High school reunions are interesting encounters – an opportunity to touch base with where we were and what we have become. After missing several reunions I finally made my way back to the town where I graduated and reconnected with my classmates. Having had virtually no contact with any of them for so long, it was difficult recognizing some – while others had changed little.
Two of my classmates stood out. Marcus (names have been changed) greeted me with, “You will remember I scored the winning touchdown to give us the state championship!” Actually, I didn’t even remember we had taken the state title but that was a big deal for him. It was the biggest deal for him, in fact. Marcus drives a delivery truck now; he is allowing the touchdown he scored when he was a teenager to define his life.
Ronny was not there. That was not surprising. He was far and away the most insecure, shiest person I have ever known. He walked looking at the floor and rarely made eye contact with anyone. Conversation came hard for him and anyone attempting to get to know him had their work cut out for them. It took many conversations to learn that he was desperately poor, that his mother had abandoned him and his father and that he wondered if any girl would ever go out with him. He did come to the prom, alone, in his Sunday coat and tie rather than a rented tux and sat in the bleachers and watched. Some of the girls invited him to dance but he declined. He had probably never danced with a girl before. We chatted and from our conversation he actually seemed to be enjoying the evening.
In homeroom we rotated delivering the morning devotional and leading the Lord’s Prayer. (How times have changed.) Ronny found this to be scary and painful. After stumbling through reading a short message, he began the prayer: “The Lord is my shepherd…” OOPS. Instead of the usual prayer, he had inadvertently begun reciting a familiar Psalm. Most of his classmates joined in but it took its toll on Ronny. Beet red, he ran back to his desk and then missed school for the next few days.
Someone mentioned his name at the reunion so I asked what Ronny was doing now. Silence followed my question. Then, with a smile that was part admiration, part respect and part sadness, one of the members of the Homecoming Court said, “Ronnie saved the lives of several of his buddies in Vietnam and was awarded the Silver Star – posthumously.”
Marcus let a single event define his life; Ronny didn’t.
Whatever you have experienced, delightful or disastrous, it does not have to define your life. No matter where you are or what you are doing, the best is yet to come – if you choose.
Three young women were held captive by an evil man in a home in Cleveland, Ohio for ten years. One of the women who may have suffered the most physically, Michelle Knight, said, “I may have been through hell and back, but I am strong enough to walk through hell with a smile on my face and my head held high. I will not let the situation define who I am. I will define the situation. I don’t want to be consumed by hatred.”
Winners do not allow one event to define them nor do they allow the results of that event to consume them.
How To Use This Concept
LEADERS: Have you ever looked at someone in your organization and wondered why they were not living up to their potential? Maybe it is because you see their potential and they don’t. Some event may be holding them back. Stretch them beyond their perceived limitations. (I would have remained an entry-level technician at AT&T if a leader had not done this for me!)
SALES: You can reclaim the lost sale and you can restore a broken customer relationship. Don’t let a single event like a missed order define your relationship with the customer.