If you could pick a defining moment – one that changed your life forever – what would it be? And how did it change your life?
I was recently asked this question and here’s how I responded.
It was September 1975.
I decided that I no longer would listen to the people who were telling me how to live my life.
I was making $2.75/hr in minimum wage jobs. My high school counselor had said I wasn’t college material and shouldn’t plan on a career. My family, including my husband, would say I was “cute, but not too bright.”
I finally had the courage to enroll at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, (UWGB), and majored in business administration. I received financial aid and had a work-study job in the Student Employment Office on campus.
Fear of Being Found Out
I was terrified.
I was terrified of failing – or worse – being found out: that I was cute but not too bright.
To my surprise, I got fairly good grades. But the best part was that the staff in the Student Employment Office had confidence in me. They gave me “staff-level work,” meaning I wasn’t relegated to filing and answering the phone. I was able to work on meaningful projects including creating a job posting system for students to apply for jobs on campus. Keep in mind, this was before computers and no one knew which departments had jobs for students or how to apply for them. The system I created was sustainable for almost 10 years when it was computerized.
This single, humbling experience led to a 20 year career in Human Resources, including being the Vice President of Human Resources for major national and international companies.
Cheerleaders and Advocates
I am always grateful for that experience and the people in that department. I can still name each one of them because they had such an impact on me.
They had more confidence in me than anyone I knew.
And they certainly had more confidence in me than I had in myself. They impacted my life in a way that is hard for me to describe – and yet they would probably say they were just doing their job. But they did more than their job. They took an interest in me and shared in my excitement about being a contributor to the department and doing a good job. They were my cheerleaders and my advocates. They saw potential that I didn’t know I had and nurtured it. They calmed my fears and planted seeds of possibility for me to see a bigger future than minimum wage work.
How To Pay It Forward
And now – 42 years later, I am happy to say that that defining moment is impacting my life in a new way and I am able to pay it forward.
I recently worked with the UWGB Development Office to create a scholarship for students majoring in business. By transferring ownership of a life insurance policy I knew I didn’t need, it provides the funding for student jobs. As part of the process, the business department is expected to provide staff level work for students so they can build a portfolio of projects and work experiences before graduating. The student must “exceed expectations” in order to continue receiving the scholarship, maintain good grades and no infractions of campus rules.
In this era of significant funding cutbacks, horrendous student loan expenses and tight job competition, this is a win-win for colleges and universities and students needing financial aid and work experience.
What Is Your Defining Moment?
Take some time to reflect on one or two key defining moments in your life. What happened and how did it impact your life?
Many people can relate to a defining moment of tragedy or sadness, such as loss of a loved one or major illness. While these experiences are significant and life changing, I would encourage you to look for a defining moment when you were at a crossroad and someone encouraged you to choose a path that changed your life for the good.
- What were your choices and how did that person change your life?
- What might have happened if you chose a different path or continued on the same path?
Personal transformation can be profound and exhilarating, yet I encourage you to find a way that you can transform that experience into making a difference for other people as a tribute to the person who changed your life.
Marty Stanley, CSP, is a national speaker, author and consultant on personal and organizational change. If you are looking for a motivational speaker to inspire your team to take action that makes a difference, call Marty today. 816-695-5453 or 858-432-6764 firstname.lastname@example.org www.alteringoutcomes.com https://www.linkedin.com/in/martystanley
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