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.

Reflection 6: Picture Perfect

This week I knew I was in for a good read from the chapter titles; Plan on Changing plans, Play Your Own Best Game, Don’t Look Where You Don’t Want to Go.

There was a common theme throughout these chapters for me: optimism. “Trust the unexpected” is something Kriegel spoke about a lot in the book, specifically these chapters. When wanting to become an entrepreneur, I think the first class/message you receive is that there is no set way to succeed. Isn’t that what makes it great though? “Break it thinkers know that though it’s important to have a plan, sometimes it’s even more important to abandon it.”

For me, this hits so close to home. I constantly talk about how I have so many plans, goal oriented, time oriented, to the tee. What I find so funny about myself is that I make these plans, but I rarely stick to them. Not in a way where I don’t accomplish my goals, but every time I look back on the journeys I have been through, I see that I never stay on the laid out path I create for myself. Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Me personally, I don’t like being hit! So I have made a life, and now a career, out of avoiding those punches to the mouth. That doesn’t mean my plans always go as planned though and that some paths might feel like a punch.

Play your own best game. It seems so simple… and it should be! We all have strengths and we should show them every day and build off of them. “Build on what works,” is a statement I am taking with me as I continue my career aspirations. Too often, I believe we can focus on the setbacks and failures, as spoke about in my last blog post. Building on what works though can catapult us all to greater heights that might even seem too far in the distant to acknowledge.

Play your own best game. This. is. so. important. When you can focus on being the best you possible, then there is no limit, because only you can stop yourself. Don’t try to be good at everything, be great at one thing. Hopefully that one thing, is being you!

These chapters mean so much more to me then what I can put in a blog, but I’ll try to sum it up. When you believe in yourself, things start coming a little easier. Plans will forever continue to change, circumstances will always be shifted, so how are you going to play your own best game? Picture this; perfect.

Reflection 5: The biggest mistake: Not making any.

Throughout this course, and this book, I have read and heard about conflicting opinions as to what an entrepreneur even is. Are they leaders? Innovators? Inventors? My conclusion; entrepreneurs are actually people who have no idea what they are doing, but they have a plan to do it. These three chapters dive into the meaningfulness of having fears and learning from failures, and just what that can do to push you further towards your goals.

A quote that I very clearly remember from my childhood is my father saying “You see that, it’s fear *as he shakes his hand nervously* *then stops shaking hand* “now that, that’s controlled fear.” I can distinctively remember how hard I would roll my eyes every time he said this. However, it is a pretty true statement when you apply it to being a leader, entrepreneur, or just someone who has no clue as to what they are doing. We all have fear, experience doesn’t ever completely eliminate that. Fear is natural, especially when you are faced with a challenging situation. In my opinion, what separates the pack is how you handle that the fear, how you control it.

Cus D’Amato, a legendary boxing trainer, once said, “Heroes and cowards feel exactly the same fear. Heroes just react to fear differently.” Robert Kriegel in these chapters talks about fear being a wall that limits your view and creates boundaries to your growth and creativity. I think this is a great example, because it paints the picture of having to explore to become a “hero.” With the wall being there, it is so easy for most to just walk right by opportunities for growth, because why not, you can’t even see that they are there with the wall in the way. To be a leader (hero) you have to consistently show that you are jumping over walls in search of the next opportunity to improve yourself. Kriegel follows up with the statement, “Experience will show that when you look at fear directly, a way over the wall will become obvious. By confronting your fears, the wall will never be quite as big or intimidating again.” Fears tell lies and puts up blinders, let’s all try looking beyond them.

Too often in my current profession I see fears prevent people from even taking a chance. The fear of looking stupid, the fear of making a mistake, the fear of complete failure. Something that I have always done is let my failures live with me. I’ve never really known how to explain this, until I read chapter 14. Kriegel explains “keeping a scrapbook of your failures” which allows you to remember how you failed in each situation. Keeping these memories allows you to avoid repeating mistakes. Failure, if you let it, will bread success. The scary part, there’s no way to know how long it will take.

When starting out on a journey, or just trying to improve yourself along the way, understanding not only that failing is important, but that it is inevitable, can be a necessary moment. Failure can be a good place to start and it can also be a great landing spot at times; it doesn’t have to mean starting over, but just redirecting the line of sight.

Failure is success in the making. So control that fear!

-Colin Lane Croat

Reflection 4: Do We Have the Power?

2007: What a year. I remember sitting in my bedroom listening to Sean Kingston’s debut album that my best friend Nicholas Cobb got me for my birthday. I knew most of the bops on the CD, Beautiful girl, Take you there, Dry your eyes… the ones you would blast in the car when your mom would let you (thanks mom for having a good radio in the car). The one song that I didn’t know on the CD was the last one, Change. This song, maybe more than any other, is still the one that I find myself singing in the back of my head almost every day. “Oh I wish I had the power, the power to change the world; but I’m just one man trying to do it on my own.”

My chapters this week start out with the idea of “life’s little light bulbs.” Those moments in life where it seems like everything comes together. That’s what Sean Kingston’s quote did for me. At first, it was difficult to think about, because he was right, I was just one person trying to change the world… what could i accomplish? Then, even in 7th grade, where it seemed like all I thought about was girls and how my hair looked, I was able to turn that mindset into a positive one. I was just one person, but that meant if I was always trying to change the world, at least someone was.

Chapter 10 speaks about the idea of always thinking like a beginner. Regardless of if you are actually a beginner or a 20 year vet in your business who everyone thinks knows the ropes. Forcing yourself to think like a beginner always leaves the door open to learn; learn something maybe you need to. The mindset of a beginner allows you to focus on the simple, because nothing is too small when you are beginning. You want to pick up every bit of information you can, right? Once you start getting into your groove, you look for the conventional things, not the obvious; we want to find the complex, and completely disregard the simple. Thinking like a beginner is thinking with curiosity where you see things like anew. Thinking like a beginner gives you the power.

