It's On You

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.



Failure can knock us off our game, kill our dreams, and wreak havoc with our psyche. Or, failure can clarify our direction, refine our goals and hone our mental toughness. While we can’t always control the circumstances surrounding failure, we do control how we navigate failure.

Why Not!

Kids are funny…most of the time. E.J., our 2.5-year-old son, loves hoops. When I was watching Oregon’s unreal win over Kansas in the Regionals Finals, E.J., for some unknown reason, was ready to shut it down. Not once this year has he done the stroll over to the Comcast Box and turned off the power for a hoops game. Never. And now, this. Normally, he would shoot me the curious look with his palms up as soon as I raised my voice (not that I was raising my voice with four minutes to go in the game and Oregon hanging on for dear life), followed by the question, “Why?” Not this time though. E.J. must have sensed this was a much bigger violation of a father/son code of ethics than the usual, “mashed potatoes in his hair at dinner,” thing. Instead, he shot me a defiant look and said, “Why Not?!”


*Next week there will be 68 teams out of a possible 351 Division I Men’s Basketball teams vying for a NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. Over the course of the next 10 days we will look at the key characteristics and core intangibles which allow teams to put themselves in the best position to “live to play another day” and how those relate to business and life in our March to Mastering the Madness series.  

They say the best teams are those that perform their best when the pressure is the greatest. The reality is those teams can experience such great success because they eliminate, or at least minimize, any of the perceived pressure.   A team’s ability to do this begins with the leader.

I have been fortunate to know a number of great leaders who have the ability to eliminate pressure and reduce stress when most people would lose their mind. Pictured above is one who has had the greatest influence and impact on me, my Dad. This picture was taken this past Thursday, March 2nd, 2017 at the top of my parents’ driveway in Boyne, MI. Yes, that is the same driveway I spoke of in a previous blog about Competing-Every Single Day. The one I could not get up over Christmas break because of the layer of ice under the snow and ended up sideways in a ditch after sliding down backwards. The same driveway that is all uphill and 145 yards (1.3 city blocks in the Midwest in case you are wondering) long.

Well, we decided to take a long weekend and bring the kids up to Boyne one last time to ski and hit the water park. The usual five hour and forty-five-minute drive was going unusually well until we were about two hours out and then the snow started coming down. Hard. It caused a little bit of unrest in the backseat with Maddie and EJ (4.5 years-old and 2.5 years-old), but nowhere near the chaos going on in the set next to me where my wife Nancy sat. I passed a few “no-tell motels” along the way as they did not seem suitable for a peaceful night’s rest with the kids and then as we were pulling into Kalkaska, MI there was one that would work. The timing could not have been more perfect since there was a squad car in the middle of the road which appeared to signal that the road was closed.

Slowly, and with great caution, I pulled up next to the squad car as we both rolled down our windows. I was hoping to get some sort of clarification of the situation ahead and to see if, in fact, the road ahead was closed. When I asked him what kind of shape the roads headed up to Boyne were in he simply smiled at me and replied, “I would imagine pretty similar to this.” Thanks for the help! So, despite pleas from my co-pilot and eerie silence in the backseat, we kept going.

A good deal of time and a few snow squalls (not to be confused with snow squirrels as someone in our car called them) later we found ourselves driving into Boyne Falls, MI.

Then Nancy poses the question she had been asking for the last hour, but I tuned her out. “Do you think we will make it up the driveway!” Well, wouldn’t that be a kick in the pants to have to pull the kids and the luggage up the driveway again. Of course, I would pull Nancy up as well.

But low and behold as we pulled up to the driveway there was my Dad with two flashlights directing us as if we were a plane moving toward our gate. Now the kids are going nuts laughing and I feel a sense of relief. As we turn into the driveway he looks at me convincingly and lets me know that he has shoveled the entire length of the driveway so we should be good to go.


He will be a bit displeased with me when I tell you this, but the man is 72 years-old. Let me point out thought that he is in better shape than 95% of my friends and most 20- year-old folks I know. He shoveled the entire 1.3 city blocks and the stairs and the deck. All to make sure that his Maddie and E.J. made it safe and sound.

Take Away

See, what he really did was the same any great leader does for his or her team. They figure out a way to get their people as far away from the feeling the pressure as possible and that is exactly what he did. Sure, we had just gone through a nutty a car ride, but it is the anxiety of the outcome that is the single most intrusive inhibitor to effective performance and for me that was getting the family up the driveway. My Dad single-handedly turned a threatening situation into an exciting challenge and the kids could not have been more fired up!

Here are the four things our fearless leader did that all leaders can do for their people in stressful situations:

  • Provided a healthy perspective - I shoveled the driveway you should be good.
  • Was conscientiously prepared both mentally and physically - He identified what needed to be done and when it needed to be done and did it…. with a smile on his face.
  • Allowed us to focus on execution of the task at hand - All we had to worry about was the “getting up the driveway” part.
  • Used language of function("how to") - Said the right thing, in the right way and at the right time which conveyed confidence that we would not end up in a ditch again.

Leaders sometimes pay too much attention to problems, rather than paying attention to possible solutions. The "problem" of pressure is very simply, a misdirected focus. Thankfully, Papa (Maddie and EJ cannot say it enough) went old school and brought his A-Game.

On Thursday March 16th The Molitor Group will be hosting a ‘MARCH to mastering the MADNESS’ event at Nobel House in Geneva, IL. For more information and to register go to the Events tab on our website and feel free to email us any questions at info@themolitorgroup.com.