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