Sundays with You: A Journey Part II

Do me a favor, okay? Grab either a pen and paper, pull out your notes on your phone, or find whatever you can to have visual representation. Now, I want you to write down five things you are passionate about. Don’t limit yourself, each thing can be either a single word or an entire story. Take your time, we are in no rush here.

Now, look at your list. What makes up your passion? Did you struggle coming up with five things or was it tough for you to narrow it down to only five? What do you see when you look at what you wrote?

When I created this series of Sundays with You: A Journey, I knew I wasn’t doing it for the people who follow my blog or the random people who would click on it every week because they saw it on my social media. I was creating this series for the people who needed it, and the person who needed it most was me. As I mentioned in the introduction, I wasn’t quite sure where each week would take me. It’s easy to type up 2,000 words for a blog post on any topic, but it isn’t easy to convince yourself that any combination of words and sentences will actually make a difference. Finally though, I found my topic for the second part of my series Sunday with You: A Journey… Passion

When I graduated high school, Jason Dragoon, one of my teachers, gave me a book. The book was They Call Me Coach by John Wooden. For those of you who are not familiar, John Wooden is one of the most decorated and celebrated figures in sports mostly due to his time spent as head coach of the UCLA Bruins basketball team. At UCLA Wooden coached Lew Alcindor (better known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) who went on to become the all-time leading scorer in NBA History. Wooden led a team which won 88 straight games spanning over a four-year period. At UCLA, John Wooden won ten national championships, seven of them being in a row.

Do you ever read a book and know that in some way it changed your life, but you’re not quite sure how? Me being the sports head that I am, I loved John Wooden’s book. I was taken into his life and got to read the stories about his time spent as one of the most iconic sports figures ever. I learned about leadership, passion, love, and so much more. However, when I finished the book, I didn’t have the feeling that it had changed my life. It was a great book, but not life changing.

Life changing moments can come at any time, that’s what makes them so scary, right? Do we ever really know if we are prepared for our “big moment” to come where everything we have worked so hard for finally pays off? In my experiences, true “life changing moments” rarely happen. And I know what some of you may be thinking… What about having a kid or the day I got married. While I am sure those moments were indeed life changing for you, that’s not necessarily what I am referring to. In movies and books, we often see the “lights come on” moments where it seems like every answer they have been searching for presents itself in one big gesture. For me at least… I can’t say I have had such an occurrence.

Sometimes when I seem to have a writer block, I will go to YouTube and start watching motivational videos to try and find the inspiration I need. While doing this recently, I came across a speech given by Rick Rigsby. You can find the speech here on YouTube and while it is 10 minutes, I don’t think you will regret a second of watching it. In this post I will be specifically talking about minute 2:52 through 3:45 of the video. In his speech, Rigsby says so many things that made me think about how I live my life and the self-made walls which I have created to prevent myself from becoming the best version of myself. “Ego is the anesthesia that deadens the pain of stupidity. Pride is the burden of a foolish person,” Rigsby states. Too often I have argued with people that I am not egotistical but instead prideful and proud of the work I do. Never have I heard ego spoken about like Rigsby did; never have I felt so dumb for caring what others thought. Rigsby’s words reminded me that being proud of yourself can in no way be substituted by others being proud of you. Pride must be built on a foundation of internal satisfaction and if not, I challenge you to ask yourself, are you “filling your cup” or are you feeding your ego with your work.

As I continued the video, Rigsby brought up John Wooden, the legendary ball coach who I had read about roughly 7 years prior. I figured Rigsby would speak about his accomplishments, his national championships, who he coached, everything I mentioned above. Instead, he spends no more then two seconds mentioning who he is. Instead, Rigsby spoke about what made him special. I’ll let you read his words…

“John Wooden coached basketball at UCLA for a living, but his calling was to impact people, and with all those national championships, guess what he was found doing in the middle of the week? Going into the cupboard, grabbing a broom and sweeping his own gym floor. You want to make an impact? Find your broom. Every day of your life, you find your broom. You grow your influence that way. That way, you’re attracting people so that you can impact them.”

And just like that, there was my “lights come on” moment. I finally knew how John Wooden’s book had changed my life. His writing prepared me to be ready to not only hear what Rick Rigsby was saying, but to understand what he meant. Find your broom. It’s that simple. If you are doing what you are passionate about, staying late and picking up a broom will seem like just another way to have an impact rather than another task you have to check off of your to-do list.

