There are a lot of talkers and very few doers. Which one are you? All our dreams, especially for the young, could actually be realized if we decide to step forward and take action. Steve Sims chats with Kevin “KC” Carroll—author, instigator of inspiration, and creative catalyst—about not only talking about our dreams but also being and manifesting it with the help of the right people. Tapping into the importance of having a support system, Kevin talks about our human nature to belong, be a part of a community, and be connected. He puts that in today’s context, where small screens seem to dominate more than the big screen that is life. Though 62 in age, Kevin has so much wisdom to share with the new generation, motivating them to dream big and continue growing. He shares some of those with us and more, supporting the dreams we make for ourselves to come true.
Listen to the podcast here:
Kevin “KC” Carroll: Creative Catalyst
What does a 62-year-old guy have anything to do with the new generation? How could he give us many pearls of wisdom to help motivate us? What would he possibly understand? You’re going to find out because Kevin Carroll is simply one big ball of energy. Spending time with him was a blessing for me. I loved the way he positions his ask, his demand to dream, and how I associate with those people that challenge us and don’t pull us down. We’ve spoken about it, but he puts it in a great way to understand. You’re going to be reading about KC as he likes to be known. You’ve got to check him out on his upcoming podcast.
KC, welcome to the show.
Thanks, Steve. It’s great to be on.
There were people that I had a life from sports marketing brand and impact influencer, but you’ve got all of those.
I’ve had an opportunity to delve into lots of different areas for sure.
You played in a lot of different sandpits and we’re not about small sandpits. You worked in some major sandpits. Would you give the readers a background as to what do you do now and then we’re going into how you got there?
I’ve been an individual contributor for the last several years. I’ve been on my own writing, speaking, instigating inspiration. Trying to lift up the next generation of leaders, makers, doers, and dreamers. I do keynote speaking. I do consult for different organizations that are about sports and play, education, or bettering humanity. I’m also a high-performance coach for different individuals when they need some coaching up or finding a way to find their voice and presence better.
I wanted to go in that order. The world is saturated with as many coaches as there are Starbucks in Manhattan. You wake up in the morning and you go, “I don’t have a job, I’ll be a coach.” It seems to be that instant guru world that we’re in at the moment. I always like to ask people that have in this world to identify what did you do? Where did you come from to get you where you are? Let’s go back to the kid age and give me your lifeline as to where you got to now.
It’s interesting when you say that idea of that instant guru and people that self-proclaimed those titles. I never sought after that title of coach. I fell back into it because I was coached up so much as a child. Out of necessity, I had to find other individuals to help me because both my parents were not around. They both were addicts and abandoned me and my two brothers. I was raised by my grandparents in a community of individuals outside Philadelphia. One of the things that were interesting is I got coached up all the time by an eclectic crazy group of people, drug dealers and users, whiners, alcoholics, war veterans, professional people, the parents of my friends, and everybody were pouring into me. What I started to understand was it was up to me to take whatever nuggets they were sharing and make them my own or discard them.
I started to realize how to take information, how to make it my own, and then how to act on it. As my grandfather would say, “Don’t talk about it, be about it. There are lots of talkers and few doers. Which one are you?” I was about that action from an early age and because of the people who were coaching me up. Most importantly, my best friend’s mom, Phyllis Lane, poured the most information, knowledge, and wisdom into me. She gave me permission to dream big with two words, why not? She said, “Why not, Kevin? Why not? Why not go after that? Why not try that?” I’m going to check to see what you do with that idea. Don’t talk about it, be about it. I learned to be a serial manifestor of ideas and to be held accountable early in life.
That has served me well through my entire journey going on to get a Bachelor’s degree, a Master’s degree, ten years in the Air Force as a language translator. Working as a physio and athletic trainer at the high school, collegiate, and then the professional level. I ran the sports medicine program for the 76ers. Nike hires me away and I work at Nike for seven years. In 2004, I left out of Nike and I’ve been on my own now for several years. Go all the way back to being coached up early in my life. I think that I’ve been channeling all those lessons I’ve learned from everyone. I don’t see myself as that coach unless I’m asked to do it. I don’t present myself that way to anyone. I wait to see if someone needs that and then I offer it, but it’s never me leading with that. I lead with me and my story and then we go from there.
Do you think it’s important to have a coach?
