Meet one of the smartest men I know, John Clinton Rooker. Not just book smart, but “life-smart” as well. Last week, Clint received his B.S. in Political Science from the University of Michigan, where he minored in Writing and graduated with a 3.7 G.P.A. You might be thinking, “There are a plethora of smart kids that go to U of M, and they do that all the time, so no big deal, right?”
I am talking “you could not be further from the truth” wrong. Yesterday, I called him to see how life after college was going and what the big plans are, as I know he has options. 90 minutes later, I hung up a better person for having a conversation with the same person that played the violin at our wedding 11 years ago.
Clint comes from of family of four kids; Ashleigh, Patrick, and Grant. He grew up in Davison, MI and never had a lot of the things that many kids take for granted. But you would never know this, as he and his siblings just persevered. Clint loved school, and he loved football, and he was pretty damn good at both. Throughout high school, he was recruited to play Division III football at some incredible academic institutions, but he chose to attend U of M to focus on his academics. That is where the story begins to take off.
As I mentioned, Clint and his family did not have a lot, including money. He was bound and determined to make it work and filled out every financial aid form, applied for every scholarship, and jumped through every hoop necessary. Clint made a decision not to allow those circumstances to define his future, and it worked. Now, he is leaving U of M only a couple of thousand dollars in debt, which is insane. The very same drive, passion, purpose, and focus that got him to Ann Arbor are what carried him when he was there.
Listening to him talk about his experiences in political science and his love for writing was refreshing. During our conversation, I began to pepper him with questions. When I asked him what the keys to his success were, he gave me four that are golden.
Enjoyed the Process
Clint made it clear that he did not get caught up in focusing on only the result, meaning his grades. He loved the research, which brought him new knowledge and raised his value. It was not the end of the world if he got a B, nor was it that big of a deal if he got an A+. What mattered was appreciating the opportunity he had to grow and improve.
Made Sure to Be a Part of Something Bigger Than Himself
He may not have played football, but he was always a part of a team while at U of M. One of the highlights for him was working in the school’s writing center where he would tutor undergrads, graduate students, and a few that were going for their doctorates. He served as a literacy advocate and tutor for third graders at Roberto Clemente Elementary School in Detroit. Then there was his research position at the University of Michigan Pediatric Emergency Department. More on that later! Overall, being a part of these different teams allowed Clint to continually grow as a person.
Embraced Being Uncomfortable
Before moving to Ann Arbor, he only lived in the small town of Davison, MI. I loved visiting Davison growing up, but the only thing Davison and Ann Arbor have in common is the fact that they are in Michigan.
Years ago, we took him and his brothers to a White Sox game on the South Side, and the look on his face was priceless. So, you can imagine my shock when this same kid called to tell me he had decided to try out for the Michigan Cheer Team. Even greater was the shock of his Father (who is a die-hard Michigan State fan) when he got the call that Clint made the team and that yes, he would be on the field when they played in the Big House.
Another example that grabbed me was when he talked about applying for the research position at the hospital. There were seven finalists for the position; five pre-med students, a graduate student, and Clint! According to him he had no business being in their company, but he knew he wanted the job so “what the hell!”
By both joining the Cheer Team and applying for a competitive new job, he knew that his biggest growth would come in uncomfortable, challenging situations.
Told Himself That He Had Already Done Something Harder
This approach was a result of his playing days and the insane work ethic that drove him when he was into weight lifting. Clint would tell himself that no matter how tired he was or how much pain he was in, he had already done something more difficult. He mentioned how embracing difficulty only prepared him for bigger, more important challenges in the future, and Clint carried that mindset into his academics. That came in handy one night, well two nights, when he stayed up writing a 72-page paper for 36 hours straight. Needless to say, he got an A. While his procrastination was hardly the most effective strategy, Clint had developed a mindset to get things done no matter what the circumstances were.
I am not sure that Clint realizes the significance of his perspective and what a statement that is about him as a person, especially considering some of the challenges he faced. Every day we open the paper and look at social media and all we see is the negative crap. Like you, I am tired of all the negativity and the poor us/poor me attitude that is so pervasive. The finger pointing, blame game, and the lack of both integrity and honesty is everywhere. However, beyond the negativity, I see that there is a ton of good in this world and some amazing stories, just like this one. This story is not a feel-good story that tugs on your heart string. This is life; this is real. Doing things the right way works.
Please share this story with others whether it be your team, boss, co-workers, kids, or your friends. I believe that everyone, no matter where they are at in their life, can take one or two things away from this article which would add value to them.