What a fascinating couple of days it’s been. Over the weekend I was at New England Warrior Camp, an annual gathering of ninjutsu practitioners to explore, challenge, and develop our warrior spirits, and now I’m at the WhatCounts Email Summit at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.

Autumn yard photos

Both places, both locations, have very, very different takes on reality. Warrior Camp focuses on reality in the here and now. You have to be in the moment, undistracted, or something as simple as walking to a training location can be hazardous, since you’re in the woods and a misstep on a rocky pathway can lead to a sprained ankle. Las Vegas focuses on avoiding reality at any cost, avoiding everything that might lead to the acknowledgement that reality might have some unpleasantness to it.

What’s even more fascinating is the way each location tries to set itself up to reflect its philosophy. Senior master instructor Ken Savage hosts Warrior Camp in a “rustic” Boy Scout reservation in metrowest Boston. There’s not a lot of comfort to be found, to better make you aware of your surroundings and not lull you into distraction. Usage of mobile devices is discouraged and there’s barely electricity, much less Internet access. You rise early and train late into the night to experience all of the different conditions in which you might need your skills, and you train rain or shine. At Warrior Camp, everything is structured to make you focus inward, to help you find and focus on your own goals and self.

Las Vegas casino resorts go the opposite route, trying to provide as much comfort as possible. Bright lights and game sounds provide ample distraction, and not a clock or window is to be found anywhere on the gaming floor so that you lose track of time and your surroundings. Games themselves harness every possible addictive behavior, from animation and primary colors to randomized rewards. Alcohol is provided freely or at very low cost to better dull your senses and judgement. Nearly endless buffets sate appetites and scantily clad cocktail hostesses distract and divert even more. In Las Vegas, everything is structured to make you focus elsewhere, to distract, divert, delude, and ultimately to serve the goals of the casino.

Each accomplishes its goals admirably. The reactions of the people in each place shows the length of their successes. Warrior Camp participants emerge recharged, ready to face renewed challenges in their martial training and lives. Las Vegas visitors emerge entertained, distracted, diverted, and in many cases, much, much poorer.

What’s of interest to me is the startling contrast between the two, going from one to the other. The choice of surroundings and the way that each environment is set up changes the people in those environments drastically, and in both cases can leave lasting changes.

The question for you as you read this is: what does your environment set you up to do? Are you set up for greater awareness or greater distraction? Does your daily life focus you towards your own goals or towards the goals of someone else? If your environment and surroundings aren’t focused to accomplish what you want to accomplish, how can you adjust them so that they are better aligned with your goals?


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