Two Defining Moments

I was deeply moved recently as I listened to several graduating High School students describe the defining moments in their lives. Hearing them caused me to pause and reflect on the key moments when the trajectory of my own life changed. Here are two…

Defining Moment #1

One defining moment for me came when, as a university student, I was approached by an older and wiser man who asked me if I would like to begin a mentoring relationship with him. I had not seen or considered this sort of way to learn. But I decided to give it a try, and I am extremely thankful I did.

In the context of this mentoring friendship with Ken, I was able to discuss important ideas and decisions about faith, career, dating, and life with an objective and seasoned person who cared about me. We met weekly for two years, and today I still carry our friendship and the lessons I learned with me. And I am convinced of the need and value of mentoring for personal and professional development – partly because of this experience.

Defining Moment #2

Another defining moment came almost 10 years into my career. I was working for a large management consulting firm, and I had decided to go back to grad school as a way to become better equipped to incorporate what I loved (people development) more into my career. As I prepared to begin full-time studies, I also wanted to keep working part-time. I remember asking myself a powerful question that prompted the defining moment:

“If I could do anything I want to do, that I think my company ought to pay me to do while I go to school, what would I do?”

I had the idea to offer individualized leadership development to high-potential aspiring  leaders through 1-1 coaching. At the time, I had not heard of executive coaching. But, drawing on my own experience of both being mentored and mentoring others, I was convinced this approach was a powerful way to accelerate leaders’ development.

So I pitched the idea to a few people, and someone decided to sponsor this program and give me a shot.  We shaped the idea, ran a successful pilot where I coached over 30 up-and coming-leaders, and the rest is history.  For the first time in my career, I began to enjoy my work 70% of the time instead of 30%. I have focused on helping people develop and thrive in the business setting ever since.

So what?

Defining moments are powerful.  And they become even more powerful when we understand them and learn to communicate these stories to others in ways that help them have their own defining moments.

Today, sitting around the dinner table, I asked my family members to share a defining moment in their lives.  And I shared one of mine with them. My lesson learned? I need to do that more often.

Joe Baker is a Partner with PeopleResults. You can reach him at or on Twitter @JoeBakerJr.