As I reflect on both my personal and professional life, I can’t confidently say I have found my own broom. There are days where I love what I do and feel like I am having an impact, but I find myself questioning whether I am picking up a broom because it’s my passion or is it because I want to advance up the professional ladder and seem like I am the best at what I do. So, how do you know? How do you find your broom?

Do me a favor. Look back at your list from before. Is what you do daily, regardless of if it is personal, professional, or in between the two, made up of everything on your list? Is it made up of anything on your list? What you are passionate about should never be put on hold and if your daily routine doesn’t consist of the majority of things on that list, then that is exactly where you are… on hold.

I know some of you might be thinking “it isn’t that easy. I have to work to make a living. We all cant have our dream job” and I hear you loud and clear. What I think I’ve realized, however, is that life changing moments can pass you by if you are not ready for them. Finding your passion likely will not be easy, but the work you do to find it will not be wasted time. Throughout this journey I will continue to discuss ways to find your passion. Just as I wasn’t sure how John Wooden’s book had changed my life, I’m sure many of you have had the same moments. What I encourage you to remind yourself is that sometimes you don’t need to realize that your life was changed in the very moment it was changed. Maybe all of the pieces of the puzzle aren’t on the board yet and you still have work to do to find out how it will have an impact in your life. Finding your passion, however, is the first step which I have identified to be necessary to start this journey. Without passion as the foundation, any structure you build will eventually crack under turmoil. So, how are you going to find your broom?

Thank you for reading along and, more importantly, for letting me spend this Sunday with You.

-Colin Lane Croat

Sundays with You: A Journey

If I were to say, describe to me a journey, how would you go about doing so?

If I were to guess, I would imagine some of your journeys would be based on a family vacation you have experienced, pulling from your memory of good times where you felt valued. Some of you might instead talk about a dream you’ve always had, maybe traveling the world, and checking off locations from your bucket list one by one. Others might pull out their favorite book and talk about how every time they skim the pages it seems to take them away from the reality they live. Some might talk about their experiences with drug use and how it was the only time they were able to relax and think about life. What defines a journey for you?

Now what if I were to say drop everything and take yourself on a journey. Would that change your answer? If nothing was holding you back, would what you described still be the journey you chose? If not, why?

As I enter my last semester of both my master’s program and my current assistantship, I often get caught up thinking about what my next journey will be. I consistently get asked what’s the next step, what are your plans after graduation, ready to enter the real world? Most, if not all, are said with good intentions. Most, however, are also just said out of habit. There are so many things that we say and ask just because it has become the social norm. Someone asks you how you are doing, you reply, “hanging in there” and go about your day. Someone says they are graduating in May, we ask “what’s the next step” because it is just the norm…right?

Throughout my graduate program, I have attempted to start a successful blog where I talk about what it means to be a leader, a person, and a successful version of yourself. With some of the posts I have felt really good and felt like I was on my way to a real series of impactful pieces of writings. However, when the next week rolled around, I felt like I was forcing words down on paper and there wasn’t a natural connection from week to week. So, what has been missing? After reflecting on my previous semester and the beginning of “Sundays with You”, I realized that what was missing is what made me feel so good about some of the previous posts: honesty and vulnerability. Throughout the past two weeks I have worked on a proposal for a series of 8 blog posts, one per week, which will focus on self-evaluation, honest inner dialogue, and challenging myself to answer the question, “am I ready?”. For those of you who might think that is pretty vague, perfect. My hope is that the conversations with myself throughout this series will allow you to address whatever it is that might be your next journey and if you are taking steps to be ready for that journey. After all, none of us can be leaders to others until we are our own leader ready to tackle this thing we call life.

So now, if I were to ask you if you were ready for your next journey, how would you respond? Would you imagine a beautiful location, your class on Monday morning, or the next step in your professional career? Would you question what I meant by a journey or would you immediately begin thinking about everything you would need to do before you could go on a journey? For me, the best part of a journey has always been that you don’t have to be sure. You can be as spontaneous as you’d like or plan it out for months; it’s whatever works for you. I have always felt like I was a bit too in the middle of needing to be a “planner” and wanting to be spontaneous to the point where I just get too in my head and end up staying home and diving further into my career. It’s always the perfect storm that adds up to me not being ready for my next journey, regardless of how I want to frame it. When facing this reality, I have realized that the question can no longer be “what is your next journey” but instead, “are you ready for your next journey”. For some, this question might seem challenging or not in line with the “norm” of communicating with others. My answer to that will always be so what? What is so wrong with breaking the walls of comfortability and letting down your guard to yourself?

