Every once in a while, something happens in our lives to break up our normal routines, something that cuts through the mundane trappings of everyday life and gets right to the heart of the matter. You probably can list several of these occurrences, which I call “defining moments.”

These moments can be of a personal or professional nature. And sometimes a personal moment can have far-reaching effects.

I’ll give you a “for instance” which happened to me recently.

In case you don’t already know enough about me, I’ll tell you this. I am known for spells of melancholy, nostalgia, and connectivity to the simple things in life — namely family, friends, and the basic creature comforts. My example may not seem like much to some people, but I tend to think that most can identify with this.

My family was attending our church on a December Sunday. Each of our church services’ includes a “children’s sermon.” The young children are invited to visit with the children’s minister at the foot of the altar and hear a brief story. The particular story on this Sunday was about the longevity of the Christmas tree.

The minister repeatedly asked the children that if the tree were planted in the ground, what color would it be in January? The answer: Green. She continued asking about the color in April and June and the answer continued to be “green.” At that point, our eight-year-old son Ryan eagerly raised his hand.

“Yes?” the minister asked.

Without hesitation Ryan spoke out, “It stays that color because it is an evergreen.”

The congregation roared with laughter. I was almost expecting a standing ovation. I would have started crying if it weren’t for the fact that I was splitting a gut. My wife was equally impressed. It was a “you-had-to-be-there” thing that words cannot describe.

That, to me, was a defining moment — one that I will never forget and one that left an indelible impression on a lot of people.


From this story I ask the question: What has been your defining moment as a businessperson? I think that in this, the holiday time of the year, it is important to recognize the things that have made us important to ourselves, to our customers, and to our employees. What one single moment can you recall that stands apart from the others — and has defined you as a businessperson?

No doubt we can point to a number of different defining moments — the first service call, the first winning bid, the first truck, the first paid invoice, the first letter of satisfaction from a customer, the first computer installed. The list goes on and on.

And this is only a list of “firsts.” What about the customer who couldn’t afford the service call because they were facing tough economic challenges, so you performed the work for free? Or what about the employee who was hurt on the job and you provided extra money or food for the family while your worker recovered? These are defining moments, too.

I would suggest that this year, more than any other, we take the time to celebrate the moments that have truly defined who we really are — and share them with others.

Call up a friend this month and reminisce about that one special moment that only the two of you can share and understand. Reconnect with someone you haven’t spoken with in a while and stir the memories with a quick flashback story. Gather employees around and talk about the most special times of their tenure with your company.

In a year of great turmoil and strife, there are things that we can see clearly and be thankful for — the “evergreen effect,” if you will — times when we can put aside all that is wrong and “define” all that is right.

Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 734-542-6214; 734-542-6215 (fax); johnhall@achrnews.com (e-mail).

Publication date: 12/10/2001