I think you have to have someone that believes in you, encourages you, challenges you, and holds you accountable. I don’t know if you necessarily need to put that title on that, but who’s in your circle? Who’s got your back? Who’s got you? That’s more what I look at. Who’s that person in your life that has you, they got you. They’re holding you accountable for those hopes, those dreams, those aspirations. You’re not afraid to speak out to that person if you want to identify them with whatever that title might be. They could be an encourager, someone who’s a believer. They could be someone who is a challenger. They could be someone who you never even meet, but you aspire to grow and make them proud. It could be any number of ways that a person enters your life. You can give them the title of “coach.” More importantly, there’s someone who is a believer in you and hold you accountable for anything that you’re chasing or trying to endeavor to turn into reality.
Do you think it’s a sign of the times that we are looking for that now? Dan Sullivan says, “Polish your memories.” How old are you, KC?
I’ll be 62 years old. I tell people I’m well preserved. I’m the black Benjamin Button. The engine might look good, but the chassis is definitely rusty. My inside’s reflected on my outside. I’ve done plenty.
You’ve got a few stories. The bottom line is I’m 53 years old. We’re a couple of older ones here. We came from a period where we had mates and we had issues. There was a bit too much testosterone and bravado. You didn’t cry in front of the guys. When the shit hit the fan, they were your boys you could rely on that have your back. You had your boys. I can’t help thinking now, few people have each other’s back. They have each other’s credit card and each other’s credit, but there are few people that will go to bat for each other. I remember listening and having a great conversation with someone. There are always these programs whether it be Seinfeld, Friends, any of these programs. There are always 5 or 6 people in this plot where they’re all good mates. If you’ve got five people that have your back, warts, scars, and all, of your downsides, all of your tantrums, all of that, you’re incredibly wealthy. Sadly, nowadays, a lot of people don’t have six people they can count on.
There are contemporary shows like New Girl which has been out for a little bit. We used to watch that in our house together. It’s the same scenario. It’s a tight-knit group, different in many ways but, “You pick up that phone, you hit me. I got you.” I think that’s what’s missing in this day and age. Likes, followers, and friends that way are not truly the people who have you. Regardless of what you’re dealing with and what challenges you might be facing, All you had to do back in our day, and a small number of people can say this, they’ve got those people that they’re unconditional, nonjudgmental and whatever you’re dealing with. Let’s figure it out.
Let’s find a way to get around this and to solve that problem. Keep it moving. That’s important to cultivate that. That is the reason that people are seeking this coach, this encourager, this person, this group of people who can surround you and hold you up when you’re dealing with some difficulty. They lift you up and celebrate with you when there are some milestone moments. I think we all, out of necessity, want to belong. We all want to be a part of a community and be connected. People are seeking it.
At the end of the day, I’ve often said to people if you want to look at the slowest-evolving technology in the world, look in the mirror when you’re brushing your teeth. We are still that era or that mode that when we walk past a bush and it rattles, we get prepared, fight or flight. We see something attractive that catches our eye whether it be a car, a person. When something catches our eye, we stow it. The classic, “That’s a shiny object. That’s a beautiful woman.” We’re still primitive in our reactions. One of the reactions that seem to be being pushed away is our ability to communicate truthfully. We’re replacing it with yelling messages over Twitter or TikTok, but we’re losing the ability to connect. We’re putting way too much time and energy, putting it on a pedestal of how many likes we got on a certain comment. It doesn’t pay the mortgage.
What does is a community, connection, and relationships. How good are you at that? That’s the social currency, not likes and favorites. It’s that.
Let’s pull it back to your expertise. You’re focused on bringing the new generation up. We both came from a generation where we didn’t have social, good, and bad reasons. There’s a protocol for that. If we were in a pub where he said something to someone and it didn’t go down. We knew that it didn’t go down well because we got a smack on the nose. There was a repercussion to whatever it was we were saying. You can go on Facebook and go, “You look fat in that dress.” Make the comment, go off for the rest of your day, and have no repercussions. How will you install it in the new generation? How are you doing it?
A big part of it is first thinking about empathy for everyone else’s journey that we’re all dealing with some difficulty. We all have a story to tell and to recognize that. How do we remain curious about each other and the world around us? Curiosity is important and you were talking about lookup sometimes, don’t look at just the shiny object. Don’t look at that small device or that screen that’s in front of you. There’s a big screen called life available to you and everything’s in HD and 3D. That’s all available to you if you stay curious. You’re more curious about the people around you. If we can make a true human connection and be social, how do we raise and elevate the importance of truly being social?
