The Wetfoot Blog

Monday, October 26, 2009

AT THE MIC with Matt Nienow

AT THE MIC. This series will bring former staff and campers out of their seat and up to the mic for all to hear.

AT THE MIC with Matt Nienow

Matt Nienow has been a camper and staff member since 1994. As a staff member, Matt served in positions ranging from a Tripping Assistant to an Expeditionary Canuck Leader. He currently resides in Seattle, Washington with Elie, his wife, and four month old son River. They make camping and getting outside an important part of their lives.

Matt is a poet and has published several books within the last six years. Some of his work and more information about Matt can be found on his blog at

The Interview:

What is your favorite memory at Camp?
My favorite strand of memories revolves around the feeling, that began as a near north camper, when I realized that most anything in life really was possible. I knew this because of trail and because my counselor listened to me think, and talked to me as though I was more than a 13-year-old. This feeling compounded when I joined the staff and began having these same encounters, though from the other perspective, of course.

What did you learn at Camp that you apply to your current life?
I love to cook and make good food wherever I am. I love the company of a few good friends. In a tricky or stressful situation I stay calm and push through. I help others stay calm. I still believe anything is possible because all of my experiences at Manito-wish showed me that it’s true. If you want to make something happen, you just do.

What does leadership mean to you?
Of course, I have all the seven qualities of a Manito-wish leader floating in my head, but my view of leadership is more about how one enacts those qualities in a variety of settings. Leadership involves listening to the situation and the people involved, and it most likely involves turning off the “expert” voice in your head so that you can respond without ego in the foreground. I think the most effective leadership is clearly genuine and honest. If you are effective, no one should doubt your authenticity. Overall, these elements push me to believe that the best leader is dynamic, that a leader’s value is not in what they know, but in how well they know themselves. This, I believe, is part of why leadership can be taught: we can offer skill sets and a context for thinking, but the best teaching lies in helping people to see themselves more clearly, and especially in community. (Which is pretty much what Manito-wish excels at).

What is your favorite piece of gear?
Probably my Lexan French press jerry-rigged with a better filter from a nicer French press. Keeps it durable and it keeps the grounds out of my teeth. Coffee is a great love.

Thanks to Matt for letting us into his life.


  1. Cool interview, I'm excited to see more in the future


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