Throughout this series, I challenge you to drop all walls and remind yourself that you have no reason to defend yourself, from yourself. With each topic every week, I will be discussing a different step that I feel like I need to take to be ready for my next journey. Maybe you will relate directly, maybe you will not. Whether you are job searching, preparing for what life will be like after college, or trying to decide on your next personal steps, I hope these discussions will be beneficial regardless. There is no one set game plan that each of us can take to self-evaluate where we are at in life and what we want from our own life. What we can do, however, is communicate and help others when they might not be able to currently help themselves. Life is a relay; we all play a part in it and in no way can it be done alone.

I wish I could tell you what next week’s topic will be, but I honestly don’t know yet. Maybe, that will be what makes this series so special. In my proposal I included topics such as personal goals, professional goals, support systems, aspirations, inner dialogue, motivations, fear, among others. Each week I hope will bring me closer to one topic and that is what will be discussed. Is there any topic you would like to hear about that would be beneficial for you when trying to decide if you are ready for your next journey? If so, drop a topic in the comments.

As always, thank you for letting me spend this Sunday with You. Looking forward to the journey.

-Colin Lane Croat

Sundays with You: 11/3/2020

If I told you that I had just painted a picture of vulnerability, what would you imagine it to look like?

For me, I would probably paint a sand volleyball court on the beach, this is where I feel like I am most myself. I would have it be a sunny day, not a cloud in the sky. I would paint my friends on the court playing, a crowd of strangers standing all around watching the competitive match. There would also be the waves crashing onto the beach and some random surfer trying to catch one. There would also be a few bushes in the corner of the painting, just big enough to hide behind.

I have friends who vary with how vulnerable they are. Some will call about anything and everything that is going on in their life, some call when things get too rough to handle, and some never call and just laugh away the pain. I respect every one of these ways because it is a part of what makes them, them. For me, vulnerability is often showing everyone the painting above, letting them get distracted by the volleyball, the sunset on the beach, the crowd of people, and never having to talk about why there are a few random bushes on a beach. Can bushes even survive on a beach?!

This weekend I had the worst anxiety attack of my life. *CUE BEING VULNERABLE* I was in a place that I loved, playing golf, with one of my best friends. I should’ve been having the time of my life, yet suddenly, I felt like running behind a few bushes. The scary thing about being vulnerable is, sometimes, you honestly don’t have much of a choice. Last week in my blog I spoke about telling people how you are actually doing when they ask and not to settle with the casual “living the dream.” Well, this past week I did exactly that, settled. I buried the pressure of work that week and acted like everything was all good. I didn’t talk about how I felt like I was falling behind again with my homework to those who were asking how my classes were going. I didn’t talk about how I didn’t feel like myself. Instead, I pushed it all down because I knew I was about to be on vacation and having a great time.

I think it’s amazing how even in the best of environments with people who care about you, you can be in the worst headspace. It’s almost a testament to the idea that if you aren’t winning in your own head, then you have no shot at winning outside of it. Anxiety can come out of nowhere and it looks different for every single person. It seems to feed off of every little negative aspect you are thinking about and continuously grow until it’s the only thing occupying your head space. Being vulnerable is something that is so outside of my wheelhouse, I don’t even know if I could describe it to anyone without putting up mirrored walls as distractions anymore. Vulnerability usually is something I pull out of my pocket when I feel like someone speaking to me needs to see it. The avoidance of being vulnerable is at times the cause of my anxiety.

When I sat down to write on Sunday, I couldn’t seem to put anything down. I had so much I wanted to talk about, yet I couldn’t seem to make sense of it all. I wanted to talk about my anxiety attack and talk about how I failed myself. I had edits which were based around the thoughts of losing versus learning and how you don’t simply win or learn. Edit after edit, I couldn’t put anything together. So, I gave up on the post. I decided that I would just wait another week until Sunday and start the posts bake up again and no one would notice. But I noticed.

