‘Aha’ moments come in all shapes and sizes: from gut-wrenching realizations to quiet moments. These moments define us, for good or bad.
What are ‘aha’ moments? Are they grand epiphanies reminiscent of those final minutes in almost every episode of House, where the mysterious symptoms of a patient’s terrible illness coalesce into a diagnosis in Dr. House’s mind in one miraculous moment (bam!). Where he promptly directs the hospital staff to administer a lifesaving drug? Perhaps.
But, it’s also possible that many of life’s ‘aha’ moments are more subtle and nuanced.
Late last year, I attended Boston HUBweek’s Women in Innovation Story Slam: Aha Moments, where I heard inspiring stories from female business leaders on perseverance, ingenuity, and triumph.
Listening to these women share their defining life moments, which spanned college funding hardships and foreign language barriers to cold-calling terrors and leadership stumbles, I was reminded of some of my own pivotal moments.
My First ‘Aha’ Moment
My first ‘aha’ moment happened with I was about fourteen. It was Christmastime and I’d spent the day helping my church group pack winter clothing and non-perishable food for needy families in the area. It was hard work loading what seemed like an endless parade of boxes with two cans of cranberry source, one box of stuffing, 5-pound bags of yams, one tin of gingerbread cookies, and a litany of other holiday treats.
After the last box was filled, I felt good about my efforts. I even started imagining the look of surprise and happiness on peoples’ faces as they were handed one of the boxes I’d help assemble. Who knew, maybe the box I’d packed with extra candy canes would make its way to a family with several young children.
At home later that evening, elbow deep in soapy water and dirty dishes, I heard a knock at the door. Moments later, my younger sister and brother started yelling that someone had left a big box at our door full of food. I froze. It felt like I’d been kicked in the gut. I was so embarrassed; I knew my family was poor, but not that we were considered needy!
Eight Years Later
Here I was, now 22, sitting on the narrow staircase outside my small one-bedroom apartment trying to process the implications of a slightly crumpled letter hanging from my hand, which I’d just re-read for the third time. Try as I might, the words seemed to echo around my brain without end:
- Airman, the USAF medical evaluation board has determined that the injury sustained while on Active Duty has left you unfit for continued service… Your release date is scheduled for…. Furthermore, the board has determined that your injury meets the criteria for lifetime disability.
What the F?! This was certainly not the way I’d envisioned my military career ending when I’d enlisted two months after 9/11 – a decision fueled equally by patriotism and the need for college funding. My mind raced with impossible questions: Now what? Would they let me keep my GI Bill? What the heck does lifetime disability mean?
I wanted to crawl back into my apartment and never come out. But, instead, I decided to put myself through a grueling gym workout I’d dubbed power girl – because it never failed to make me feel strong and empowered once I’d completed it. Somewhere in the middle of my third set, when every fiber of my body screamed for me to stop, the mental panic started to subside.
I was nowhere closer to answering those questions about how to move forward with my life, but I knew that I could once again harness my insatiable drive to overcome the odds and build a better life. That I would overcome my “disability” and continue to thrive.
Another ‘Aha’ Moment
Fast forward another 12 years (past countless hours of rehabilitation, GI Bill sponsored college, MBA graduation, several great jobs, marriage, one child, and a career transition to consulting) to another ‘aha’ moment.
I was in the market for a new job, and, as a seasoned professional, I was looking for my “dream company.” You know the company I’m talking about – the one that you’re passionate about, that’s unconventional, fun, values hard work, is committed to the community, and strives to promote a work-life balance that make us better professionals and people.
Urban myth, right? I thought so too until I spoke with a national recruiter for Centric. Ten minutes into our conversation I was sure that she was either reading my mind or reading off of a millennial’s dream job checklist:
- Cool, challenging projects (check!)
- Promotes loyalty through hire-to-retire retention practices (check!)
- Rewards hard work and collaboration (check!)
- Heavy focus on community involvement (check!)
- Fosters work-life balance through self-managed, paid time off (double check!!)
- Offers an annual company-paid vacation for you and a guest (say what?!)
It was uncanny. Could it possibly all be true? My inner skeptic was screaming: NO! But I decided I had nothing to lose by continuing the interviewing process. And so, here we are.
You’re probably wondering: Was Centric able to live up to the hype? The simple answer is yes. Is it perfect? No. Companies, like people, have flaws – tiny or not-so-tiny imperfections, which cause frustration at times. Where Centric distinguishes itself from other companies I’ve worked for is the focus on creating unmatched experiences for employees and clients alike. And isn’t that something we all strive for? A life filled with unmatched and exceptional experiences.
‘Aha’ Moment Number Three
Dream companies and jobs, while probably never perfect, do exist.
As you’ve seen from my life, ‘aha’ moments, come in all shapes and sizes: from gut-wrenching realizations to quiet moments when you realize that you don’t have all the answers, but decide to press on anyway. Collectively, these moments define us, for good or bad.
As for me, I wouldn’t trade a single one.