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Thinking on Paper

I always thing on paper. I think mostly incomplete thoughts and lots of arrows. Thinking this way for so long has made it hard for me to write in complete thoughts. 

Today I have been thinking a lot about getting more kids to camp through social media. One of the reasons I love social media marketing is that you are rewarded for doing good stuff. When you create content people like they tell more people about you and more kids end up at camp. Here are today’s thoughts. 




jack schott

Jack Schott
I don’t know what I am going to write about, but at the end of the month I will make up a signature that makes sense here. You can always email me

Should Stomping Ground Write a Book?

What it Stomping Ground had a book? What would it look like? Why would we make one?

Some things it would have in no particular order:
The power of immersive experiences
Learning Through Play and Self-Direction
Solving Conflict in Different Ways – Restorative Justice
The power of nature
Choice and responsibility
Bullying and Hierarchy
Empathy and why it matters in today’s world
Community. What is it and why does it matter?
Self-Determination Theory

This book would be kind of like a collection of what we try to accomplish during staff training, mostly the clouds. What would tie it all together? Why would it be a book? I should try to create this book as a series of blog posts or just an ebook before committing to the book.

Next steps: go out and find what has already been written that may answer these questions then start writing one article at a time what hasn’t. There is no reason to recreate the wheel if our thoughts have already been said by someone else. Maybe we just piece together transitions that make this an email series of other people’s articles.

The point is to make something that is useful for people and builds our brand so that more people find out about Stomping Ground and have a chance to fall in love with it.

jack schott

Jack Schott
I don’t know what I am going to write about, but at the end of the month I will make up a signature that makes sense here. You can always email me

Summer Camp’s Unique Super Power

Overnight summer camps have a unique super power that very few other environments or experiences have. We have a chance to almost completely re-define the world we will live in for a few short weeks each summer. There are some limited mostly reasonable regulations around supervision and safety, but we are only really limited by our imagination, commitment, and storytelling.

Overnight camps are uniquely immersive, separate, and voluntary

Immersive – Kids come to camp for a week or four and everyday spend every moment living in our community, creating culture, and participating in the systems we make together.

Separate – Overnight camps are mostly in the middle of nowhere. Those kids that live in and co-create the culture do so with brand new friends, no parents, and a bunch of 18-25 year olds. We aren’t subject to things like Common Core or told how we have to solve conflict. We are a place apart, where we can create the structures and systems that will best serve our people.

Voluntary – This one is huge. Most kids have to go to school and because of that the system tries to please everyone and of course it can’t. Summer camp is different. If families don’t want to go to camp they don’t have to. Each individual camp can create and test for the best systems for the people that believe what they believe. 

Stomping Ground

An overnight camp community of self-directed individuals practicing radical empathy and re-imagining a world where more is possible.

I want to live in a world where people feel for each other and treat all people the way they want to be treated, where individuals have real choice in how they spend their days, their weeks, theirs months, or even their year (song), and where everyone wakes up believing they can change things, that they have a real impact on the world. I can’t snap my fingers and make that a reality for everyone, but I can start to make that world a reality for a few hundred people this summer.

If we start from those core ideas, empathy, self-direction, and possibility we can build a culture and systems that make that world a reality for a campers and staff this summer. It won’t be perfect and it will be messy, but by working to re-imagine this more perfect world and let campers and staff live in a place where it works, I hope we can inspire our community to start to imagine and re-define the world they want to live it.

Summer camp is uniquely suited for this task and I am excited to partner with kids, parents, and staff to help create a more empathetic and choiceful world where more is possible.


jack schott

Jack Schott
I don’t know what I am going to write about, but at the end of the month I will make up a signature that makes sense here. You can always email me

Are We a Media Company or a Summer Camp?

“Think of your business as a media company first.”

– Gary Vaynerchuck

At Stomping Ground we don’t do that. We are first and foremost an overnight summer camp. Gary makes the argument that if you are playing the long game the best thing to do is to tell compelling stories where people are paying attention, in the context of the medium. I believe him and we don’t do it very well.