Chapter 11… well it’s a weird one. “Strange bedfellows make great partners.” When i read this title, I’m not going to lie, I almost skipped over the chapter and onto the next. While I still think it is a weird chapter title, I am glad I didn’t skip it. The chapter speaks about the importance of allowing yourself/someone to be wrong. In the book, the authors relate it to business products and how customers give feedback. For me, I relate it to those people who constantly tell you that you can’t do something. Maybe they are right. Maybe they are wrong. Does it matter? Maybe I can’t run a 5 minute mile anymore, but I can still run. Maybe I will not be President, but maybe I will be Mayor. Maybe I can’t change the world, but maybe one day I’ll change someones. My point is, maybe sometimes being wrong is the right outcome. Why should we dwell on outcomes if we gave it everything we had and grew from the experience? Maybe…. one man is enough.

I hope I didn’t lose you with all of those “maybes,” because chapter 12 is important. “Take risks…not chances.” Robert Kriegel speaks about his research into the idea of taking risks. His studies show, that most people in the professional world are not thinking of an idea and just going for it… they aren’t taking chances. Instead, they are taking calculated risks that have years of research and planning behind them that support the percentage of a positive outcome. This, to me, sounds more like an advancement, with the chance of a stumble.

I could go on forever about this chapter, but what I think is the most relevant is this: Risk takers and people who actually make differences in this world aren’t a “special breed” or born that way. We are all born to make a difference. Research will show that we learn the most in the first 5 years of our life. In that span, we probably make the most mistakes as well. I don’t see that as a coincidence. When we take risks, we learn; whether it be from failing or succeeding.

As I continue to write this blog post I can’t help but hear Sean Kingston in the background, “oh I wish I had the power, the power to change the world; but I’m just one man trying to do it on my own.” I think Sean almost had it right, if he would have just left out the word “but.” We all are but one individual. Strike that, we are all one individual; we can all change the world. Maybe it’s the world, maybe it’s someone’s world, and maybe it is your world. So, I ask you, what are you doing to change the world?

-Colin Lane Croat

Reflection 3: This is hard…

My new favorite thing to do when I begin reading for the week is to go through and view the chapters titles that I will be reading. With how the book is set up, sometimes I feel like I could write pages on just that, the short titles. This week’s readings were hard though, for reasons I am not sure I even know why. As I read through, however, I felt myself beating myself up over little things that i view to have gone wrong recently. This book has truly made me think in so many ways that I don’t know if I have ever been challenged to before and every time I sit down to read I think, “okay this can’t be as good as last week,” and yet I have been proven wrong every time.

The first chapter title is “Playing it safe is dangerous!” Okay!! I never really view myself as someone who “plays it safe” but I do believe in the idea that you have to have built a solid foundation for yourself if you are going to not play things safe so, inevitably, when you fail you have a landing spot to stand again. Something I like to tell my undergraduate students who I supervise is that life is hard. It’s actually really hard. College is difficult, trying to be a role model is challenging and even some days just finding the motivation to get out of bed for that 2 p.m. class can seem like an impossible task. Just because it is hard though, doesn’t mean you should play it safe.

I’m the type of person who is consistently challenging myself, sometimes without even meaning to. Some of the worst positions I have been put in have been from something I said 3 months prior knowing that it would create a challenge for me later. Is this crazy? Maybe. Do I wonder why I do this to myself sometimes? Absolutely. But what I repetitively learn is that I rise to the occasion and succeed, or I fail miserably, and I walk away with a lesson learned. This brings me to the next chapter title: Don’t compete, change the game.

One of the most consistent descriptions I get of myself is my competitive nature. “Oh there goes Colin turning it into a competition” or “Okay Colin, this is a team effort not a win or lose moment.” While these moments used to make me so angry, I have grown to appreciate them. Why? Because I am competitive. I begin every day to not only be the best Colin Croat I can be, but also be the best person anyone could ever need. What I’ve learned about myself though is that I’m not competing with anyone other than myself, and I can never truly win.

One of the most important things Robert Kriegel and Louis Patler have taught me in this book, without even putting it in writing, is the idea of just when you think you’ve won… that’s when you run the chance of beginning to lose. This idea resonates with me especially when relating it to Student Affairs. One of my favorite and most challenging things about my job is ending meetings. When a one on one with a student goes well, you should feel good, right? Or when a meeting goes bad, you should be optimistic about the next time, yeah? Not I. Regardless of how meetings go, I always feel a little empty inside walking away because I know I could have done more. I think this plays directly into the hand of not competing but changing the game. In order to change the game, you have to be ready to do things that have never been done before. The scary part about Student Affairs is sometimes you don’t even know that you’ve changed the game…

I’ll wrap up my post with the last chapter… Sacred cows make the best burger… What?!?! What a weird saying, but it sure does make sense. I think in order to actually make an impact in this world, you can’t just search and find the sacred cow. You have to take the cow and make it into a burger, whatever your burger may look like. This week was a real challenge for me: educationally, professionally, and even personally on some levels. However, I appreciate it not being easy. I want to present to all of you the same question I asked my Resident Assistants… What are you chasing? What does your sacred cow look like? Who is your hero?

Matthew Mcconaughey once said his hero is him, but ten years in the future. He knew he was never going to obtain becoming a hero, and that’s okay, because it gave him something to chase. I don’t know if I know who my hero is, but I am searching. What I do know is that everyone needs a hero, but sometimes we just need that hero to be ourselves. Everyone needs a hero, but sometimes you need that hero to be you.

-Colin Lane Croat