Archives For July 2016

We’ve had a couple of families discover us recently. That’s the question they asked. They were kind of good-naturedly offended that they hadn’t heard of us sooner.

There are probably a lot of people in the community who have no idea we are here. Even those who have heard of us are little unclear as to what our center actually is. Is it a Chuck e Cheese? Is it a recreational Center? Is it a Playground? Nope. We’re unique, multi-faceted, and hard to explain in just a few words or with a simple website or mailer.

One of my favorite things to witness is when people come in for a visit and start to “get it”. Especially educators…you can see the wheels start to turn as they start thinking about all the ways we can partner to create amazing learning experiences for their kiddos. Their excitement and energy is positively infectious.

With that being said, word is definitely getting out. We already have people driving over forty-five minutes to visit us. We had one family even call ahead to make sure we had plenty of Mac & Cheese before they made the trip.

Introducing ourselves to the community has been (intentionally) an organic process. We’re just focussing on taking in feedback and working to make sure that every guest who visits us feels that we delivered on our promise of “best day ever”. If we do that well, our guests will tell their friends.

So yes, awareness of our presence is a little uneven. Up to this point, the only way people have heard about us is through word of mouth and social media. There is one other reason we are not spending money on traditional advertising to get the word out.  We’d rather invest in our community.

Since opening the center we have:

  • Sponsored a Willimantic little league team.
  • Sponsored a 5K run to raise money for the Mansfield playground.
  • Donated space and classes to several not for profits.
  • Donated the Cafe and coffee every other Wednesday morning to business networking event hosted by the Chamber of Commerce.
  • Handed out dozens of certificates for free goods and services to local schools hosting fund raising events.
  • Hosted a free field trip full of play and programs for a group of kids participating in a program at Windham Heights.
  • Met with the Windham before and after school team. (We’ll be offering them a free workshop the end of august to help them increase their impact with the students they teach)
  • Visited Columbia, Willington and Mansfield to provide various enrichment programs for interested members of the communities.

There’s more, but I think you get the idea. And we’re just getting started 🙂

It’s not uncommon to see kids come out of Pebble Park crying.

The reason?

They don’t want to leave.

When a child is enjoying what they’re doing, they don’t want to stop. Even if they’re going on to another fun activity, that’s in the future. They’re having fun right now. Why leave one fun thing for another? It’s an emotional reaction, not a rational one. No way are you going to be able to reason with them. When a child loses it leaving the park, all of the adults look at each other with a knowing, empathetic eye. Every parent has been there at some point, and it’s never fun.

We’ve been working on a strategy that seems to help, so I thought I’d pass it on.

It’s pretty simple. We give them time to get used to the idea of needing to move on to the next adventure, and frame their exit in a positive way. We do this in just a few simple steps:

  1. We get the child’s attention, have them do a “belly breath”, and let them know that they have a few more minutes before it’s time to leave, (several parents have given us a heads up when they are ready to leave so we can do this for them)
  2. After a couple of minutes, we ask them to say goodbye to their favorite thing or person from their visit. Sometimes it’s a friend, sometimes it’s team member, and other times it’s a toy or element they played on, like the yellow slide.
  3. As they leave, we have them point to or say the first thing they’re going to do on their next visit. This is key because it reminds them that they will be back.

To a child, it can feel like they’re leaving forever. We had a little girl say to her mom, “But I can’t leave, this is my home!” My personal favorite are the little ones who are so fast. The parent just finishes getting their shoes on and they sprint back into the park cackling wildly. Usually it becomes a race to see if they can get up into the playscape before the parent can dive in and hook an ankle before they’re out of reach.

While this certainly isn’t a magic cure, it does seem to help. Guess it’s the price we pay for providing our kids with such fun and engaging experiences!

Here is a training video explaining the process to our team. Feel free to check it out 🙂

 

What we really want is to bring value to the world.

This is so encouraging. Especially from the younger generations.

It all started with the Questers’ Way team. Our hiring process was a little unique. Applicants were asked to watch some videos that define our purpose, along with an explanation of the type of person we felt would be successful if they were to join our team. We asked them to email us, and tell us why they felt we would be a good fit for them, as well as how they could bring value to our guests and members.

The response was amazing. I ended up interviewing over seventy people in the weeks before we opened. I was in the mall so much that they put a sign with my name on the bench I would use for the interviews.