We have a fairly active Facebook and Instagram page. We posted daily or so, and we have great results when we commit to making good content. Great results being a handful of campers signing up as a result of a series of videos we have made attracting the right audience, but we haven’t committed to the work it would take to consistently make good content.

That’s what I want to think through today. What would it take to have a consistent strong content marketing plan at a summer camp? Gary outlines his newest service, VaynerTalent, here. The gist is one piece of great weekly content followed by repurposing that content in to four blog posts and 40 or so sharable social media images.

I think it is brilliant. His service costs $25,000 a month. We can’t quite afford that. But can we get 80% of the way there without spending a dime and instead investing our time?

What would this look like for Stomping Ground?

Show a week called ….

1) Empathy Everywhere – We discuss the power of empathy, what empathy is, and interview people in the community around their projects and how they relate to empathy.
2) The Possibilities are Endless – We discuss new and exciting projects that are challenging the status quo.
3) A More Perfect World – We discuss and interview people doing engaging work and finding ways to make the world a better place.
4) The Jack and Laura Show – Looking at the world though the Stomping Ground lens. We explore ideas and stories that relate to building empathetic communities of self-directed individuals re-imaging a world where more is possible.

The name might not work but I think the last one is the winner. We could interview people doing amazing things, break down ideas like restorative justice, or examine what the world can be.

Things we need to make the show possible:

– A setup that we can just sit down at and record. It has to be easy to just sit down, slap an intro on and a closing and upload it or we won’t do it every week.
– I think we commit to doing 10. Of the 10, eight are just us at a desk similar to the Ask Gary Vee show and 2 are out in the wild interviews or mini documentaries of people doing cool stuff in Rochester.
– All of them are 7-20 minutes long.
– We publish them on Facebook and Youtube

After the videos are created maybe we send them to Kate, our program director, and she writes up a blog post about the videos and how they relate. Or maybe we send them to James, another founder? I don’t think it will actually the write blog posts every week if Laura and I have to do it all. I do think Laura and I can make 14 images or quote cards a week from the content.

What this could look like:

Monday: Jack and Laura make a video
Tuesday: Jack edits the video and publishes it
Wednesday: James and Kate each write a blog post
Thursday: Jack makes 7 images
Friday: Laura makes 7 images

We publish the images and blog post the following week linking back to the content from the week before.

Ten Videos We Could Make

1) What is non violent communication and what do we struggle with
2) The struggles and powers of competition
3) Praise, honesty, and growth mindset
4) Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation
5) The power of learning through play and why it is hard
6) Mindfulness, Meditation, and Practicality
7) Starting Stuff is Hard – Finishing Stuff is Hard
8) Habits and the power they have
9) Exploring the Crisis Nursery
10) An interview with Peter Gray

I am afraid of this project.

jack schott

Jack Schott
I don’t know what I am going to write about, but at the end of the month I will make up a signature that makes sense here. You can always email me

Better Than College? – Just Live There

What are college freshmen looking for? Why go to school and is there a cheaper way to accomplish the same goals?

Our friend Blake thinks so. He wrote Better Than College – How to Build a Successful Life Without a Four Year Degree. In it he outlines a compelling economic argument against spending the time and money to finish a four year isn’t worth it. He also digs in to the value of self-directed learning and discovery that can happen away from college, and the opportunities like traveling and interning that you can gain with that extra time. It is worth the read and you can get it for free on his website. Or just watch this quick video presentation of how he would spend $20,000 for an education.

I don’t think most 17 year olds are thinking about the economics or the education when they decide to go to college.

I think they are looking to not rock the boat and experience freedom. College is currently the best place on the planet for young people to simultaneously please their parents and do everything their parents told them not to.

The college decision mostly comes down to 3 factors:

  1. Please parents and other older folks
  2. Have fun, make friends, and experience life away from parents
  3. Set yourself up for the future

18 year olds go to college to have fun and most 22 year olds I talk to had a blast in college and still can’t imagine a different way to get that experience. Blake’s world travel and self determination seems out of reach to most people I know. College is easy. You show up, someone tells you what classes to take, it is easy to make friends, and even easier to find parties like you saw in movies. It is exciting and easy.

