Category: Confidence

I’ve recently joined the ranks of being a mom to not one but TWO teenage daughters. There’s no greater reward and ego-leveler than parenting! There are probably as many parenting models, tips, and sets of advice as there are diet fads. Just when we think one might work, our child or society switches on us and we lose our title of “Parent of the Year…”

Recently I came across an executive coach (Caroline Miller) as well as an article by a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania that assembled a term I’ve been trying to put to words for years. GRIT.

Something about the “everybody wins” psychology and self-esteem movement seemed to allow self-imposed helplessness in some children. Psychologist Angela Duckworth, Ph.D. introduced me to the term “grit”. She’s studied the role that character plays in success since 2005 and has identified that grit (the ability to push through or bounce back from failure) is a stronger indicator of success than intelligence or academic achievement. I realized that it was self-respect and GRIT that I most wanted to develop in my teenage girls! I can point directly to times when I tried to ease the bumpy road in front of them or make excuses for them to their detriment. I also realized that through both experiences they’ve had at home or with our very own summer camp we’ve created opportunities for the opposite! They’ve both ‘busted through barriers’ of their own, faced the potential of failing and came out ahead, or simply stayed dedicated to learn something difficult. The good news is that we have some ways to foster grit and I’ve listed those below. To explore in more depth- the Ted talk by Caroline Miller and the article by Angela Duckworth are below.

1) Put new challenges in front of your child

2) Promote perseverance- “Don’t Quite on a Bad Day”

3) Be a nudge

4) Be ok with boredom and frustration

5) Let failure unfold and model resilience

Good luck!

Anna Birch-Anna Birch | CEO

The little things in life! So often I hear about the importance of the “little things”. Yet, the “busy”ness  of business promptly ushers me away reminding me of a meeting, a proposal, a capital purchase, a new hire. You know..the “Big” things!  That’s what it’s about right?  Hitting your goals. Expanding market share. Increasing Profit.  But how do you get there?

I don’t really have an answer, but I do have an idea: it’s in the little things.  I was recently presented with a “junked” chainsaw by an employee. The dealership explained it would cost more to repair than the saw was worth.  How can this be, it’s only a few years old? Frustrated at the proposal of buying yet another $500 saw…wait they don’t make that anymore.  I’ll have to get the new model for $625. Ugh! I took a deep breath and started counting to $625…..1,2,3,…..   Before I made it to 50, my scowl turned into a grin…I’d just uncovered an opportunity. That’s right, I was going to learn how to rebuild a chainsaw.

I dug right in asking questions. Starting with parts: The dealership wanted $350, I found them for $125. I sort of knew there was some “special” stuff you needed to do with 2-cycle engines, so off to Youtube I went. A tachometer, a vacuum leak tester, a homemade crank case splitter and 30 Youtube videos later, I was ready!

I won’t bore you with the details and challenges I faced in the process. Just suffice it to say that it took waaaaylonger than I expected AND it was absolutely worth it! The fact that the saw works is testament to one of two things. 1) I was freakishly lucky or 2) I now understand what it takes to completely rebuild a 2-cycle engine from the ground up.   Since I’m the one writing this, I’ll choose #2!

Okay, great. The saw works…good for me. Whoo hooo!  So what? The difference for me was redirecting the energy that could have been wasted on being frustrated with the situation. Instead, the energy was excitedly focused on not just a solution to this singular broken saw, but to a body of information that allows me to tackle and teach others how to diagnose and repair this key tool of our business operations.

Like most things in life, it was about slowing down, being present and paying attention to the little things. So much can be avoided if one does that. In comparison to time lost and replacement costs, maintenance costs little when you take the time to truly understand the function of each piece of the whole. But I guess if the 3 loose exhaust nuts had been seen, I wouldn’t have had this opportunity. My life is richer for it.


austin-Austin Birch CFO/CIO


As fate and luck would have it, Brian returned summer after summer to continue impacting the lives of youth as well as the lives of his colleagues. He grew in talent and the application of his teaching skills and passions were clear to all.

At the beginning of one of his last summers with Adventure Links, he met a lovely young lady as a fellow staff member. Appropriately, their first date was whitewater kayaking on the Staircase in Harpers Ferry. That young lady accepted and has created years of adventure with Brian and it is with pride and happiness that they announced their engagement! Our community of friends and staff will come together from far away to celebrate this serendipitous journey.

I was also able to experience the proudest reference call of my career. Brian was interviewing to be an elementary school teacher and three different schools were hoping they would be the school he selected. Notice… not the other way around. Brian’s love for teaching, competency, and potential were so clear that all three principals were determined to have Brian on their team. With so many changes and beginnings for Brian, it is with deep sentiment and honor to have been, and continue to be a part of this amazing life journey.


Unbridled joy… that’s what you get when you mix a snow day, ice-coated mountain
driveway, and a run with a 10-year-old.

