3 Defining Moments That Shaped My Life

3 Defining Moments That Shaped My Life

I assumed they didn’t want to be in the room. I should never make assumptions.

In truth, that was based completely on my own life experience. I wouldn’t have wanted to be sitting in a convention center listening to a keynote speaker during my junior or senior year of high school. Going to school every day was bad enough and I really didn’t give too much thought to anything that concerned my future.

I was closed off. I was also incredibly bored. I started to care a little more about my future in college but I still wasn’t very interested in the learning. I played the game. Showed up for class. Learned how to ace a test. Graduated with honors. Got my first real job.

I was sinking in that first sales job. I wasn’t prepared. It wasn’t lack of desire — I just didn’t have the skills.

One evening with the legendary Jim Rohn saved me. I had never been exposed to that kind of thinking. I went for the free happy hour, but didn’t anticipate a night that would become a defining moment in my life. I walked out fully committed to begin my life transformation. The learning has never stopped.

“Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” — Jim Rohn

A Defining Moment

Last week I was standing in the KI Convention Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  I’d just finished my opening keynote for the Manufacturing First Conference & Expo and in walked the 400 high school students attending the event to learn more about careers in manufacturing. I was scheduled to speak to them for 30 minutes.

I watched closely as they settled in, full of potential and possibility. I had been thinking about this 30 minutes for a while. I had a goal. Maybe it was more of a hope or desire. I wanted to be that defining moment for one young person today. To pay it forward. To ignite something inside someone else that becomes the catalyst for change.

I had a plan. After a brief introduction I wanted to take them through three of the defining moments in my life. Three stories with lessons they might be able to take and apply on their own journey.

The Jim Rohn Story

It was an easy place to start. After all, sitting in a room like this did change my life a little over 20 years ago. The Jim Rohn lessons are timeless.

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” — Jim Rohn

That night was an introduction to information that put me on a path toward accomplishing things in my life that mattered. I still have the notes from that seminar and his worn-out books on tape. His insight is just as relevant today. For a deeper dive on the life-changing wisdom of Jim Rohn, check out his Foundations for Success program.

The Quit My Job Story

I didn’t walk away from the only career I’d ever known until the pain of the present became stronger than the fear of the unknown. I was stuck for a long time. Getting unstuck wasn’t easy but in hindsight learning how to take calculated risks, navigate change and embrace uncertainty have turned into some of the most important lessons of my professional journey. I don’t want anyone to think they have to stay stuck. When adversity strikes (and it always does) what helps me more clearly navigate the chaos is my morning routine.

I talked to the group of teenagers about how our routines and rituals ultimately drive our results. When I win the morning, I know I am a lot more likely to win the day.  

Our time together included a morning routine challenge. I challenged the group to add one task to their morning routine for a week: Make your bed.
It’s a simple task that everyone can use to start the day with a sense of accomplishment. I had a few takers (and I’m assuming a few shocked parents):


  The Legacy of My Father Story

Finally, I told the group about my dad and his fight and what he taught me about courage, commitment and contribution. We all have the opportunity to contribute and make a difference. In fact, when things get hard and we’re struggling, the best antidote I know is reaching out to help someone else. Legacy is something we don’t often consider in the living that consumes us. The commitments, responsibilities, decisions and pressure can mask the meaning of it all — until a life-changing moment makes us stop.

I finished speaking and opened the floor for Q&A. I wasn’t sure I’d made an impact in 20 minutes. We started slow but the momentum shifted quickly. One question. Then another. Ten hands went up. Then twenty. The questions were powerful. They asked questions about hard choices. They asked questions about relationships, careers, purpose, education and their future. They asked questions about each one of my stories and probed for deeper perspective on what I learned. They asked some of the most thoughtful, introspective and vulnerable questions I have been asked in quite some time. My only regret is the session had to end way before we finished. I walked away inspired and still do secretly hope I may have been that defining moment for one young person in that room.  

I’ll take it! I want to thank those students. You left quite an impression on me. Please keep asking questions. Ask hard questions. Ask them of yourself. Listen to the answers. Write them down. Watch what happens next!

If you were sitting in that room in Green Bay, I’d be happy to answer any question you have. Put it in the comments below or send it to me directly. I’ll close with one of my own:

Did you make your bed today?

Ryan Estis helps companies and individual contributors embrace change and achieve breakthrough performance. Each live event blends original research with compelling stories that move participants to take action. Ryan has 20 years of business experience working with the world’s best brands to initiate change, inspire innovation and deliver growth. Learn more about Ryan Estis.

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