Blake mentions that here:

“Let’s face it: colleges hold a monopoly over young adult social life. It’s difficult to find a concentrated mass of 18- to 25-year olds anywhere else. 

He goes on to suggest, that if that is what you are looking for, move to a college town and directed your own college there. Move in with students or gather a few other self-directed learners.

I love this idea. I love it because self-directed education can be lonely as hell and a residential college experience without the headache and cost of college sounds perfect for many people. This is kind of what Steve Jobs did after he dropped out of Reed and just stayed on campus.

There are a huge number of questions that arise here. For example:

  1. If I don’t have anything to do all day will I do anything?
  2. Living without connection to any mentors or experienced folks sounds like a disaster (not a question)
  3. Will the college kids accept me?
  4. What about the sports and cool clubs college has?
  5. And a million other reasonable questions

I don’t know the answer to this stuff, yet. It seems ridiculous to think you can get the a very similar college experience and outcome for a small fraction of the cost, but if Blake’s economic and learning arguments hold up, and you can get the same fun, the big question becomes how can you convince your parents?


jack schott

Jack Schott
I don’t know what I am going to write about, but at the end of the month I will make up a signature that makes sense here. You can always email me

College is Fun – Debt is Not

The problem rattling around in my head for the last year or so is college debt. It is a huge problem, but I am thinking super micro. Not how can we make college free for everyone or have a loan forgiveness program, even though that stuff would be great, but how can we help one person not take on that debt.

The college loan story is a simple one. You borrow some money to pay for an education. You get that education. Then you make lots of money. Unfortunately, for too many people, it just isn’t true.

I don’t have debt, and neither does Laura. Because of this we were able to have the privilege of packing up our honda civic – still going at 250,000 miles – and start driving after we graduated. We planned on a 3 month road trip and then getting real jobs. We had no idea what we were doing, but thought it would be fun to visit a few summer camps and see the country.

After visiting a couple camps, Dan Weir, the camp director at Frost Valley, told us to start really documenting what we were doing, that camp directors would love to see other camps, and we had a unique opportunity. So we did. Our 3 month road trip turned in to 2 years and 200 or so summer camps. We blogged, spoke at camp conferences (they have conferences for everything), learned about professionalism, and most importantly made a ton of friends. We didn’t realize at the time, but what we were doing was an incredible networking tactic. On our trip we met our co-founders for Go Camp Pro and Stomping Ground and every client we have had for all our web design, drawing videos, and consulting has been a direct link to this network. We call them friends.

The whole trip, 2 years and 100,000 miles, cost about 10,000 bucks. $10,000!

It wasn’t the easiest time of our lives. We ate a lot of peanut butter and jelly, slept in the car a lot, a lot, and drove countless hours, but we also got to see national parks, beautiful mountains, and really get to know this country. It was awesome.

Most college graduates can’t just pack up their cars. Most college graduates have enormous debt. A huge number of our friends are working tirelessly as bartenders, waiters, lifeguards, babysitters, just to keep up with their debt. Those jobs are fine, and if they love what they are doing, great. But when they went off to college they certainly didn’t anticipate graduating just to work the same jobs they could have without that fancy piece of paper.

The problem is not just the system. The problem is college is so fun. 17 year olds want to go to college, to please their parents, get better jobs, and because it is an awesome time. For most people I know going to college was the only way they could please their parents and get drunk 3 times a week.

I am not sure what the answer is, but I have an idea. Tomorrow.


jack schott

Jack Schott
I don’t know what I am going to write about, but at the end of the month I will make up a signature that makes sense here. You can always email me

Writing Kinda Sucks

Seth Godin says there is no such thing as writers block just like there is no such thing as talkers block. We are just afraid to put something down on paper or type it up because it is permanent and we don’t want to take responsibility for what it means for other people to interact with the ideas we put out there. Ok, I didn’t look up his quote about that, but that is the take away I had when I heard it.

That makes sense to me in the grander context. Facebook is having trouble getting consistent new user generated content and Snapchat has no problem getting people to send more and more Snaps everyday. Snapchat has figured out a lower barrier to entry for folks to get past writers block. They make it seem like it isn’t permanent, but they let you screenshot it if you really care about it.