This week hasn’t felt right so far and I can’t help but think that part of it has to do with giving up instead of being vulnerable in a post. I wanted to talk about how I was struggling last week but convinced myself that wasn’t what a “leader” should do. In reality, it’s exactly what I should’ve been doing. It’s our responsibility to care for the most vulnerable, even when that is us.

As you go throughout this week I hope you can be vulnerable, at least with yourself. Don’t beat yourself up because you think you should’ve done more in a situation that has already passed. Celebrate the wins to better prepare yourself for a loss. Maybe most importantly, let the right people see you vulnerable, you’ll be surprised with how it helps. For me, I will actually answer how I am when asked and further process how I got to where I was when I experienced my anxiety attack.

I would love to hear what your painting of vulnerability would look like if you would like to comment below! While it might not be Sunday anymore, I am hopeful that you got to spend a successful Sunday with You.

-Colin Lane Croat

Sundays with You: 10/25/2020

How are you?

Most of you probably were asked this a time or two this past week; how did you answer? Did you find yourself giving the classic responses of “living the dream” or “just another day”? If so, why? Did you feel like the person who was asking did not care how you were? Did you just not feel like explaining the struggles you were facing? Or is it just easier to give a generic response because you don’t know how you are? On this Sunday, I challenged myself to process how I was, and this post came from that thinking. I hope you enjoy it!

If I were to ask you what you thought your most significant strength was, what would you say? If I were asked, I would likely speak about my communication skills; specifically, I would talk about my abilities to communicate in challenging situations. I’ve always loved the mindset of being in the spotlight, the put up or shut up moments, and being able to perform in a crisis. This week, however, I was humbled.

Working in student affairs has been an experience that continues to throw me curveballs every single week. In student affairs, you must continuously find the middle ground in so many things. Enforcing your department’s rules, but still trying to always put students first. Being able to recognize the good moments, even though they always seem to be immediately followed up by a difficult one. Maybe what I have found most challenging, though, is making sure the many are safe while not losing focus on the individuals. When you want to be the person that “puts out the fire” during a crisis, it can be challenging to reach out for help. As I spoke about last week, it’s important to recognize when you are not the right person to put out said fire, and you must be comfortable passing the baton on. This week, I had to pass the baton.

Throughout my blog posts, I am consistently speaking about communication skills. Specifically, I talk about the concept of addressing feelings and emotions as they arise, so they do not bottle up and gain momentum in your mind. This idea is research-based, spoken about by experts way smarter than me, and has been practiced time and time again. It has been a mindset that I lean to in difficult conversations to help others address how they are feeling in times of struggle. So, as I entered a conversation with a resident experiencing an anxiety attack, I felt prepared to navigate them through talking points where they would address what was going on. This quickly showed not to be an effective strategy.

What did I do? Two years ago, I probably would have bulldozed through my talking points and continuously tried to help this student even though it was clear I was not prepared to put out this “fire.” Thankfully, I called for help. What happened next is something that I will not soon forget. Over the next hour, I got to sit back and watch someone who I did not know at all handle a situation that I was all but running from. I was amazed by every second of the conversation that passed. The conversation I observed was so effortless, which was reflected by how the student had begun to catch their breath, sit back up, and have a back and forth conversation.

I can’t express how important this moment was for me and how much I learned from observing two individuals talk back and forth. Most importantly, however, was how I reacted when I was asked, “how are you?” following the incident. I fell into the same trap I spoke about above. “Oh, I’m fine. I didn’t even do anything; I was just there.” But really, I did everything that I had been trying to get myself to do for a long time; to admit to myself that I can only do all that I can. “Even superman can only do all that he can,” as a wise woman once said. Instead of falling into a deep hole of doubting my abilities, questioning my strengths, and creating a bad day in my head, I was just thankful.

I wanted to share this story because I have a challenge for each of you for the following week. Every time someone asks you how you are doing, tell them. Be honest. If you are having a rough morning, speak about why it has been rough. If you are having a great week, share with them why it has been so great. I think this is important because you just never know when you will be surprised by the response you get. Maybe the person asking how you are is ready to tell you a joke that will brighten your day, but also maybe they need to see someone else having a good week to remind them that better times are ahead. This might seem like a simplistic task, so if you see it that way, I challenge you to count how many times you just give a simple answer like “living the dream” or “thriving and surviving.” I think you will be surprised by the end of the week.