My daughter’s face lit up when I posed the idea of going for a run on this icy day
home from school. “This will be pretty funny, mom.” And it was. The laughter erupted
when we struggled to gain and maintain traction up the first big hill—we couldn’t look
at each other (we were too focused on our own balance) but we could clearly imagine
how ridiculous we each must look. Each step was an adventure of whether we could
continue to gain ground. Finally, one of us said what we were both thinking: that
coming back down was going to be really crazy. We journeyed the icy mile separately,
but were brought together when we heard the yelps of each of us almost falling
peppering the quiet woods. That was only broken with the sounds of our redbone
coonhound’s nails grappling for control and sliding as she shared in our struggles.
We ran, slipped, and searched continuously for places of stability where gravel poked
through the ice or bits of ice chunks provided the slightest reprieve.

Coming down was as crazy as predicted and although the goal was simple, to not fall, I
realized that this challenge of coming down was much different. While we were trying to
not lose ground on our climb up the hills, on the way back down, we were desperate to
slow the pace and not gain ground too quickly and slide out of control.

Of course, it made me think about the personal and business challenges I approach
and navigate each day. Which of those am I trying to gain footing, move carefully
through to not lose ground or fall, and where do I find places of strength, stability, and
safety to continue to push on? And, which of those am I worried the accelerated pace
is potentially a threat and I need to gain traction and control to not gain faster than
I can manage? And then… are there times that I am skipping or avoiding “the run”


Brian graduated to the age of our Teen Expeditions. His growth as a learner, a leader, and a contributor shone brighter and brighter with each trip. 

It was years later Brian moved the room giving a speech at the wedding of one of his Adventure Links mentors—there was not a dry eye in the house. He said that life had delivered exactly what he needed at that time in his life—an angel. He was searching for guidance, inspiration, personal challenge, and those that believed in him. That angel came in the form of an Adventure Links expedition leader named Elena. It was a poignant moment of realizing that the gifts she and her co-leader Scott had given of themselves during their leadership at Adventure Links would return in gratitude and powerful impact.  To me, I felt like I had started something exponential and the circles continued to expand as our staff and campers made their marks in the world. 

The story only grows.  Stay tuned.

Sometimes you just have no idea how powerful a role your child plays in another child’s life. It seemed like just another one of many play dates for my 5th grade daughter recently but this one ended quite differently!
The light conversation with her friend’s mother quickly gained depth and speed when we began sharing about our own childhoods (the good and the “bad”). We shared its impact on us as mothers and how we strive to support our daughters’ lives and whims.  She described how her daughter spent most of her early years with an inability to express emotion and did not speak a word until she was four years old. Upon reaching school age, she scored off the charts in testing but struggled to express herself verbally both academically and socially. She saw the look of surprise on my face as she described what sounded like a stranger to the little girl I had come to know as my daughter’s friend. She said “I don’t know who sent your daughter to us, but I am so thankful! She has changed our girl’s life and is her first friend ever.” She went on to describe how it has given her daughter confidence and a sense of belonging. I thought back to the lessons I was taught in my years as an elementary school teacher by the brilliant works of Michael Thompson. I realized that his philosophy on the impact a quality best friend has upon the ability to cope with adversity as a child was coming true right before my eyes.
I dug a little deeper to see what he meant by quality and it was EXACTLY what my daughter was giving to this girl:
Adolescents Definition of Quality:
“…an open ear to listen to me, don’t judge me, different perspective on me, gives me no slack, gives me the power to talk about anything, something to smile at, gives me hope, strength, courage, trust, self-confidence.” taken from: Best Friends, Worst Enemies by Michael Thompson
My resolution:
In the turn of this new year, I will reach out to those best friends from years past and those standing with me today and thank them for giving me hope, strength, courage, and trust. I will also continue to honor and provide opportunities for youth to experience quality friendships with Adventure Links as thousands pass through our life here.
Thank you and Happy 2013.

“You’re not alone, you have yourself.”

In truth, I can recall the moment, but I didn’t specifically recall saying the above
statement. However, nearly a year after the experience, the woman let me know the
impact it had upon her past, present, and future.

It was a beautiful day and she had brought an International Leadership Institute group
to our ropes course to have an experiential and fun day learning about leadership. One
of the activities was our high ropes course and she, of course, willingly participated. As
she approached the tree where I was stationed, I saw on her face what she had been
masking from the rest of the group. She was scared and when she caught my eye, her
guard dropped and she said “Anna, I can’t do this alone…anymore.”

I replied “You’re not alone, you have yourself.”

The following year, she reached out to thank me for changing her life. I was confused.
She then told me what I had said to her and that because of that statement, she
returned to her life being re-introduced to her own courage. She immediately changed
her outlook on personal challenges and then applied for a notable position she had
always been “afraid” to attempt. She had called to let me know her email address had
changed… AND her future had changed because of that day…