I was looking at a potential staff member’s Facebook page yesterday and found it fascinating to see that most of her pictures had Snapchat text or filters on them. She was using Facebook mostly as a way of immortalizing her life on Snapchat.

So where does that leave me tonight? Writers block. I think as much as I try to rationalize this talkers block idea, I think about what others might think as they read this.

The thought process goes like this:

There are an infinite number of ideas that Jack could write about and he picked this? Instead of the million other good ones, what an idiot.

I am having a hard time making a choice about what I have to say and why it would be interesting or different for someone to read, and am instead just not making a choice. Which of course is a choice. Now we are back to the grownups. Who knows what I should write, probably some grownup. I haven’t yet really embraced being the the grownup of my own writing.

Monday, instead of just sitting down to write I am going to try sketching out an idea on paper. Monday I will be a Grownup.

I like the idea of ending posts with a bunch of links to content that relates.


If you’re also struggling with writing

Talkers Block – Seth Godin

Copy Writing for the Web – Fizzle
Could try some of these ideas?

Document Don’t Create – Gary Vee

Words – Justin Jackson

jack schott

Jack Schott
I don’t know what I am going to write about, but at the end of the month I will make up a signature that makes sense here. You can always email me

There Are No Grownups

 ****** I am going to try writing for a half an hour every work day for a month, starting today and until December 10. I am not sure totally what I will focus on, but I imagine it will be mostly related to the ups and downs of trying to make Stomping Ground, the overnight camp in Binghamton that Laura and I founded. That’s what I am going to write about today anyway. *******

I just got an email confirming the next step in our nonprofit paperwork, from Stephen, our lawyer. Sorta. I mean I did get the email, but “our lawyer” is a sort of term. Stephen is a friend of ours that happens to be a lawyer and the firm he is working for is processing our not for profit paper work. Does that make Stephen our lawyer. I don’t know, but the more I do grown up stuff the more I don’t think there are any real grown ups. People just say things like “I have to talk to my lawyer.” or “Gotta run to the office” which sound like grownup stuff, but really just mean the same thing as “I am doing some homework before I go out to the party” or “My mom wants me home when the street lights come on”.

When we first started thinking about running camp I assumed there was a right way to do it and that we just needed to find the right grownups to help. We partnered with James, Scott, and Syl thinking they were grownups. Turns out, they know a bunch of stuff we don’t, have their own kids, and have all started stuff before, but they aren’t any more grownups than we are.

I am using the word grownup here to mean

The person that actually knows what to do, has the right anwser, and is the boss.

It is like when people say “I need an adult”. What they mean is “Can someone tell me what to do?”

At first we looked to Scott, Syl, and James for a lot of this stuff, and they were super helpful, supportive, and just good friends, but after a while we started to notice that they were making this stuff up as much as we were. That’s when we realized that we just needed to be the Stomping Ground grownups. Scott, Syl, and James are great, but this wasn’t their baby. This wasn’t what they woke up every morning excited to think about.

That change has made all the difference for us. We didn’t need to ask for permission, wait to check in, or even tell them everything. We just need to do shit and leads to plenty of great things and plenty of mistakes. After those mistakes we do ask for help, so it is important to keep them in the loop, because man do we mess up sometimes.

On the first night of our first summer of camp we had no bed times. NO BED TIMES FOR 6 YEAR OLDS?! What? It made tons of sense. We want to treat kids the way they want to be treated and no kid wants to be told to go to bed. So no bed times.

At 2:30 in the morning we had bed times. Half of camp and therefore half of staff were still up. Kids eyes looked like they were going to fall out of their sockets and I could barely move. Laura did the hard thing. She pulled all the kids together and explained that we can’t staff no bed times and apologized for breaking our promise. Most of the kids both understood and were relieved. Some of the kids were cranky as hell.

The point is we messed up, and no one was coming to save us. Running camp, buying a car, what we eat, it is all up to us and most of the time there isn’t a grownup that will know the right  answer. We just have to figure it out and sometimes that means putting the kids to bed at 2:30 in the morning.

jack schott

Jack Schott
I don’t know what I am going to write about, but at the end of the month I will make up a signature that makes sense here. You can always email me