I am thankful for these experiences this week because I think it opened my eyes to the progress I have made in both my personal and professional life. I would love to hear about some of your stories where you saw progress being made within yourself if you are comfortable sharing. Otherwise, I hope each of you have a great week, and thank you for letting me spend this Sunday with You.

-Colin Lane Croat

Sundays with You

If you are familiar with the book Tuesdays with Morrie, you know that completing the book is only the beginning of the journey. Since completing Mitch Albom’s book, I have been amazed at how him sharing Morrie’s life lessons created a community of people who will likely never meet. Tuesdays are now meaningful in ways I can’t yet explain. Good morning texts are followed by “Happy Tuesday” because we are #TuesdayPeople. Tuesday never feels lonely.

While thinking over this, I began to also think about how Franklin Roosevelt would do his fireside chats during his presidency, something I always assumed was a weekly occurrence. This image has always been in my mind of an entire nation gathering around the radio every week to listen to one man’s voice for an update on what was going on in their country, but that wasn’t the case at all. In fact, Roosevelt delivered just 31 fireside chats during his 4,422-day presidency. So, how are Roosevelt’s fireside chats connected with Mitch Albom’s Tuesday with Morrie? Well, I’m glad you asked.

I have this belief that anyone can be a leader. Seems simple, right? A leader doesn’t have to be the CEO of Apple, quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, or President of The United States. A leader just has to be someone who helps others walk away, being proud of who they are. As much as I appreciate Tuesdays with Morrie, I think Morrie and Mitch knew it would never be about the book; it’s about the reader connecting with the shared stories. As much as I’m sure the nation appreciated the fireside chats, it wasn’t about the information that was shared; it was about every listener feeling like Roosevelt was speaking directly to them.

With only 3 classes left in my master’s program, I began to reflect on if I had grown as a leader. I’ve learned how to create a business, what the difference between an entrepreneur and an intrapreneur is, and how difficult financing is. I’ve put a lot of what I have learned on my blog posts, encouraging everyone who reads that they can be leaders. So, for those who have been following along, I hope you know that you can, in fact, be a leader. However, I think it’s my time to be a leader as well. I am no Mitch Albom, Morrie Schwartz, or FDR… just Colin. For this 8-week graduate course, I will be posting every Sunday. I hope you will enjoy the first part of the series, “Sundays with You.”

September 14th, 1997. Fred Rogers took the stage to accept the Lifetime Achievement Award. Fred Rogers began, “Thank you. Thank you. Oh, it’s a beautiful night in this neighborhood. So many people have helped me to come to this night. Some of you are here, some are far away, some are even in Heaven. All of us have special ones who have loved us into being.” I want to present the same question Mr. Rogers offered to everyone attending the Emmys that night.

I want everyone to take ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are. Those individuals who have cared for/about you and genuinely wanted the best for you. Ten seconds of silence to just think. In typical Mr. Rogers fashion, I’ll watch the time.

[10-second pause]

Now, I want to present you with a few questions about those ten seconds. How did you feel during the 10 seconds compared to before? How do you feel now? Why do you think those individuals were the ones you first thought of? Do you want the best for you?

I think this simple activity is so powerful. Mostly because I don’t believe happiness is an accomplishment we can have on our own. Happiness is like a leaky tire. You can’t just put air in it and expect it to stay up. Happiness requires hard work, and yes you must put that work in, it makes it a lot easier when you have others who play a role in your happiness.

I often see leaders prompt questions that force individuals to identify what they are doing for themselves. This can be an excellent exercise for many, but not necessarily all. Life can be difficult, days can be difficult, what you go through can be difficult. What I hope you will take away from this post is that it only takes ten seconds to remind yourself that you are not alone. If, after those ten seconds, you still felt alone, reach out to me, and I would love to speak more. If you had specific people who came to mind during those ten seconds, feel free to leave a comment below and share why they came to mind. Sometimes, all it takes is someone else sharing their story to get others thinking as well.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the first part of this series, and I can’t wait to see where this takes us. I’m not sure what we will talk about next week, but maybe that will be part of what makes this series special. As for this week, I’m so glad I got to spend this Sunday with You.

-Colin Lane Croat

What I Learned This Week: 9/28

September 28th is a day that always seems to sneak up on me. It’s not really one which I think about throughout the year, or even begin to dread as it becomes closer. September 28th, however, is a difficult day. September 28th was the day I lost my greatest leader, my Nana.

