November 30th, 2013. It was a faithful night in Auburn, Alabama, where the #1 college football team in the nation, The Alabama Crimson Tide, faced the #4 ranked Auburn Tigers in the annual Iron Bowl. With 1 second left in a tie game, a timeout was called. Alabama would bring out their kicker and attempt to seal the victory. If you don’t know the rest, I suggest checking out this short video to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9o2n09sSHc
One second. One second is all it took to change the past, present, and future. Too often, I think we get caught up in the narrative that the “past is what it is and can’t be changed”… but is it? In one second, Auburn went from being on a three-year losing streak to Alabama to achieving one of the single most memorable sports moments in history. As for the present, AUBURN IS GOING TO WIN THE FOOTBALL GAME. Sorry if that was too much excitement for a Sunday night. But in one second, however, the narrative changed; and it is still impacting the future due to how often Auburn fans talk about it. (lol)
This week, I started to think about how we, as leaders, are writing our narratives, and honestly, how too often we do a poor job. Going throughout a week can often feel like a rollercoaster, but why do we view the “drops” as negatives? Maybe others are different on this, but when I ride a rollercoaster, I enjoy every single aspect of it. The slow ride to the top of the first hill. The feeling of almost stopping at the top of the hill only to instantly feel weightless as you fall rapidly. Then the turns, the spins, the loops, every element of a rollercoaster ride plays a part in you writing the narrative of your experience. If I tried, I could probably think back to some rides where I didn’t enjoy one of the turns because it caused me to hit my head… but I don’t naturally remember those moments. I remember the thrill of the ride.
If you’ve followed the blog, you are likely aware of my respect for Robert Kennedy. Part of this respect comes from the research and understanding that he actually started off being a pretty terrible dude. His time spent as Attorney General under his brother John was littered with attempts to limit the civil rights movement’s success. Robert Kennedy had wiretaps on critical civil rights figures, supported unjust legislation, and even signed off on a “power off” switch on the microphone, which Martin Luther King Jr. used for his “I Have a Dream” speech in case they needed to play music over his voice quickly. Kennedy was allowing his past to write his narrative. I can’t say that he had a “one-second moment where that changed, but something changed. Somewhere, he began to write a different narrative, and the world is better because of it. We don’t think of those bad moments, most of you probably aren’t even aware of them, but instead, we remember the good. His speech in Illinois immediately after MLK Jr. was shot in Memphis (great article on this: https://time.com/4817240/martin-luther-king-john-kennedy-phone-call/ ) His decision to run against an incumbent president in his party to further the equality, equity, and justice for black men and women in America. Robert didn’t allow one second to define him, but he might have let one second change him for the better.
Watching the above video of Auburn running back the field goal to win the Iron Bowl, I can’t help but process the entire moment. “He will run it out to the 10, 15, 20, 25…” Every step was being announced and processed. I think, as leaders, we need to do that more often. It’s okay to think big picture, but you can’t take 109 yards in one step. We must be able and willing to see how everyone got to where they are now. The past shouldn’t define anything/anyone, because one second of the present can change the future. Being a leader, you can play a large role in the creation of a narrative. Whether you are a teacher, manager, or mentor, we all play a role.
As I read back through this post, I almost feel like I have been scatterbrained the entire time. “How does writing your narrative connect with one second” is the question I keep imagining people reading this will think. So, if that is where you are at, I would like to leave you with this:
Being a leader is often vast, complex, and even contradictory at times, but in many ways, the trajectory of leadership can be shaped by a single moment in time. One second could mean everything, but it doesn’t have to be everything. See the good even in the “drops,” and don’t let the bad overwhelm the narrative you are writing.
Feel free to comment below how you are writing your narrative. How do you let little moments motivate you, but also not let little moments deter you?
-Colin Lane Croat