Life and Leadership Lessons I Learned In The Military: “The best advice I’ve received and would want to pass along would be to trust your team.” With Nick Kratzer and Marco Derhy

The best advice I’ve received and would want to pass along would to be to trust your team. Why would you hire people just to micromanage them? Everyone brings something unique to the table. I look at it like this: play to people’s strengths and allow them to shine. As a part of my series about […]

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The best advice I’ve received and would want to pass along would to be to trust your team. Why would you hire people just to micromanage them? Everyone brings something unique to the table. I look at it like this: play to people’s strengths and allow them to shine.

As a part of my series about “Life and Leadership Lessons Learned In The Military”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nick Kratzer of Footprints to Recovery. At age 30, Nick Kratzer entered drug treatment, after a knee injury left him discharged from the Marines and addicted to opioids. Today, Nick is celebrating four years sober and helping others overcome their addictions through his work at Footprints to Recovery. Initially receiving treatment on base, Nick eventually underwent four surgeries and continued treatment through his local VA. A victim of the unfortunate phenomenon of understaffing and lack of proper medical attention at VA centers across the country, Nick quickly became addicted to painkillers. He began taking pills in order to function normally and sought stronger varieties of what he was being prescribed. Calling Footprints to Recovery his “saving grace,” Nick is now the Regional Outreach Manager for the company’s five treatment facilities. He is able to draw upon his own experience to help others who are struggling with addiction and to give them the strength they need to seek help. While his story did not unfold the way he expected, Nick has accomplished the “sense of duty” he sought when entering the Marines.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?

I had a pretty “normal” childhood. I grew up with two amazing parents and was the oldest of three kids. We moved around when I was younger, so I was always the new kid at school. That was challenging at times, but it taught me so many lessons that I’ve had the chance to apply to my life as an adult. I joined the Marines right out high school and once I got out, I had a number of jobs before getting clean.

And what are you doing today? Can you share a story that exemplifies the unique work that you are doing?

Today I work for Footprints to Recovery, which is a substance abuse treatment facility with centers across the country. The most basic and gratifying part of my job is helping people that are struggling with addiction get into treatment. The most memorable experience that comes to mind is arriving to pick someone up, and they had overdosed in their house as I was walking in. I had to jump into action immediately. Thankfully, I had Narcan because we called 911 and were able to administer it to him, performing chest compressions until the EMTs arrived. He survived and agreed to go to treatment after being cleared from the hospital.

Can you tell us a bit about your military background?

I joined the Marines right after graduating high school and suffered an injury during a routine training exercise while in my Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) school. At the time, I thought surgery would fix it, but that ended up being just one of four operations, so I was honorably discharged under medical conditions.

Can you share the most interesting story that you experienced during your military career? What “take away” did you learn from that story?

Interesting? Everything about being in the military was interesting, but I do have a funny story I can share. My buddy and I were heading home to New Jersey on a “96,” which is a 96-hour pass. We packed a bag with our uniforms to wash them, but we didn’t check the pockets. As we were going through security the alarms went off, and we were escorted to a private room to be hand searched. Turns out a spent shell landed in my buddy’s cargo pocket. Luckily we were able to talk our way out of the situation and didn’t get jammed up by our CO.

I’m interested in fleshing out what a hero is. Did you experience or hear about a story of heroism, during your military experience? Can you share that story with us? Feel free to be as elaborate as you’d like.

The true heroes are the guys and gals that paid the ultimate sacrifice and never made it back.

Does a person need to be facing a life and death situation to do something heroic or to be called a hero?

Not necessarily. All it takes is having a little courage to stand up for what you believe in and fight for people who can’t fight for themselves.

Do you think your experience in the military helped prepare you for business? Can you explain?

Absolutely, there are so many ways in which my military experience has helped me in my business. Discipline is the hardest skill to have, but it’s also the most important because it’s necessary in order to stay focused on the task at hand. People that we help at Footprints to Recovery are lost and caught in the grip of addiction, so staying disciplined to the mission is what helps me have empathy for people and never give up on them.

As you know, some people are scarred for life by their experience in the military. Did you struggle after your deployment was over? What have you done to adjust and thrive in civilian life that others may want to emulate?

I was stationed stateside during my time in the military, so I can’t speak to that.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Right now at Footprints to Recovery, we’re really focused on grassroots efforts to strengthen our ties within the community, both educating and offering assistance on a large scale to those who need our services.

What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive?

Lead by example! There’s nothing I would ask my team to do that I wouldn’t do or haven’t done. At the end of the day, we all have the same goal which is to help. There’s no “I’s” or “You’s.”

What advice would you give to other leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

The best advice I’ve received and would want to pass along would to be to trust your team. Why would you hire people just to micromanage them? Everyone brings something unique to the table. I look at it like this: play to people’s strengths and allow them to shine.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are so many people that have helped me along the way, but my boss, Will Wilder, has been instrumental in getting me to where I am today. There was a point where it was just the two of us on the outreach team, and now there are multiple Footprints to Recovery representatives throughout the country. He set the tone and showed me — not just told me — the ropes.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I share my experience with anyone who will listen because I believe that if hearing my story resonates with someone at the right moment, and they muster up the courage to reach out for help, I did my part. I want people to know it’s possible to overcome struggles and be happy. I want people to know that I’ll fight until the end to help.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Stop worrying about what people are going to think. We get ONE life! So do what’s right for you, and if you want something bad enough work your ass off to get it. Figure out what makes you happy and do that.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Never let anyone make you feel like you don’t deserve what you want.”

There are people that try to drag others down because they are unhappy with their own situation. One of my teachers told me that I wouldn’t amount to anything and that I’d never become a Marine. When I graduated bootcamp, I went to his classroom in my dress blues to let him know that his voice got me through the tough times.

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was truly uplifting.

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