Just what it is that will make a boy a man
Famous Eagle calls, do you listen if you can

Chorus

(Words and music by Jack Jaworksi)

Camp Famous Eagle Sign/Nickel, S-F Scout Ranch

Camp Famous Eagle Sign/Nickel, S-F Scout Ranch