Into the Deep…

Tribe 303, as Driven for Life has deemed this session of Teen Leadership Foundation, has graduated. The last couple of days I’ve shared with you about being at this training as a chaperon, sidekick, observer. Sunday was the third and final day, Graduation day. Can you really graduate after only 3 days? When it feels like 3 weeks, when you have the growth of 3 months and the impact of 3 years, then yes, why yes you can graduate!

The morning started on time with the 6am wake up call and 7:30 breakfast. 8:30 graduation day began. Honestly 20 somewhat lackluster, semi-enthused, relatively guarded teens came through the doors to take their seats. At this point it does need to be acknowledged that they had been unplugged from all electronics, including cell phones, for just over 36 hours. This is like taking them off life support and still expecting them to breathe. So the somewhat sluggish entrance could be understood, but as leaders and young adults responsible for their own attitudes, behaviors and successes, it couldn’t be accepted. Mid-day Saturday, a line was drawn in the sand….. get it or go home, get in or get out, it’s time to play BIG. And Sunday morning, they walk in the room ready to play small. Yeah…uh…NO!

The hammer dropped. We are 36 hours in. We have 8 hours left. Now or never. Lead or move to the back of the line. It’s time to go into the deep. We stepped outside, leaving the tribe of 20 to decide … All in or not? The decision is only theirs to make. No parents, no teachers, no coaches, no trainers …theirs. Tick, tock, tick, tock. The door open, they are ready for us.

It was said that day, by one of the Tribe, that “Everyone wants to be great, but no one wants to put the work in.” Well it changed that morning. Before us were 20 young adults who chose. They chose greatness. They chose leadership. They chose authenticity. 20 young adults speaking from the heart. Can you picture it? 20 young adults from every walk of life, every ethnicity – athletes, geeks and cool kids – looking at each other with no judgement, no criticism, total acceptance. Strong, confident and supportive. Putting others before themselves, building others up while maintaining their own identity and self-worth.

Each one expressing their passion, their “brand” and where they go from here. How they will live their lives as champions, all in, living their best. Powerful, inspiring and spirit filled.

By noon we headed up the mountain to the higher grounds challenge course. Here was a visual representation of all that had been accomplished the last 2 days. Tribe 303 knew teamwork, communication, support, trust and how to play BIG. And they did!

On Saturday, almost exactly 24 hours before, two of the team members dropped into full anxiety attacks including tears and hyperventilating as they anticipated joining the team in scaling over a 7ft beam. Today, I watched each of them solo climb a 30ft telephone pole called the Leap of Faith, using metal staple footholds. Reaching the top, they stood, yes stood unassisted, on the very top of the pole as it slightly swayed with their weight. At the top of their lungs, they called into the wind their individual “brand” – their calling, their why – the words they choose to be defined by. Once complete, oh yes, they dove off the top to catch a trapeze swing 6ft away. Not to worry, they are tethered by a very strong rope (belay) controlled by the instructor on the ground. Once the student lets go, they are lowered to the ground. Rope or no rope, one day earlier they couldn’t fathom being helped over a log 7ft in the air.

Others went for the extreme – yes I realize diving off the top of a 30ft pole is already in the category of extreme – but others climbed the vertical 100ft tree called The Centurion to reach a platform, walking to the end of the platform they leapt into nothingness grasping for a trapeze swing 6ft away. As I stood safely on the ground and looked to the sky, the entire Tribe 303 could be seen among the trees – traversing two cables 35ft in the air, walking along a 40ft log anchored between two trees also 35ft above the ground, scaling an 80ft tree to ring a bell and in tandem climbing a 40ft “ladder” with rungs 4ft apart, and yes the ladder swung freely from above as the climb was made. I have always loved the “On Belay, Belay On.” Belaying is the variety of techniques the belayer uses to exert tension on a climbing rope so that a falling climber doesn’t fall very far, or in the case of the rope challenge course, can’t fall. It is always a reminder that we can’t do it alone, we need to be tethered to others to truly be secure.

Each and every one of Tribe 303, climbed to great heights beyond their own expectations this weekend. Literally swinging between trees 30, 40, 100 feet in the air. And climbing to new levels of awareness that will carry them the rest of their lives. These are lives that are just beginning but I have no doubt, these are the leaders of the future – our leaders of the future. The heights they will soar are limitless. On Belay, Tribe 303, Belay On!

[The Teen Leadership Foundation is generally only offered once a year. As this one filled so quickly, a second one is being offered Aug 12, 13 & 14 – space is extremely limited. For information, contact  And no I don’t work for them – I just passionately believe in the difference they are making with their incredible programs.]