All of these applicants were attracted to the idea of being a part of something that would add value to the lives of others. It was amazing. Each neighborhood was represented. From food enthusiasts who wanted to promote the value of healthy eating, to high school students who wanted to bring smiles to kid’s faces in the park, every one of them got it. The idea of a place where they could grow and evolve while helping others do the same resonated deeply.

Over the first three months, this mindset had spilled over into our guests. One adult said to me “I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.” It was a fun conversation that had some interesting parallels to a chat I’d had with a twenty year old.

They both wanted to do more than just work. They wanted to contribute. The older guest (there have been several who have expressed this sentiment) had had enough of working in environments and for companies that had no real higher purpose, or pathway for contribution. It was just work that resulted in a paycheck. The wanted something more. Although the twenty year old lacked the actual job experience, they were already voicing the same thing. They were holding out to find a livelihood that would allow them to make a difference.

Things are little scary right now in the world. The events of the last few years have left us feeling shaken and vulnerable. It’s good to know that there are many of us who really want to serve a higher purpose that brings value to the world. We’re not going to hide. We’re going to step up, be our best self, and make a difference. One day at a time, one interaction at a time, we can bring a little light, and help restore a little balance.

Jim Collins, in his book “Great by Choice”, described a common quality that makes leaders great. On average, these leaders outperformed their peers by a multiple of ten, regardless of the industry or environment.

These “Level Five Leaders” all act on a commitment to a purpose that is greater than themselves. They put this purpose first, and serve it with both humility, sacrifice, and a fierce refusal to be anything less than their best every day.

We need Level Five Leaders, and every day I meet more and more people who are evolving into just that.

The fact that so many of us really want to bring value to the world give me hope.

And inspiration 🙂

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Want we really want is to improve our relationship to ourself and others.

I listened to two moms talk in amazement about how they had been in deep adult conversation for four hours while their kids played without once plugging in to a phone or electronic device.

I watched a family sit down for a meal in the cafe and then stay for an hour playing cards, maybe for the first time in a long time.

One mom described her day at the center: she watched her kids learn to dance, then they played until they were drenched while she got some work done in the cafe, and then they all made simple crafts together as a family.

I listened to so many guests talk about meaningful time invested in each other. They talked about unplugging and working out together, learning together, eating together, and playing together.

It’s almost like this collective sigh of relief at this break from our overly digitized daily routine. There really seems to be this growing shift back towards the value in actually being in the same place with another person and interacting without needing a message app or cell phone.

And then there’s the other half of the relationship equation:

A proud woman who doesn’t have any clothes that fit her because of all the weight she lost.

A family learning about macronutrients and healthy eating.

Kids proudly demonstrating a new skill they learned or sharing an art project they created.

Everywhere we look, people are not only working on themselves, but on how they feel about themselves. They’re engaging in self-reflection, improving their self-awareness, and consciously moving towards the best version of themselves.

Throughout the center, relationships are either forming, or strengthening.

It’s happening on the inside, and the outside.

It’s a beautiful thing to behold 🙂IMG_4140

What we really want is health and vitality.

The health part isn’t surprising. Plenty of adults are looking to get in better shape, boost their immune system, and reduce stress levels. Plenty of parents are looking for similar things for their kids. They understand the value in activities that supplement a healthy lifestyle, and look to make them part of their weekly routine.

It’s also been refreshing how many people get the importance of food as it relates to health. So many families have shared stories about how changing their eating eating habits had a positive impact  on their lives. They talk about their increased resistance to getting sick, achieving weight loss/gain goals, and the reduction of medications for everything from blood pressure and cholesterol to attention deficit.

All very cool.

However, there was something deeper that I could hear our guests looking for a way to voice.

They would talk about having more energy, or more quality time with the people that matter to them. They’d smile as they came out of Zumba or AIM sweaty, or laugh at their red-cheeked kids tumbling out of the park. They’d mention how much more relaxed they felt after yoga or Tai Chi, or how their child’s balance seemed better after ballet class.

Which all makes sense, but that didn’t seem to be exactly what they were trying to voice. There was some underlying, connected theme behind some seemingly unconnected conversations.

Vitality.

That’s what they were talking about.

It’s that sense of vibrancy that seeps into everything: the way we move, play, converse, and eat.

That’s when we feel alive and present.

Vitality goes beyond simply increased energy. It’s that feeling of bringing your best self to what you’re doing in a way that is so powerful anyone near by can feel it radiating out from you.

We can cultivate it. We can connect with it. That’s what our guests and members were reaching towards.

Health and vitality. Those two things magnify everything.

Sounds like good things to want in one’s life 🙂

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