Our defining moments

By Craig Kirkwood

“We meet at one of those defining moments - a moment when our nation is at war, our economy is in turmoil, and the American promise has been threatened once more.” And so said Democratic presidential candidate Barak Obama in his acceptance speech. He mentioned “defining moment” again later in his speech and it got me thinking about my own personal defining moment and that of the many participants in our training courses I have heard over the years.

“I’m sick of this job and the people here; I want to go back to Tokyo as soon as I can.” That was an entry in my diary, six months into a three-year management trainee program at a machine tool manufacturing company in Toyama Prefecture 25 years ago. The life was hard, work, work and more work. Fun times were few and far between because of a lack of friends and time to do anything else but work. I constantly thought of the bright lights of Tokyo and the fun I could be having.

Yet, somehow, I finished my three years in Toyama and because of that, obtained a fantastic job as the branch manager of an Australian trading company in Tokyo, that then paved the way for more and varied roles throughout my life. Looking back on those three years in Toyama, I soon realized the experience I gained was one of my defining moments. It helped shape the way I am today, that is, a very patient and very disciplined individual, which I am sure I would not have become unless for that experience.

Throughout our lives, we all have a number of defining moments, those instances which make us who we are now. It could be a lesson from your early life, something an employer or mentor taught you, something you learned, from either a positive or negative experience. Defining moments have a significant impact and they help develop and shape the person you are today.

Taku told us how his defining moment has enabled him to treat every moment he has with his loved ones as though it may be his last. It started with a huge argument with his father, the president of a small family-run business. Taku stormed out of his father’s office, hearing his father say: “I love you and am only doing this for your own good.”

A week later, no contact and still fuming over his father’s condemnation of his business strategy, Taku had a phone call, one he will never forget. It was his mother telling him his father just died of a heart attack and to get home straight away. Taku remembers his father's last words and only wishes he could have said something different himself. He realizes it is too late now, but he has vowed to treat those close to him as though it may be the last time. He listens, that is, really listens; he doesn’t let any small problems get in the way of communication and cause friction, he is a new man and knows it is what his father would have wanted. His defining moment was that phone call from his mother.

On another scale is the defining moment of Matt. He describes his life at the moment as exceptionally full and exciting. It all comes down to a defining moment at university. In discussion one day with one of his professors, Matt complained about all the decisions he needed to make and was wondering aloud as to whether there would be an easier way. "Matt”, said his professor, “ any choice that comes your way, always go for the active choice. If you have a choice to stay home or go to the movies, then go to the movies. You never know what may be in store for you, a chance meeting with an old friend maybe, perhaps meet a new friend. Always go with the active choice.”

Ever since that discussion, Matt actually tried to live by that credo and over time it became natural to him. He says his life has been one of constant opportunity; things he could never have imagined have come his way because he always makes the active choice.

Sometimes it is well worth our while to think back on our defining moments. Just what was it that got us to where we are now and shaped us into the kind of person we are today?

The writer is president, Dale Carnegie Training® Japan (

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Our Defining moments? Only words have definitions and time is not real. So how can a moment be a symbol that represents an illusion. Who is OUR?

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"Our" is a figure of speech commonly used to engage the audience (in this case, readers) personally. So "our" in this case, is "you." It also means me, and everyone else who reads the article above.

Time is the fourth dimension, and it is very real. Your handle puzzles me, Philosophy187.

Not only words have definitions. Words are used to define concepts, which are not necessarily words. Everything the human mind can comprehend may be defined, but what do you make out of abstract and spatial thinking? Words are only tools, not the concepts themselves.

In any case, I can share a defining moment of my own. When I was a child in Elementary school, the teacher explained a math procedure on the black board; it was one of those "problems" where you are given a paragraph describing a life situation with a mathematical solution, where you need to figure out which mathematical operations are suitable, and in what order. Most of the class reached the same conclusion. Mine was different. The teacher asked, "does everyone agree this is the correct answer?" She asked, after a volunteer completed the math exercise on the blackboard. Nobody said anything. I was afraid to be wrong, so I didn't say anything either. Only one girl raised her hand and said, her answer was different. She took her notebook to the teacher, and the teacher asked her to write her procedure on the blackboard. The right answer was the girl's, which was also the same answer I had reached. The teacher said, "Don't be afraid to be wrong. We are here to learn, and getting things wrong is a step in learning." Those words touched me deeply. I realized, even if my answer is not the same as everyone's, it didn't necessarily mean I am wrong.

In school, there is an intense pressure to conform to certain things. Some teachers prefer to have students repeat their lesson without analyzing it, or conforming their views to that of the teacher's. That simple thing my teacher said in that math class when I was 8 years old showed me it is alright to disagree, as long as I have a valid argument to support my ideas. My parent's teachings and mentors I found along my way through school reinforced that notion, but the math teacher's words were like a flash which made such a vivid impression in my mind I remember that instant to this day.

It's not my only "turning point," "hito," "crossroads" or "defining moment" as any of these approaches the same concept, but it's one of the instants frozen in Time where the learning experience carried a touch of enlightening.

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I think we put too much emphasis on milestones in our lives. "Our Defining" moments should be how we live and behave day to day. The small kindness of encouraging a co-worker who is having a rough day. A mom comforting a child. A father being home to spend time with his family.

We spend far too much of our time chasing big moments and objectives, often missing the real value in life along the way.

I think we should think more about defining practices. Do we live with compassion and empathy for others? Do we take time to be with those we love instead of letting all the other things get in the way. Do we spent time for ourselves? Do we do something for others? Do we give anything back?

Defining practices would solve a lot of our problems rather than defining moments. Perhaps children could have better home lives if parents choose defining practices that give them time at home instead of defining moments in the office. Maybe crime would drop if people spent more time reaching out to and encouraging others rather than leaving them isolated and disconnected. Maybe our world would see more peace if our ambitious defining moments gave way to more simple defining practices of living better lives.

Let's have one defining moment where we choose to live defining practices. Practices that define our humanity, humility and confidence in lives that connect us to here and now and not fleeting moments. Life takes place in this moment and the following moment. It takes place day in and out and in most often unglamourous and undramatic time. We should focus upon this mass amount of our time in this existence. Then let those defining moments be only milestones in a life of defining practices and not the focus of our existence.

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OK, it is evident that you two missed it. Succinctly and subversively there is no such thing everything is now, yesterday,today and tomorrow is an illusion. Don't let symbols become you or that all you will be and when someone attacks you - you will be offended - or shut up - try it! ''OUR DEFINING MOMENTS '' too hasty...

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So because you wrote your post yesterday, today your feeling does not exist; only words which describe themselves. You are not here now. You don't exist. You can't reach me when you read this, because I am not here anymore.


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Azrael, IRT Our defining moments : I did not write a post I typed it. I mentioned nothing about feelings nor the existence of you/me. There simply is no our. That is indeed interesting.

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