For me, what it takes to be a leader is multidimensional and something that will change on you time and time again. Whether you quote King, study Roosevelt, or just always seem to have Bob Ross on in the background, you find a leader every day. Leadership can come in any form; it just depends on what the individual needs in that given moment. For this blog post, instead of talking about what I learned this past week, I want to share some moments where my Nana was just the leader I needed.

If you have a sibling, you are probably familiar with what it is like to argue over the smallest things. I have a brother who is three years younger than I am and, in my opinion, is nothing like me whatsoever. If anything, we are similar due to our need to always be right, our hyper-competitive mindsets, and our want to continually engage in a discussion(argument). Fairly often, when we were younger, our Nana would come and watch us at our house and, us being the two loving brothers that we were, would have to deal with us getting into arguments. One specific memory that has stuck with me throughout the years was when I got my brother, Ryan, agitated. After settling Ryan down, my Nana brought me into a room and just began to look at me. This, maybe for the first time, taught me the power of silence. After what felt like an eternity of silence, she started with a straightforward statement, “You need to learn, it’s okay to be nice.” Think about that. A simplistic idea that I look back to almost every single time I am in a leadership moment. It’s okay to be nice. Too often, I see leaders try and use intimidation tactics for those they supervise or the famous line of “looks like I need to kick my team into shape.” My question to those people is always… why? I am all for challenging conversations and everyone improving, but if your goal is to go in and hurt someone’s feelings, you might want to reflect on what type of leader you are… or aren’t. Nana would continuously tell me that I was the one who needed to look after Ryan, and I feel like I have translated that little advice into how I hope to be as a leader.

2009. 7th Grade, and I have all my friends up at my parent’s house playing basketball. Apparently, I had picked up the habit of spitting for no reason whatsoever. Nana is sitting in the garage watching us all play, and I made the mistake of walking right in front of here and spitting. Once again, she calls me over. “Do you think it is cool to spit? It is not.” Brutal, right?? Well, maybe not so bad, but my feelings were definitely hurt. I didn’t think too much about this moment until further along in my life when I got into professional roles and began being supervised. Every time I would see someone in a leadership position do something that wasn’t a good representation, I would think, “Don’t spit, others are always watching.” This has mainly been relevant in the student affairs world I work in now. We like to call it the “Fishbowl,” where what you do can be seen from all angles. This may seem like a bit of a stretch for some, but as leaders, we have to know that these small missteps can impact our team, whether we ever know it did.

I often like to think about how people see me or what they think of if I cross their minds. Here would be my three top guesses:

  1. He talks like he is a professional golfer… is he even good? (No)
  2. My fascination with Bob Ross
  3. My want to be Superman for everyone.

The third one can be accredited to my Nana, but I’m still not sure she would agree that I even listened when she told me, “Even Superman can only do all that he can.” Over the years, I have changed the advice she gave me to “Superman, do all that you can,” and I talk about it often to others. However, every time I do, I always seem to need to sit down and reflect on if I even understand what she meant. For me, do all that you can means there *might* be no limit, and as long as you are working hard, you have a chance of succeeding. As I reflect on her words, though, I can’t help but think I got it all wrong. “Even Superman can only do all that he can.” Leaders always carry an immense amount of weight around. Even if you do not consider yourself a leader, I will challenge you to really explore the impact you have and recognize, you probably are a leader to someone, and I think that is the entire point Nana was trying to make. You don’t need to, as a leader, do anything that pushes you past what you can accomplish. Leaders need to recognize a limit to their “superpowers” and that it is okay to hand the baton off to the next person. Leadership is not an individual race; it’s a relay, more than just you play a role.

I had this blog post put together on the 28th because I thought it would be fitting to post on the 5th anniversary of her passing, but it just didn’t seem put together enough. I caught myself trying to perfect every line and every story because I wanted it to represent the impact and leadership she bestowed upon me. And then today, I caught myself. I was doing it again, trying to do all that I can rather than realizing that even Superman can only do all that he can. So, this will be how I end the post.

Being a leader is extremely difficult, especially when you realize you are expected to be a leader in more ways than one. Some days will feel like they will never end, but some days will end with you feeling like they didn’t even begin. Never lose sight of the impact you have every day because it is there. Be nice. Don’t spit. And most importantly, realize that you can only do all that you can, but all you can is making a difference somewhere.

