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GUCI Grows Leaders

How do you tell someone that they have untreatable cancer?  How do you comfort a family after telling them their loved one will never be able to speak or eat again?  How do you give feedback to a trainee who made a mistake that harmed a patient?

Should you put your hand on their shoulder or give a hug?  Do you talk or just let them cry?  When they get upset, how do you respond?  These are examples of situations that I commonly encounter professionally in my role as an acute care surgeon and critical care physician.  It is assumed that since I have gained clinical competency to care for patients that I must also be proficient in the non-technical aspects of my job such as:

  1. Communicating Effectively
  2. Running a High-Performance Team
  3. Teaching
  4. Giving Effective Feedback

The truth is that none of my 11 years of formal training after college addressed any of these topics, yet I quickly learned these were requisite skills necessary to be an excellent physician and were as important as my clinical acumen.  I have reflected often on when and where I developed these skills that contribute to my success as a physician.  My thoughts quickly turned to my experiences at Goldman Union Camp Institute.

During a leadership seminar I attended the following advice was given, “If you want to increase your success, double your failures.”  Failure is not a pleasant emotion.  Cognitive science teaches that negative emotions have a 2-3X greater adverse impact on well-being than positive emotions.  It is natural to avoid situations that cause us to feel awkward, embarrassed, or self-conscious.  However, we can only mature and grow if we are willing to take risks and push our comfort zone.

This is where Goldman Union Camp enters the narrative.  I am going to share with you a fact that does NOT get the attention that it deserves:  GUCI is a leadership training program.

The leadership aspect often gets overlooked because campers and staff are too busy having fun and focusing on the Migdal, bunk night, lights out programs, Yom Sport, etc.   However, learning to live in a cabin as a community, helping a camper deal with homesickness, and planning a program for an entire unit develops the skills necessary for a successful career.   GUCI affords the opportunity for young adults to be put in leadership positions and be accountable to others for their actions.

There is a proper way to fail and make mistakes:  Fail quickly and fail safely.  There is no better environment and atmosphere for this strategy than GUCI.  Campers and staff are encouraged to try new adventures, express themselves creatively, and display spirit.  No one is ever censored or degraded for trying something new.  In fact, it is the quite the opposite–they are encouraged.

This is how an individual builds confidence, develops empathy, learns problem-solving strategies, and cultivates emotional intelligence.  These are all traits we want our children to develop as they mature into Jewish young men and women.  I am extremely proud of the experiences young Reform Jews have at GUCI as we prepare them to be the leaders of the future.  As we plan our future together, I invite you to share the leadership skills you obtained at GUCI and create further testimony to support this Jewish leadership academy.

L’Shanah Tovah.

Danny Eiferman

GUCI 1986-1994

GUCI Board of Advisors 2017-Present

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