Castles in the Sky at Leadershape

Leadershape Balloon Castles

Build community. Know the value of one and the power of all. Challenge what is, look to what could be. Bring vision to reality. Live and lead with Integrity. Stay in action.

These are the lessons I learned over my amazing six days at the Leadershape Institute. I walked into Camp Joy on Sunday, ready to learn more about leadership, wanting to “expand my toolbox.” I didn’t know I’d come out knowing more about myself, about how my vision can shape the world, about how we can all shape our world. Sixty-four incredible students climbed off the bus when we arrived; one thriving community climbed back on as we left.

There has never been a week where I have been more vulnerable, or when I have seen more power in vulnerability. The safe/brave space we created allowed us to let down our barriers and show our authentic selves—and our dreams for the future. We papered the walls with our visions—dreams that we strived for and would make reality. I read about 100% voter turnout, about the end of discrimination in our lifetime. I visited parks that would break down homeless stereotypes; I walked through programs that brought out our best selves; I saw cancer and suicide eradicated. I read each person’s vision, and as I did, I saw myself surrounded with the future that could, and would be.

Our visions can sometimes seem so out of reach, so we doubt our power to realize them. But we are our own worst critic, and sometimes our flaws and failures blind us to our strengths. If we see our friends bashing themselves, we stand up for them, and affirm them. Why do we not show ourselves the same love we show them, or see ourselves the way they do? My cluster, my small group family, tried to do this on the last day. We thought of our most loved person, the emotions we felt for them, the way we viewed them. We thought about their strengths, and their flaws, and smiled. Then, we viewed ourselves from that same perspective, and wrote a letter. I came out this week more confident, more in-touch with myself, and this letter is the best way I can think to iterate the positive imprint Leadershape had on me as a leader and as a person.

“Dear self,

You have had a long week of Leadershape, and I know you’re sad to see it end.

I am proud of you. You opened up to your cluster and friends, you tried to live up to your goals. You stretched yourself. Sitting at new lunch tables every day was hard. Conversations were hard. I feel like you truly felt your worth during physical challenges—the wall, the 45-foot high rope net. You can do so much more than you think. You explored the woods on your won, you climbed the ladder—and your size did not deter you from anything. Don’t underestimate yourself.

Remember how you were helpful in teams, like making our logo and chant. Remember when you were a good team player, like supporting your partner and belay team on the rope net. You have a contribution—you are a contribution.

Remember how you felt filling out the “person I want to be” paper. That was your breakthrough—carry that feeling and those lessons with you.

Be someone who is empowered and empowers others.

Be someone who spreads kindness and builds community.

Be someone who listens.

Be brave.

Not everyone will like you. Don’t mind them and learn to believe more in your own worth. They are the ones who will miss out.

And it’s okay to make your dreams big. Don’t limit yourself because you want to hit everything on the checklist, because you’re afraid to fail. You’re going to—so just look at each misstep and say, as Lindsay does, “How fascinating!”

So, please build your castle in the sky. Make it as big as you want, decorate in abundance, color the grounds with light and verve and fill it with love and laughter. Dream big so that, when you finally reach the doors of your realized vision, you race in laughing.