Thanks for reading and feel free to leave comments below on stories you have that have shaped you into a leader! And thank you, to my Superman, Nana.

-Colin Lane Croat

What I Learned This Week: Part 3

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

What I Learned This Week: Part 2

I want to start this blog post with a bit of an activity. While you read each statement below, I want you to think about this past week, and I want you to ask yourself the following question: At this moment, was I being the person I want to be?

  1. While you were eating dinner on Thursday.
  2. While you were doing schoolwork.
  3. While you were doing work outside of schoolwork.
  4. When you held a conversation with someone you know.
  5. When you had a conversation with someone you just met.
  6. During a moment where you were by yourself.
  7. 30 minutes ago.

As I read back through these statements, I found myself thinking, “I don’t even know if I had dinner Thursday” and “Have I even met someone new this week.” Sometimes, actually a lot of times, it’s hard to think about what life threw at you in a week. It’s easy to let a week slip by, and it feel like you didn’t accomplish anything. It’s even easier to fall into the mindset that you weren’t yourself at all for a full week.

Throughout this week, I focused on what it meant to be a leader. I read about ideologies and “favorable” approaches that set leaders up for success in my class. I spoke about what it meant to be a leader and how it is different with every situation you are presented in my work. Then, I began to think about what it meant to be a leader for yourself.

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom is a book that I consider not to have necessarily changed my life, but absolutely the way I think about life. In the early chapters of the book, Mitch speaks about Morrie being able to “dance on his own,” and it is a concept I think about quite often. Being able to dance on your own is the beginning of what can make you a great leader. I often think we get caught up in the idea of “what do others need from me” instead of thinking about what you need from yourself. At the root of being a successful leader lies the ability to understand who you are and what you are good at. In return, this allows you to process where you can grow but also where you can help others succeed at the same time. Dance on your own, but welcome others to dance to the same tune.

As you read through the seven statements above, you might have found yourself thinking, “who cares how I felt in these little moments.” If so, you’re not alone. These little moments, however, are the ones that spread and grow within our minds. One conversation of not being who you want to be might not be a big deal, but how many of these “one conversations” are you having that will continue to add up, continue to manifest without you even noticing. Weeks can quickly add up where you aren’t yourself. Morrie’s story about dancing on his own always sticks with me because it was him being who he wanted to be. He wasn’t concerned about being a specific type of leader for anyone; he was being who he wanted to be, a leader for himself.

What I learned this week revolved a lot around myself, but also around what I hope others are doing for themselves. Being yourself isn’t easy, and being someone you hope others will see as a leader can almost be an impossible task. But maybe, it’s not about what others see. I’ve always thought that if I were going to be a leader, I would have to check in on everyone and make sure they were getting through the tough times. Most of the time, it’s easy to ask yourself, “am I checking in on the people who might need it?” However, I learned this week that it is incredibly difficult to follow that with “Could I be one of those people who needs to be checked on?” This week I challenge us all to stop and ask: Am I being the person I want to be? If not, let’s think about how we can check in on ourselves, one step at a time.

I would love to hear how you check in on yourself from time to time; feel free to leave comments below!

-Colin Lane Croat

What I Learned This Week: Part 1

If you are new to the blog, welcome! If you have been around for the late-night posts, thanks for still reading, and I think you’ll enjoy this series. As I continue pursuing my Master’s degree, we are tasked with creating a series of blog posts throughout the semester. I am someone who continually relays the idea of “writing down how you are feeling” and “bottling things up is detrimental to your health.” Still, I always find it borderline funny (the crying inside kind of funny) at the end of the week when all I have done is hold everything in. So, I have decided to dedicate these eight weeks to writing more down and talking about what I am learning and how we can hopefully all grow together. I will be pulling inspiration from my work experiences, readings that I do for my course, and personal experiences as well. I hope you enjoy the first part of the series and feel free to subscribe via email! (:

Bob Ross. Fred Rogers. Nick Mercs. Kobe Bryant. Casey Diffley. What do these names all have in common? Well… probably not much for most of you, but for me, there is a lot.
Anxiety can be a rugged mountain to climb. It also seems like everyone has a different way of handling it, which can even add to the mountain because you begin to think maybe their way of handling anxiety is the way you should be handling yours. Something I have recently been trying to remind myself is that anxiety should not only be handled differently by everyone but probably will be handled differently by someone every day. Just because I need to watch a Bob Ross episode today to calm down doesn’t mean I won’t need to watch Nick Mercs play Warzone and yell at stream snipers to accomplish the same feat the next day.

