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Retreat provides powerful experience

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Leadership Lancaster takes to the beach

By Jesef Williams

A peaceful, serene Atlantic Ocean is something I had never seen before while visiting Myrtle Beach.

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I’m accustomed to droves of people partying along Ocean Boulevard, hanging out by the pool and dipping in the ocean amid a hot summer day.

But this time, cold temperatures, along with a wind chill factor, rendered the beach somewhat desolate. Vacationers – mostly snowbirds from Canada and the northern U.S. – who walk along the beach were few and far between.

Given that, you’d think my trip to North Myrtle Beach from Jan. 4 to 6, was uneventful. But it was the total opposite.

Powerful and enlightening are the adjectives that quickly come to mind.

This was the weekend for Leadership Lancaster’s annual retreat to the beach.

From Friday to Sunday, my 21 classmates and I engaged in a host of activities that brought us closer together, fostered creativity and equipped us with tools to help us become stronger community leaders back home in Lancaster County.

And we have Dr. Peppers to thank for a lot of that.

No, not the soft drink, but Dr. Larry Peppers, a Clemson University sociology professor who facilitated the weekend. He's led these Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce-sponsored retreat sessions for each of the 25 years this program has been in existence.

A simulated society

A large portion of the time was spent working within a simulated society. We were divided into three groups – which we soon learned were three different socioeconomic classes.

The object of the activity was to sustain the society in a way that everyone had their basic needs met. There were many rules and restrictions in place that determined what we could and couldn’t do throughout the hours-long game.

In the end, there were many practical takeaways. Following are a few:

  • It’s beneficial – and often necessary – for an individual to be able to relate well to people in different social and economic classes.
  • Happiness is relative, as its definition varies from person from person.

“No matter what you have, happiness is what you make it,” said classmate Melissa Walker-Price.

  • To whom much is given, much is required

“Hopefully you gained some new perspective through that,” Peppers said about the game.

Personality revealed

Though the simulated society was beneficial, for me, the most powerful activity that weekend was the renowned Myers Briggs personality test Peppers asked each participant to take.

After completing the questionnaire, we had a detailed discussion about the test analyses. I had taken the test years ago, but this time around, the experience was much more powerful.

It's enlightening – and honestly kinda’ mind-blowing – when you see the breakdown of why certain personalities mesh and don't mesh well.  

The test analyses left me reflecting on all my personal relationships for days afterward. All.

As a heavy extrovert, the test explained my need for heavy doses of culture and interpersonal interaction. Along with that, I expect those close to me to be as open and forthcoming as I am.

I could go on and on about this, but I journalistically digress.

Team building

In addition to the personality assessments, we finished things Sunday with a couple of activities involving a tennis ball.

In one instance, we were split into three groups. Each group had the task of balancing a ball on a silver ring that resembled one used for a shower curtain.

Using string tied to the ring, we had to move the ball from one location to another. Each group had its own method for transporting the ball.

CN2 news anchor Laurabree Monday, one of my classmates, said those exercises encouraged team building and forced everyone to be creative.

“When you think you're thinking outside the box, you can push it even further,” Monday said.

“That's what teamwork does. You can really grow your community while you grow those ideas. Keep thinking.”

Jesef Williams is a reporter for the Lancaster News