The Moment that Mattered the Most
October 23, 2023
Last week, I had the honor to attend the 242nd anniversary of the victory at Yorktown, the battle that won the Revolutionary War for the United States and set the stage for the freedoms we enjoy today. It was a glorious day with dignitaries from the United States, Spain and France.
I learned some things about the War that I didn’t learn in 7th-grade history class. I didn’t know the impact Spain had in the battle, then visualizing the terrain and waterways that impacted the battle and some of the colonials’ failures to get to that point.
I believe and am passionate that every young person needs to visit, either in person or virtually, the battle sites and places that gave us the freedoms we enjoy today so they can get a perspective of the sacrifice and toll it took that we take for granted today.
Later that evening, I spoke to a group of United States Naval Academy alumni in Yorktown, next to the York River. Whenever I am honored to be with those who defended our country so I can enjoy my liberty, I am humbled.
After I got done speaking, one of the alumni from the 1960’s asked me something that I had never been asked.
He asked, ” what was the moment that mattered most to get me where I am today?”
Wow, that one took me a minute to consider. Like most people, there have been many defining moments that got me to where I am.
What I shared wasn’t what I think he or I was expecting.
I shared the story that I wrote about in my book, From Turmoil to Triumph, about when I left ADP.
I was at the top of my game, coming off a year when I was on the sales Board of Directors ( one of the top 10 sales people in the country) and making more money than I ever had. When my then manager left to take another position in Cerritos, California, a new manager came in from Canada.
He had a different approach to how he managed a team, especially a team which was successful and tenured.
At his first offsite meeting in Callaway Gardens, GA, he was handing out commission checks from the previous quarter. My commission check was $64000. That was big money in 1995. When he handed it to me, he told me I would never make that much again as long as he was there.
At that moment, I knew that he and I had issues. One thing my first sales VP told me came back to me. He said that the one who hires you has the most vested interest in your success. This new manager did not hire me, he inherited me.
A few months later he and I almost came to blows and he forced me out of a job and a career that I was succeeding in. At first, I thought I had failed; my family, my clients ( who supported me), and my mission.
He had so much dislike for me that he tried to stop me from my career of sales with the companies that pursued me. It was a tough time.
But one thing I learned through this time was that failure gives you the opportunity to test yourself.
I attribute the resiliency that I developed to get me through other challenging times, such as during and after the Miracle on the Hudson, to having this test. I believe that when I heard my mom speak to me as I reached the aisle to leave a sinking plane was the test.
In her statement to me, “If you do the right thing, God will take care of you, ” what she was really asking was, “what have you learned? This is your test.”
What I learned after the Miracle on the Hudson was that failure not only gives you the opportunity to test yourself but also opens up an opportunity for fresh thinking. Failure is not real until YOU accept it.
When that happened at ADP, I was given a gift to start to think and consider other approaches to achieve my mission. I passed my test during the Miracle on the Hudson and it gave me another opportunity for fresh thinking which developed a new pathway for me to fulfill the promise I made in May 1997 to Bill, to
“Not let it die with me. “
So I told my new Naval Academy alum friend, the moment that mattered most to set me on the path to where I am, started with a perceived failure. That perceived failure tested me to put into play what I had learned to that point. The Miracle on the Hudson was another challenge that tested me when my mom asked me, ” what have you learned, this IS your test.”
Everybody has those defining moments in their lives. That is what they are, and they are not failures unless you accept them as failures. They are tests which are there to ask you, “What have your learned?
These tests are opportunities for fresh thinking. Consider the pandemic. Some people looked at this as a test out of their control and went to a dark place. Some people looked at it as a test, and got creative, resourceful, and resilient.
And they created opportunity out of that uncertainty just like the colonials did when they won that battle in Yorktown.
Develop a habit of approaching your failure as an opportunity to test yourself, an opportunity for fresh thinking and you will then be on the path to
Creating your own flight plan for your future.