Summer Camp 1984 Changed My Life

Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.

Norman Vincent Peale

Don’t let anyone determine who you are or what you do in life.


You know how some teens are great at sports (gifted naturally to be the quarterback, running back, linebackers), popular because of their good looks, or super smart? That was not me. I was only a slightly above-average teen. I say “slightly above average” only because I was I was a pretty good kid, respectful to others and my parents. I was also a member of a church-based boys group much like the Boy Scouts, and I achieved the highest possible rank/awards in that program (achievements were mostly related to camping and nature). That said, I was not super popular, not picked first for sports teams, not the teenager everyone thinks of first (or even second or third). I wasn’t necessarily odd or picked on… just kind of normal and unseen. That all changed for me the summer of 1984.

Every summer from the age of 13-17, I went to a one-week youth camp in July. Here teenagers from all over the state got together, camped out in dorms, played co-ed sports, and did church stuff (but this story isn’t about the church stuff). The group of teens that went there from my own tiny church was about 25 people. The total camp was about 750 teenagers. My “social ranking” within my own church was in the middle or just below, so at the youth camp, it would have been in the bottom 30% by default.

One odd thing at these camps (and really a good thing) was that you hardly ever got grouped or teamed with anyone from your church. The camp leaders randomly divided all the kids coming in into mixed groups of teams so you could compete in softball, volleyball, and the likes. When teams were formed at the beginning of the week, the counselors would always ask who wanted to play what position. Of course, the popular people would always play infield in softball, and the short-stop position was the most popular.  At the end of every week, there would be an All-Star game with the best/most popular person from each team participating (usually this was the short-stop or pitcher). The All-Stars would play a softball game against the camp counselors and leaders.

I wasn’t terrible at softball, but I wasn’t that good either, but a switch flipped in my brain that summer of 1984. When the counselor asked the teens in my group who wanted to play what position, I immediately (and confidently) spoke up to play short-stop. And somehow, magically, I played the position like I never could before. I made zero short-stop mistakes during the week (until the All-Star game). And yes… I made the All-Stars that week! I was the only person from my church to make the All-Stars. It was surreal. I had always wanted to be “that guy”, and I made it!

Look, I know teen events don’t make a lifetime, and I’m sure no one remembers me from that summer camp. I’ve never even spoken to those folks again. But that summer changed my life. I realized I could be anyone or anything — it was up to me. Even if I had to leave my normal world to move to a new world, I wasn’t ever going to let anyone who knew me or believed I was someone else to limit me. I was a different guy when I got back from that trip (even with my own church friends).  I moved away from home a year later to go to college in Texas. In Texas, no one knew me or my past, and I had a blank slate to be whoever I wanted to be. And I had the confidence to do it because of the Summer of ’84. 

What does this have to do with wealth? Simply to encourage you to pursue and do whatever it is that you want to pursue. Don’t let anyone or anything hold you back. I’m not saying don’t get advice or listen to someone else’s wisdom (like mine!), but don’t let someone else’s negative feelings or emotions prevent you from pursuing what you’re passionate about.

An old picture of the actual campgrounds

What about you? Any life-changing moments from your teen years? Please comment below.


Don’t Screw People Over


A lot of people will do anything, or more specifically, say anything to get a deal done. It doesn’t matter if it hurts the other party. As long as I get the sell or close the deal or win the negotiation… as long as I “win” that’s all that matters.

You reap what you sow.


Don’t screw people over. You’ll eventually get screwed over, and then you will know how bad it feels.


No, that isn’t all that matters. Karma matters. The Golden Rule matters.

There’s a natural law of karma that vindictive people, who go out of their way to hurt others, will end up broke and alone.

Sylvester Stallone

Have you ever been sold something you really didn’t need? Has a car salesman gotten you to do $2,000 in upgrades that you really had no business buying? I’ve had banks and other financial entities mess me over with fine print… sure it was my fault I didn’t read it closer, but I trusted them… and they betrayed that trust.

I’m a true believer in karma. You get what you give, whether it’s bad or good.

Sandra Bullock

Don’t betray people’s trust. There’s nothing cool or smart about getting one over on someone.  It’s easy to “con” someone if you have their trust. That’s where “con” comes from… “confidence”. You build someone’s confidence/trust in you, and then you take advantage of them. Again, it’s really easy to win a deal once you get someone to trust you. If you’re an honest person, this is a wonderful sales technique. If you’re not honest, or simply trying to sell something to get a commission, there is nothing smart or honorable in that.

Don’t only look out for yourself in a business transaction. How the other person feels about the deal later matters. Even if you don’t offer a money back guarantee, treat every deal as if you do. What if you had to give the money back or undo any deal if the other person wasn’t happy. Try to do every deal like that.

March 17, 2010, AP Photo/Journal Times, Scott Anderson, File
March 17, 2010, AP Photo/Journal Times, Scott Anderson

Remember Blockbuster video? A lot of people think Netflix put them out of business. No. Blockbuster put themselves out of business. Back in the old days, before Netflix, you used to have to go to a video store to rent movies. Blockbuster became famous for screwing over their customers. If you were one minute late, 12:01 midnight, dropping off your rental, they would charge you another day of fees. Not 25 cents… the full $3.50 or $5.00… whatever the rental cost was. They did this for years. They made big money for a little while, but just as soon as customers had a choice (Netflix) … they fled in droves. It was not really the convenience of Netflix… it was the bad will (bad karma) Blockbuster built up over years of abusing customers.

I’m not saying don’t win something in a negotiation or business deal. I’m saying, when it’s all said and done, the other person should not feel like you took advantage of them, lied, cheated, or abused their trust. It’s even OK if they are unhappy with THEIR decision later… as long as their decision wasn’t based on deception from you. And lastly, if you ever have your own business, you’ll make WAY more money taking good care of people over the years, than you will simply closing one deal. Think of all negotiations as a life long partnership that you want to keep positive. Treat others always as you would want to be treated.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

The Golden Rule

Tell me about a time your trust was betrayed. How did it make you feel? Please comment below.


I blog about money, financial independence, life, and entrepreneurship. I got rich slowly (over 20+ years) with a niche software business. I also failed at a number of other things (and mild success with a few others). I share what I did right along the way, and a lot of what I did wrong, with a goal to encourage you think differently about life and money.


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