We start to understand and have more empathy for each other and what we’re dealing with. That because someone is posting these perfect little pristine pictures. I always say to myself, “Everybody is dealing with some shit.” Everybody’s dealing with some difficulty and that’s real talk. The more that we recognize the importance of that and humanity will always win the day. Humanity is always much more powerful and stronger than any of that device, that small screen. How do you learn to connect first with empathy and walking into a room knowing that everybody has a story in this room? Everyone does and doesn’t make assumptions that what I saw on social is who you are. The more that we stop hiding behind that mask, that we put up the convenient mask that hides our true selves and shows up in our true selves. Vulnerable, transparent, open, and curious. That’s the way I always try to impart that idea to the next generation is for that. That takes courage to show up that way.
It’s sad that it does take courage because a lot of people don’t want to be viewed as weak. They perceived showing up as vulnerability. People are scared of being vulnerable now. They don’t want to expose, and I’m urging you not, but no one has ever posted a picture on Instagram of them on the toilet. We know everyone goes to the toilet, but we’re scared of exposing us. How do you get people to get over that?
A big part of it is when I tell my story in a vulnerable and transparent way. I think people realize and then look at what you’re doing. That you could have been easily a victim mindset because of the difficulties you dealt with in your childhood and all the challenges you were facing. No one would have ever begrudged you. They would have said, “Look what he comes from.” When I tell my story and how I surrounded myself with individuals who lifted me up and poured into me, challenged me, and how I continue to find these individuals in my journey. I’m modeling this through my story. I always see the room shift. When I ask people, “What gets you out of bed in the morning? What are you chasing? What’s your red rubber ball? What inspires you to go after that?” That’s when people start being real when they’re willing to be vulnerable and transparent. It starts with my story.
Our willingness to be transparent to the next generation, to our audience, to our children, and to our loved ones. We can redact, we don’t have to give them all the details, but you want them to see you’ve been seen and done and dealt with some stuff. That you’re not this perfect individual and that I have made mistakes. I have skinned my knees. I have figured out a way to rise above that and not to allow my circumstances to dictate my destiny. That’s what it’s about. It starts with my story. I think that’s the unlock for a lot of people when they start to hear my story and what has transpired through my journey. That lets them know like, “You can find a way to rise above suffering and circumstances.” It is available. At some point in time in your life, you’re going to deal with some difficulty, so that you have a choice. Victim versus fighter, every day, I truly believe that.
We do have a choice, but people are still terrified. About the new generation, what age range is this?
I’m talking to elementary school students and doing a live stream into their classes all the way through. I was with college students in Atlanta, Georgia at Savannah College of Art and Design. I’ve worked with all of them to 20 or 30-something. It’s a matter of where I’m meeting you at and where you’re at in your journey. I can vary my voice and my message, but it’s always going to be about telling my story in a way that is approachable, understandable, and inspiring for you. Also then challenge you. “What are you chasing? What gets you out of bed?” In first grade, I can ask you that same thing. “What tickles your brain? What gets you excited? What are some of the things that you love to read about or love to be curious about?” I can say that same thing all the way up to CEO and C-Suite people. I can ask them the same thing. “Why are you here? Why are you involved in this business? Are you doing this because it’s about a paycheck? Are you doing this because you’re trying to make an impact?” The range is wide and I can vary my voice to meet that audience. I enjoy being able to talk to the young generation first-graders all the way up to C-Suite.
When you’re looking for a new generation, it’s a new chapter. There’s a pair of us old folk here and I know I’ve gone through constant changes and phoenix moments throughout my career. It’s not just, “Let’s focus on the kids.” You might have a 45-year-old having a rebirth and that’s now a new mentality and a time to nurture those things differently. You don’t think that it’s age, it’s where you are in life as to whether or not you’re a new generation, you’re open to new things.
You might be at a point in your life where you have to reimagine your journey, your purpose, your passion, what you’re doing. I’m beating you wherever you’re at. It doesn’t matter from an age standpoint. It’s what you’re facing, what you’re dealing with, what opportunities you’re seeking. It’s more of a matter of a mindset and where you’re at. If you have that growth mindset and I like to say staying in beta as a human being, always improving and updating. That’s who I’m looking for. Those are the people that I love being around, the ones who are in that growth mindset, that are never satisfied, are finding, seeking, and chasing. When you’re young, you’re always on that quest but when you’re older you might be reimagining. You might be opening up a new chapter. Definitely, it’s from an age standpoint. It’s more from a mindset standpoint. What are you chasing?
How do you do that? What platforms are your favorite at the moment for getting your content out there?
