One of the cool things about my “job” is not only speaking to teens at schools and conferences, but also hanging out with students afterwards for leadership training and awesome conversation. Usually, we’re able to strike up epic discussions about the important things in life: the new season of Glee, the horrible changes that Facebook has made to their homepage (a recurring topic), and when Eclipse is hitting theatres (fellas, Eclipse is the new TWILIGHT movie–take your lady friend to see it).
Recently, I was the featured middle school speaker at a leadership retreat in Idyllwild, California. After I got off the stage, the advisors invited me to a barbeque dinner with the students before we got started with in-depth workshops. I never turn down free food (let alone barbequed deliciousness), so I was completely game to pig out with the students for an hour or so. The coolest part about the night’s dinner was that the leadership students, not the advisors, would be preparing the food for us. Yum!
As group breakout time came to a close, the students sprang to work cutting lettuce, preparing buns, frying French fries, and most importantly, grilling burgers. After about 45 minutes of intense cooking time, I walked into the kitchen to view the students’ progress. Though about 12 leadership members had been cooking for nearly an hour, no cooked food could be found in the kitchen (sadness).
Instead of simply throwing the food on the grill, the groups’ 12 chef burger mafia had gotten together in the kitchen to prepare some special food for the nights meal. In their words, they were preparing “In-N-Out…but BETTER.” This consisted of a bun with the usual toppings (including “special spread”), and what was to be called a ‘deluxe burger’ (that’s right; this was no ordinary beef patty).
After talking to a few of the chefs, I found that the students had begun slicing beef patties in various ways in order to insert cheese in the middle of the burger. Also, the students began finding new and creative ways to include various vegetables into the burger itself.
An hour of preparation later, I was handed a “deluxe burger” with all the proper condiments. Within a second of my first bite, one thing became clear: it was DEFINITELY better than In-N-Out! We’re talking melt in your mouth delicious (ok, now I’m hungry again). As I looked around the room, everyone else shared the same satisfied expression on their faces. Finally, the night was topped off with applause as the 12 year old chefs made their appearance into the eating area. Needless to say, it was a cool site to see.
It’s interesting how a concept as simple as making a burger can bring so much joy and enthusiasm to a group of creative students. Rather than viewing the task of making dinner as a chore or a job, the students saw the night’s meal as an opportunity to be innovative (and have some fun while doing so).
I think that this is an approach that we as leaders need to strive to make within our groups and organizations. Instead of doing the same things year after year and viewing them as chores, we need to look at our action items as chances to innovate, experiment, and create.
Spring can easily become a time of year where we attempt to get back up to speed with everything on our plates. Whether its planning last minute trips for the summer, writing next to a million emails to those we need to contact, or cramming together homework and studying just in time for finals, we are all guilty of doing satisfactory “catch up” work at one time or another.
During these next few weeks, I encourage you to take some time and see where you can implement some creative changes into your yearly routine. Form a new study pattern with friends, think of a different way to go about writing your emails, or simply find new ways to free up a couple minutes to yourself. By constantly innovating the way we do things, we can help to make something far better than the average meal. =]
I hope you take the time to do so. I definitely will (but first, I’m off to eat).