You may have seen this movie before…

In the movie, The Internship starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson two out-of-work, middle-aged sales professionals secure internships at a reasonably well-known technology company. Of course, hijinks ensue when these 40-ish year-old men have to keep up with the best and brightest college students ready to conquer the world. The punchline, if you haven’t seen the movie, is that the brilliant young technology minds learn as much from the “old” guys as the old guys learn from them. Turns out life experience is worth something. Well, as my 40-something year-old friends like to joke, I got to play the role of Vince Vaughn in my own internship experience recently. However, instead of working at a global technology conglomerate, I had the opportunity to work with young people ranging from ages six to 13 at summer camps to satisfy my first school-required internship. So, it turns out that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

During the internship process, our advisor asked us to reflect on our experience by our team’s faculty advisor. Before our work started, she asked, “What do you want to get out of this experience?” and “What are you excited about?” After our work, she asked, “What is your hope for the future now that you’ve had this experience?” I had difficulty answering these questions because so much came up when digesting them. i have experienced so many emotions through the process leading up to my first graduate school internship because of everything that I went through to finally get to this point. My answers to these questions were quite simple, but very meaningful. I’d like to share them with you.

What do you want to get out of this experience? My answer? Take risks. Emotional risks. I wanted to be myself and share that person with those I was working with. I wanted to be vulnerable with the kids and my classmates in hopes of building genuine, trusting relationships in a very short period of time. Our first week of camp was at a public charter school in the San Francisco Bay area. Our clients were incoming 9th graders. Many of the kids did not know each other because they attended different elementary schools. The community’s population is primarily Mexican-American. This situation was challenging because it was new to me. However, I discovered that simply being myself is an effective way to build a bridge. I presented on the third day of the five-day camp with my partner Briana. The topic was achieving success. I started my presentation off by telling the campers how impressed I was with their intelligence, maturity, and skill level. I took a calculated risk in service of my goal. I really felt like I opened the door for building meaningful relationships over the following three days of camp, or as much as you can in three days.

What are you excited about? I am excited about building relationships. Taking risks allowed me to establish connections that were meaningful to me. Whether it was with Yessi, Gio, and Bianca during the first week of camp, or with Fiona, Vida, Ryann, or Marcelle the second week of camp, I made friends with young people who left an indelible impression on me. As a father to two young children, it was fascinating to watch other people’s children connect with adults with whom they have absolutely no relationship. It really opened my eyes as to the type of influence that caring, respectful adults can have on the growth and development of children. I guess this is why I love coaching children so much. Kids want to learn. Kids want respect. Perhaps most importantly, kids simply want you to care. It’s so important that they have as many adults in their life that demonstrate these behaviors toward them as possible. I take great pride in fulfilling that responsibility to my children and other people’s children.

Finally, Dr. B asked, “What is your hope for the future now that you’ve had this experience?” This was probably the most difficult question to ask as I have so many hopes for the future as I pursue this new career path. Once again, I boiled my response down fairly succinctly to my hope for myself is to continue to give freely of myself without fear of making mistakes. Even I’ll admit this is a pretty big concept. Paradoxically, it also seems straightforward. Ultimately, I want to continue to take emotional risks when working with all of my clients. I need to show genuine interest in them as people. I need to put my arm around them when they need it. I need to share personal stories about myself when appropriate. If I don’t take risks and play it safe, then building a real, trusting relationship will be very difficult. Practically, I can’t be an effective mental performance coach if I don’t have a mutual, trusting relationship with my clients. Conversely, taking emotional risks can backfire sometimes. However, I’m convinced that I’d rather take a risk and have it blow up in my face then not taking that risk at all. If I’m not taking risks, then frankly I’m not trying hard enough. More importantly, I suspect that my clients, especially young ones, will see right through me.

Forty-something interns are great comedy in the movies. Some – like my buddies – would say that a 40-something intern in real life is also high comedy. In fact, it’s pretty funny to me that I am in this position. I never thought in a million years that I would quit a well-paying, fairly prestigious career to go back to school at 42-years old. But, I’ve learned the hard way that settling for others’ definition of success is the fast-track to burnout and resentment. Now, I have a golden opportunity to build a new life for myself and be compensated to do what I have been willing to do for free for many years now. This might be one of the greatest risks that I have ever taken in my life. It’s becoming clear that the reward far outweighs what I am putting on the line.

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