It depends. LinkedIn is powerful from a professional standpoint in dealing with business people. Twitter and Instagram for reaching a general population, young, mid, whatever you’re at in your journey. The other thing that I like to do is I like to chat with you. I’m an old man’s best friend in my neighborhood. When I walk to my office because I can walk to my office from my house. I know all the kids in the neighborhood. They come to my house to show me wonders, things they discovered, invite me to their basketball game or, “Kevin, do you want to come and see me ride my bike? I just discovered the spider web.” These are things that happen at my house. My wife always laughs when she says, “One of your little friends came by and dropped this off for you,” or “One of your little friends was looking for you.” What I’ve discovered is being more present is the key.
The more present I am, the more that I can actively be connecting with you. When I’m walking through my neighborhood and I know where the kids typically that I will see are on their porches and stuff, I’m not on my device in case they’re out so that we can have a conversation however long it might be. What they’ve started to know about me is that I’m approachable. “There goes, Kevin.” They’ve even pulled over in their cars with their parents driving because they saw me walking, and they circled the block and their mom said, “He saw you,” and said, “There goes, Kevin. We need to go and say hi.” I started to understand just being present, showing up, and being consistent with that has allowed me to connect. All these different platforms, if you will be it using social media and digital to using high touch versus the high tech.
The new generation, wherever they are within their life, and you’re talking about the youth. Do you think possibly, similar to a vampire, that energy coming into you helps you stay engaged and rejuvenated?
It is symbiotic. They feed me too. It’s like I’m siphoning off of their energy. I love the idea of reverse mentoring. That I’m being mentored by them. I see things through their eyes, so that’s valuable for me or my journey. I want to stay forever young. In my mindset and attitude, regardless of how I am physical, I want to keep my mind sharp. Milton Glaser, the gentleman who did the I heart NY. He did that graphic design. He is in his 90s and he still goes to work every day. He talks about work in this way, which I love. He says, “Work is a source of vitality and wellbeing.” That’s my mindset. The more that I can stay connected to you and humanity, that’s a source of vitality and wellbeing for me. I’m gaining, gleaning, learning, and benefiting from the exchange as much as they are.
How can people reach out to you and find out about you?
All my social has the same handle username, @KCKatalyst. You can find me that way. KevinCarrollKatalyst on LinkedIn, so it’s easy to find me. I’m team follow back so I’ll hit you back. I’m good about that.
Whenever anyone googles you, searches you, that word ‘katalyst’ comes up many times. You got that from an early age. How did that come about and what does this signify for you?
When I was working at Nike, I didn’t have a job title. They said I could figure out what I wanted to call myself, which was unusual for a corporation back in ‘97, ‘98-ish. I got there in ‘97, but they said I could come up with my own job title. I started looking at how I was functioning within the organization. It was one of those strange coincidences when I hadn’t come up with a job title yet. I had a more formal job title at the time, but they said, “You could come up with your own if you’d like.” I’m like, “What could it be?” I remembered back in science that a catalyst was an excitatory agent that sped up or changed the process. It was a spark. I said, “I want to be that. I want to be the spark, but I also want to be the spark that connects people.” This bridge builder with a spark. I changed the C to a K because of Kevin. Katalyst was born.
What I was doing was sparking individuals around ideas, but then building bridges all around the organization so people could connect and amplify each other’s ideas. That’s where the katalyst idea came from. I was always connecting people even from when I was young. I didn’t have that term, but I was always about sparking, inspiring, trying to find a way to extend the play, the fun that we were having at the park. I was always that kid that had ideas, that one that was always trying to find a way to keep us still playing because I didn’t want to go home necessarily. I didn’t want to go home because I didn’t have a family.
You say about the catalyst and how important it is to you. How do you think people should change? I’m noticing through the conversation we’re having, that we’re not happy with the way some people are. We want to connect with more people. In a typical Michael Jackson, be the Man in the Mirror, what should we do to change it?
What we all can do is each morning when you get up and you get the light of day. As my grandfather said, “First of all, that’s a good start.” You’re above it and not below it. You should already be celebrating that you got another day. Don’t take that for granted. I think we take these days for granted. How do we start to revel in the fact that we have a day? How can I maximize a day like we did when we were kids? Kids will ring a day out until there’s nothing left of it with curiosity, wonder, magic, trying to discover as much as possible. Why don’t we do that as adults? Why do we think, “I’ve got another day, it’s Monday,” or we’re dreading Monday on Sunday because we have to go back to work versus, “How do I maximize each day? How do I start finding ways to elevate my game, attitude, and mindset to maximize who I am and be this model for others?” Regardless of the role or job you have, it’s still availing to you the opportunity.
