Are You Ready for Your Defining Moment?
Speaking at the Gartner Customer Strategies & Technologies Summit 2016, Gartner Vice President and Distinguished Analyst, Ed Thompson, explained “Defining moments are points in time when the essential nature of a person, group, organization or industry emerges. The moment must reverberate or echo – it must have consequences.” Defining moments can come in any area(s) of our lives and, while they definitely impact us, they can impact our world. These foundational moments have a ripple effect, transforming individuals, industries, cultures.
In his book Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters, Captain Chelsey B. ‘Sully’ Sullenberger, pilot of US Airways Flight 1549 that safely landed in the Hudson River, explains that while this defining moment in his life was extraordinary, he had actually been preparing for it all his life. He was open, willing, and vulnerable:
“We all have heard about ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary situations. They act courageously or responsibly, and their efforts are described as if they opted to act that way on the spur of the moment… I believe many people in those situations actually have made decisions years before.” “I’ve been preparing for this all my life.”
Bernie Swain, founder of the Washington Speakers Bureau, is the author of the quote “The most successful people are driven by their defining moments. What drives you?” Swain explains “Identifying the foundational moments of our success allows us to maximize our potential, uncover our own passions, and become better leaders.” These moments of absolute clarity are unique, personal, and rare. They come from us, from other individuals, events, and/or experiences. We don’t set goals for defining moments; they are byproducts of our willingness to participate fully in them.
Defining moments may not be recognized as such until after they occur. One of my defining moments came when I was in Fourth grade. We had an exercise in English class where we were all told the beginning of a story and were each asked to create the end of the story. At the time, I thought it was an interesting exercise and immediately came up with what I thought was a great ending to the story. As my classmates shared their endings, I was surprised both at how many different endings there were that had not occurred to me AND how great many of them were. During my career, this exercise has become a defining moment for me, and has now become one for others as they gain understanding about how our unique perspectives shape our reality and how valuable being open to perspectives of others truly is.
Defining moments can be missed. The discovery of Penicillin was by accident and could easily have been missed; it originated as a mold in a lab that had been left alone. What if Sir Alexander Fleming had simply thrown out the mess he found in his petri dishes instead of applying scientific curiosity to the reason there was mold in them?
“When I woke up just after dawn on September 28, 1928, I certainly didn’t plan to revolutionize all medicine by discovering the world’s first antibiotic, or bacteria killer. But I guess that was exactly what I did.”
— Sir Alexander Fleming
How do we become ready for these defining moments in our lives? How do we prepare to recognize and become transformed by them? How do we make sure we do not miss them?
In his book Intelligent Leadership, What You Need to Unlock Your Full Potential, best-selling author and World #1 Authority on Intelligent Leadership, John Mattone, explains “The key to unlocking your massive potential is making the decision to be vulnerable.” Mattone explains when we are open to change, when we are willing to explore our “inner-core – our character, values, positive beliefs, positive emotions, and self-concept”, and learn the predictive relationship between our inner-core and our outer core competencies including decision making, leadership and critical thinking, we position ourselves to recognize and maximize the potential of these foundational, defining moments in our lives. When we combine this with learning our personality style so we know how we deal with both positive and challenging situations, we learn how to be present when our defining moments occur so we maximize their impact.
I challenge you to become willing and vulnerable so you are prepared for defining moments to touch your life. When they do, and they will, you can also use them to touch the lives of others helping you make your most positive impact our world.
There are disagreements about the source, but not the meaning, of the quote “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. Are you ready?