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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Getting Down To Basics or Roughing It On The Beach

Imagine roughing it for a night, under the stars, on a beach. No air conditioner hum to mask the sounds of bullfrogs and cicadas. Sand guaranteed to find itself everywhere. Clothes heavy from humidity. Really bad hair.

That's what I did Saturday night with my daughter on the beach of our community lake, taking part in a campout for kids under 8. We brought the basics, as you can see in the photo: a tiny IKEA kid's igloo under the canopy [in case it rained]. My daughter slept in the igloo. I slept outside in the blue sleeping bag.

Roughing it may be an exaggeration. However, for one 12 hour period from 7pm to 7am, we were outdoors, open to the unexpected. It turned into the adventure of a lifetime!

At 7pm, we were officially allowed to chase off swimmers and beach loungers to set up camp. That marked the adventure's beginning. It didn't take us long to get settled, which allowed me the luxury of sitting back in one of those green chairs to watch the other tents go up.... Many fathers struggled mightily as they put up the tents and herded offspring to assist. The bigger the tent, the more able bodies needed. The more bodies needed, the less the kids were effective.

I admit I felt lust grow in my heart when I caught sight of a tent with separate rooms. I chided myself for not considering an inflatable mattress. I was impressed that tents now come with fans and mini-fridges. However, unlike many of the owners of those big person tents, I didn't lose my temper, wasn't sweating, and was fully relaxed. So was my daughter.

The kids became fully engaged in activities. The lifeguards took charge with tug of war contests, scavenger hunts, relay games. After pizza, we all gathered around a camp fire for stories and jokes. Many kids stood up to share scary stories [The Green Ribbon] and knock-knock jokes. My daughter did so repeatedly.

As it got darker, the real ghost story telling began with the local version of the tale of The Purple Bishop. We heard screams in the background. Strange noises off of the lake waters... and enough truth to leave everyone wondering.

Luckily, s'mores and a movie [projected against a sheet] kept the ghosts at bay.

As the beach quieted down, I caught site of three brilliant white swans gliding ethereally on the glassy, glossy lake waters. I couldn't help but think of E.B. White's The Trumpet of the Swan and Sam Beaver's first encounter with his Trumpeter Swans.

Morning came quickly. We packed up. The beach returned to normal; just a few fishermen left either on the dock or in boats.

The magic, though, remains and my daughter can't wait to do this again. Neither can I.

[Here, you see Gary, the assistant beach director, explaining the rules
for the evening. My daughter is standing in the back, in purple.]

Adventures such as this one get you thinking. Thinking about what's truly important, and what's not. About getting down to the basics and focusing on what really matters.

Sure, I woke up stiff and groggy, with body parts protesting. But, I also woke up seeing the lake as I had never seen it before. I had hoped for a photographic view of smoke on the water. Instead, I have a vision of white swans. And an appreciation for those basics.

Basics consisting of total focus on:
+ what's important - here, the experience, safety, boundaries and fun
+ who's important - here, the kids
+ how to meet their needs - here, the lifeguards being creative and totally attuned to the kids

What comes to mind [possibly because I referred to this in my presentations yesterday] are Raymond R. Burke's Ten Principles of Retail Shoppability. More specifically:

•Show the Product
•Provide Effective Navigational Aids
•Simplify Product Organization and Presentation
•Minimize Clutter
•Maximize Product Affordance
•Showcase New Items and New Ideas
•Make the Shopping Experience Convenient
•Make the Shopping Experience Enjoyable
•Speak with Authority
•Maintain Flexibility

I hope you're getting down to basics. I guarantee that those basics will take you to new levels.

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