The Power of 14 Words

“A funny thing happened to me on the way to the boardroom.” – John Carroll

Yeah, that was me some 30+ years ago. I had it all figured out. My career goal was to become an AT&T senior executive and officer before my 50th birthday, and I was on a positive track to get there. After five promotions in eight years, I was thirty-nine years old at the time and feeling really good about the future that I had mapped out. Until fate intervened and changed things.

“If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your future plans.”

Because of a reckless act on my part, I had a serious accident that required multiple surgeries, bone grafts, metal plates and screws to put my lower leg and ankle back together again. The damage was so severe the surgical team could not operate for three days until they were able to reduce the swelling and stabilize my leg. After two major reconstructive surgeries, I was on crutches for 9-months and had to undergo extensive physical therapy in order to resume normal activities.

To say the accident was a defining moment in my life is a huge understatement. It altered my life forever and caused me to rethink my life’s direction, my goals and priorities, and ultimately my ideal of the person I wanted to become.

However, that’s not the real story, not the true cathartic moment. My true defining moment happened more than a decade earlier.

In the book, POWER OF INSPIRATION: Dare to Be the Best YOU!, I addressed this transformative event in a chapter titled, ‘Becoming the Real You’. At the time, I was dealing with the trauma of the dissolution of my first marriage, a job loss and subsequent career change, and was at a low point in my life. The realization that I had failed as a husband, as a young professional and as a father to my then 3-year-old son, was crushing to my already low self-confidence and self-esteem.

During the third week of training on my new career assignment our director, Bill East, called me into his office. Bill asked me to close the door and take a seat, and said that he had a concern to discuss with me. All of my fears, anxieties, self-confidence and self-esteem issues came rushing to the surface. My initial thought was “oh God here we go again, I’m going to get fired.”

Instead, Bill smiled and said “do you realize that you don’t look at people when you talk to them?”. Those 14 simple words have changed my life in innumerable ways. Although I haven’t seen him in 30+ years, I’ll always be grateful for Bill’s mentorship and support. He was the first person who took the time to work with me to overcome my self-limiting beliefs and become a better person.

What was your true defining moment?

Defining moments can and do come in various forms – the birth of a child, death of a loved one, a job loss or career change, purchase of a new home, a major illness or accident, or simply words of encouragement when needed most. When you reflect on your life, how have these defining moments shaped your life’s direction? And how have you been able to help others deal with similar life challenges?

A final thought I want to leave you with is that we will all face challenges and adversity in our lives that ultimately define us. So, do not overlook the opportunity to help others through your experiences, guidance and mentorship. You may never know the powerful impact your words (and actions) could have on the life of someone else.

Enjoy the journey!


COPYRIGHT © 2015-23 John Carroll