How To Avoid Getting Trapped in the Web

26 Jun

“Hello, this is Chris.”
“Hi, Chris, it’s Tom Marchetti; does that ring any bells?”
“Gee, your name sounds familiar, but sorry, I’m not making the connection.”
I was at RYLA; my mom is Sue Ma . . .”
“Oh, gee, yeah, TOM! I can’t believe I didn’t recognize your name. I remember you clearly.”

So it continued for a bit with Tom, a camper several summers ago at our Rotary District 5580 Rotary Youth Leadership Award camp. A rising high school senior then, he has graduated from college and is working in a professional sales position. He thought of me as someone he could contact as part of his outreach.

Before we wrapped up that phone conversation, I stopped to ask Tom what about RYLA has stuck with him. He didn’t hesitate before he told me this:

“You know that Spider Web challenge my family (team) did? We completed it, but I think almost all of us had touched the strings in some way. When our facilitators asked us after how we think it went, we all knew we had touched the string and at first no one wanted to say anything; we were so happy and relieved to complete it. I knew then what integrity was. We admitted it, tried it over, and accomplished it. I still think about that all the time.”

My head and heart were exploding! “Wow, that’s fantastic! What a great lesson to take home, Tom. I’m going to share that story with others, starting tonight on our camp conference call.”

I’ve shared that story nearly ten times in the two weeks since. I think it’s powerful.

Integrity happens to be one of the five tenets of Taekwondo. It is a concept that can be simple, but also be a little hard to get a handle on, at least in that people have different takes on it. I’m excited when powerful examples come up that help demonstrate integrity in one of it’s forms.

In this case, the “rules” state that no one can touch any of the strings at any time (if you didn’t click the link earlier, you can click this one to see a photo to get an idea of the challenge). Oh, and did I say that each opening can only be used once? A facilitator won’t call rules violations, but lets the participants bring out stuff in the debrief afterwards. It’s up to the participants to monitor themselves, assess their participation, discover insights.

In the variety of young adult camper families I’ve seen at RYLA, and the adult participant teams we’ve had in our work at Alt-Lead, we encounter the full variety of actions, reactions and reflections related to such activities. We see teams who hold themselves to 100% integrity, at least in terms of the challenge rules, and teams who more readily fudge rules or principles to accomplish a challenge.

If anything, more adults seem ready to bend rules for a variety of reasons, often seemingly good ones. “Jen wasn’t feeling safe, so we broke that rule to help her; sometimes you have to break the rules to accommodate people.” True. But not necessarily. As I experience it, most individuals and teams that break rules do so because they sell themselves short. Whether due to fear, expediency, pride, or other motivations, they don’t realize that they can, in fact, accomplish the challenge with 100% integrity.

Particularly in daily life, when it comes to the most serious safety, legal or ethical constraints, hopefully people work within bounds. Even when this is so, however, other important principles — peoples’ psychological/emotional safety, respect, fairness, kindness, opportunity, values —are often sacrificed to the challenge.

Their second time through, Tom’s family made the commitment to 100% integrity and still accomplished the challenge, one that previously didn’t seem possible without compromises. They used that commitment to rise to the occasion, to give the best they had to offer, which was enough to succeed after all.

A commitment to 100% integrity need not mean failure or compromised results. By bringing forward the best of what people have to offer, 100% integrity can be maintained AND accomplishment can happen. But it starts with the team commitment.

“I had no choice.” I’ve been on the receiving end of that. There’s always a choice. We can make the choice, the commitment, then bring all the best we and others have to bear upon the challenge. We might have to dig deeper than we thought possible and throw the doors more wide open than we feel comfortable doing. But, if a bunch of 17-year-olds can handle it, so can the rest of us.

I myself continue to fudge in different ways, from rules to respect to relationships. After talking with Tom, I realize that I sell myself and my teams way too short; I need to show a bit more courage and creativity in stepping up to the web, no matter how intimidating. How about you?





One Response to “How To Avoid Getting Trapped in the Web”


  1. What’s The Condition of Your Blade? | An Unlikely Master - July 3, 2016

    […] My last blog entry explored certain aspects of integrity. What I offer here speaks to other aspects: an integrity of self in regards to an honest integration of thoughts, feelings, words and actions. It is a pureness of heart, as well as a focus of intentions. When our heart is muddled or our intention and action is not clear or focused, we can easily compromise both ourselves and our results. We then are, on some levels, also misleading or lying to others. […]

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