Not everybody gets to go to work and it’s their play, their source of joy. I get that. Yet that job, role, that work you’re doing is availing to you. Economic freedom. You’re finding a way to make money so that you have time to pursue the thing that you love. I always say have something that gets you out of bed and inspires you. Let’s start with that. When you’re looking at yourself in the mirror, what are you chasing? “I’ve got another day. How am I going to maximize those 86,400 seconds that I’m gifted when I see the light of day?” That’s the deal. That’s what you get. You don’t get any more, no less when you see the light of day. How are you going to ring that day out so there’s nothing left? If you get another day, repeat, you keep advancing that hope, that dream, and aspiration but also modeling for others. That’s my attitude. That’s my mindset.
There’s a word that you’ve used a few times here and I think it is what makes us different from Alexa and Siri. It’s the word ‘dream.’ I feel a lot of people now, for one they won’t tell us what they dream, but I’m concerned that a lot of people are failing to dream.
That’s such a great insight that you would say. I think that we’re losing the ability to have that wonder and possibility because we’re taking and trying to do somebody else’s dream. We’re trying to be like somebody else instead of being the original that we are. Finding your true calling, finding the thing that inspires you and then embodying that, representing that every day should be the dream. You then don’t work a day in your life. There’s this saying, “If your dream doesn’t scare you, it’s not big enough.” It should be audacious so that maybe I never get to that North Star, but in the quest to get there, I have success at whatever level that means for me. Shouldn’t we all be trying to advance the human condition in a positive way every day? Some people might say, “Listen to you, Kevin. You’re this hope peddler,” so what? Hope is at a premium, we need that. Optimism is important now. That optimism is something that we should all have. Guillermo Del Toro talks about optimism as being daring, vital, and cool. I love that he said that about optimism. It’s not uncool. We need it now, and so shame on me, I guess then I’m a hope peddler and an optimist, but I’m going to stay that way.
I’m always stunned by how people limit their dreams when they’re the only ones in control of them. You should never limit your dreams for anybody. This should be the moment where you go stupid. The good thing about dreams is you could be flying on a kite if that’s what you want to dream, so it’s ridiculous.
That’s your business. That’s what you do is you help people with it and exceptionally well. I think the work that you’ve done is wonderful and what you’ve done for people. After they experienced the things that you do for them, they see more possibilities. Guaranteed they do. They go back and tell these stories to people and hopefully it sparks someone else. The more that we push back those haters, and remember haters are my motivators. Find a way to find the people who’ll encourage you, lift you up, and believe in you but also hold you accountable. You mentioned that many people keep their dreams locked up inside. They never speak them out. My grandmother said, “A closed mouth doesn’t get fed.” Speak up. Let somebody know what your hopes or dreams are. You never know who’s going to rally around you.
With that cluster bomb of nuggets, there’s a lot you can pull out there. If no one’s been paying attention, why wouldn’t they? If no one’s been paying attention, that last flurry of bombs was magnificent. KC, I’m blessed that you’re on this planet. I want to say thank you for chatting with me and chatting with my folks. It’s been a pleasure to spend time with you.
We’re in the business of making things happen, you and I, in our own way and I’m glad that you’re doing the work you’re doing. Keep doing you. I hope your readers are encouraged and inspired to do what they need to do too to lift up the next generation.
I don’t want to miss out on the final plug because before we came on, you told me that you would get prepared to drop your podcast. What’s the name of the podcast? When does it come out?
It’s going to be a limited series podcast, so just a short run. It’s called Kataglyphs: Life Katalyzed + Unexpected Wisdom. It’s going to be a time capsule if you will. I have artifacts to point to certain moments and stories that are unique that I don’t get a chance to talk about on stage. I’m thrilled. We’ve already done all the recordings and we’re doing post and editing. I’m excited about sharing that with others. Stay tuned. It will be dropping soon.
I’m looking forward to it. Thank you, KC.
Absolutely, Steve. Deuces, be well. Peace and play.
That’s it for another episode. I hope you enjoyed it. You know the usual drill. Share it, tell people about it. Jump on Apple. Put a review. Don’t be selfish. Spread the wealth. I look forward to chatting with you again. Until next time. Be safe.
- Kevin Carroll – LinkedIn
- @KCKatalyst – Twitter
- Kataglyphs: Life Katalyzed + Unexpected Wisdom
- Apple – The Art of Making Things Happen
About Kevin “KC” Carroll
Expert Generalist + Creative Catalyst.
Kevin brings a playful curiosity, an avid intellect, a keen understanding of human nature, a lifelong love of competition to all of his creative endeavors. He sees humanistic potential + possibilities everywhere. He solves issues and challenges in surprising + unexpected ways.