“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 (www.dale-carnegie.co.jp)© Japan Today