This past week, I have begun to process what will be required of me in my 8-week class. From financial statements to understanding on a deeper level how Chart of Accounts work, the course is not going to be my cup of tea. So, what began to happen… overthinking, loss of sleep, procrastination… all the poor habits that affect your mental health. All of this, accompanied by trying to teach a Leadership course for college students and supervise a residence hall of 250+ first-year students during a pandemic. Thankfully, I leaned on the advice that I have received continuously from the names above.

“Some days, doing ‘the best we can’ may still fall short of what we would like to be able to do, but life isn’t perfect on any front-and doing what we can with what we have is the most we should expect of ourselves or anyone else.” – Mr. Rogers

“If you’re afraid to fail, then you’re probably going to fail.” -Kobe

“Colin… Relax” -Casey Diffley

So, what did I do? I kept stressing and didn’t listen to any of that advice. Until I finally reached out to my professor for help, which ended up being the best conversation I have had since starting the program over a year ago. I have now set a plan within the program to gain knowledge and experience that will benefit what I hope to accomplish long term.
Being a leader induces anxiety. Being a human provokes anxiety. And that is ok. What’s not ok, is to bury it within yourself. Bottling feelings and emotions is similar to having a bow and arrow inside of you. Whenever you hold something in and do not address it, you pull that bow back a little further. For a while, maybe you can hold the pressure; but eventually, you will have to let go. Letting go releases the arrow, and it’s only going to hurt… you. So, throughout this 8-week series, I hope to speak a lot about leadership and what it means to be a success. What I hope everyone hears when they read my writings, however, is that you are already a success. You just have to give yourself a second in time to acknowledge it.

Bob Ross. Fred Rogers. Nick Mercs. Kobe Bryant. Casey Diffley. These are all people who have made a difference in my life at times without even knowing they did a thing. So, in times of stress, in times of anxiety, give yourself a little credit. You may not be winning in your mind, but you might be helping someone else win in theirs.

Thanks for reading along, and feel free to comment on how you are giving yourself credit this week and ways you avoid pulling the bow back; I’d love to hear!

-Colin Lane Croat

Reflection 7: If you’re broke… Fix it

It is currently 4:01 a.m. and I am sitting in a residence hall lobby due to water being shut down in the building and having to monitor the ongoing situation… What a great time to write a reflection!! I feel weird saying this, but I was nervous to read the last three chapter of this book. “If it ain’t broke… Break It!” has made me think more than any other book I can remember. It has challenged my beliefs, made me question my success, but most importantly… show me that I have so much more that I can accomplish. For a book that was published for a “business world,” it sure has made me think personally on a multitude of levels. So here we go… my last reflection for Robert Kriegel’s If it ain’t broke… Break It!

Hopefully by now, you get Kriegel’s writing style. He is going to present a challenge, walk around it for awhile, and then lead you to a solution that fits you… how can that be? Kriegel does an amazing job of leading answers up to interpretation because he realizes that there is no generic answer or path for anyone, they are all specific to each one of us. Kriegel talks about the idea of keeping logs of your success stories, small and large. “Like it?… Log it!” Kriegel says about accomplishments.

Writing that paragraph I stopped myself… The value of these last chapters are important, yes, but this is my blog and I want to talk about how important this book actually is.

In the career field of Student Affairs, this book has given me knowledge that I can bring to the table which every colleague of mine will listen to. Why? Because it isn’t what they are learning/learned in their classroom settings. I have created lesson plans for classes I teach, activities for my staff meetings and conversations with my supervisors showing what I am learning and bringing to the table. If nothing, this book has brought me confidence that I didn’t know was there. That’s huge, for me.

On more of a personal side, this book speaks volumes to the idea of improving yourself… for you. (imagine that nonsense) Chapter titles like “Put Fire in Your Heart, Plan on Changing Your Plans and Joy Pays Off.” As you read them you begin to feel like Kriegel actually cares about you, and I think in a way, he does. This book has changed my life, in so many ways. In Robert Kriegel fashion, I want to leave you with a few parting words.

Play to win, always. You can’t win if you are losing in your own mind. It’s okay to fall off the wagon, but get back on when you’re ready. And while the title screams, “Break It!,” maybe don’t break yourself along the way.