Have you ever had one of those moments in your life that if you blinked you may have missed it…but….it had a big impact on you either in that instance or in the grand scheme of life. As it turns out – I would argue that what is most meaningful to us are those moments in between that are special, sacred, and that have shaped our lives. Often times as leaders and in life, we believe that we need the BIG moments and that those will be the most memorable. I can say with certainty – all the times I have dreamed of…or have experienced big moments – they did not have the delight or impact that I thought that they would. It is the moments in between that I remember with great fondness and reflect on what that moment meant to me…what I learned….what it did to shape the course of my destiny. I want to share one such story with you this week…..
I graduated from Queen Elizabeth High School in the spring of 1986 and I was filled with excitement and hope about entering Acadia University that fall to pursue a degree in Biology so that I could ultimately become a veterinarian. I had thought long and hard about my choice of university and in the end – Acadia had won out over McGill University in Montreal and University of PEI. Acadia had won my heart and mind throughout my time in high school since that is where I went for a couple of weeks each summer for Choir Camps. I was familiar with the campus, the town and it just felt right. In hind sight – it was interesting that I let my emotion drive me there because UPEI had the superior veterinarian program. I had rationalized it that I could do my undergrad anywhere and then do my specialization at UPEI.
So…full of energy…excitement and passion…I arrived at Acadia for my freshman (FROSH) week. I didn’t really know anyone who was going to Acadia so during that first “hazing” week – I made fast friends with my roommate and the girls on the floor of my dorm. The first week was filled with crazy activities and initiation rituals that kept us going night and day. Me…being me…I threw myself into it and made the most of the experience. As a result….by the end of that first week I had lost my voice from too many late nights…shouting and carrying on.
Now…it is in that first week that you find yourself in the gymnasium walking from table to table signing up for your courses and meeting the professors. I had already poured over the syllabus over the summer and I had taken the task of choosing the courses very seriously. Most of my course load consisted of science credits so I actually had very little choice in what I could take. I was required to do Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Math and an Arts elective. When it came to Math – there were actually a few first year courses listed for me to consider. The one that really caught my eye was one titled “Applied Mathematics”. I had always loved math and I had done a lot of calculus, stats, geometry etc. This course caught my attention because it talked about applying mathematics to things like how bridges were built. I thought that sounded really cool and would step up my math game to something more meaningful versus the standard first level course which looked rather dull.
So…here I stood at the Applied Mathematics table with my form in hand to get it signed by the professor. He took one look at me and at my course selection and he said….you can’t do this course….you want the first year calculus math. Anyone who knows me at all knows that…telling me I can’t do something is like waving a red cape in front of a bull….game on! The only sticking point was I had absolutely no voice to argue my point. I did my best in my cracking, hoarse voice to say that if it counted as a credit this was the one I wanted. He tried to explain to me that the course was not for regular science students and that it was for engineering students…I would find it too hard and would flunk out by the mid-term. Once again….don’t tell ME I can’t do something…I would prove him wrong and would do well. He was clearly frustrated with me – not only because I was NOT listening to him but that it was no point arguing with someone who had no voice. Exasperated he begrudgingly signed the paper and he said he would see me the following week.
For what it’s worth…the math was really hard but I loved it. I worked at it and got to know a lot of the guys in my class. As the mid-term results were handed around the room Professor McNutt, who had a slight build resembling an elf with a long Santa Claus beard and wearing Birkenstocks, asked me to stay after class. As I looked down at my paper with 90% circled in a red pen….I felt that it was a respectable mark…why on earth would I need to stay after class? As I approached his desk after everyone had left he said…”I owe you an apology Ms Batstone (yep…my maiden name was Batstone…I clearly traded up), I tried to talk you out of taking the course since you were not enrolled in the engineering program, and not only did you pass this exam but you got one of the highest marks in the class. There are full time engineering students who did not do near as well as you. As a result – you and I are going to take a walk over to the registrar’s office and I am going to assist you in switching over to the engineering program. I don’t think you are enjoying biology as much as you are enjoying the engineering course and it’s time to make the change.”
He was right….I loved the class and I loved the people in the course and I was struggling to connect with Biology in the same way. So….we made our way across campus…I switch majors…and the rest is history. What is also funny about it…was that I went from just taking the one course as an interesting alternative to the main stream math to the first female president of the engineering program at Acadia. It was that small choice…that moment in between…which started me on the path I am on and ultimately led me to meet my husband.
The moments in between not only have large impacts but also reinforces that “who we are at all times matters”. In some cases it is the moments WE experience but in other cases (as leaders) it is the moments we impart on others.
Leadership questions of the week for YOU: “Can you think of a small moment in your life that equated into a big impact?” “As you connect the dots from that experience – what are the 3 things that you learned from it or that you know about yourself in hindsight?” “Can you think of any moments in between recently that you are surprised that stuck with you versus some of the bigger moments that are not as clear?” “What can we do as leaders to be more mindful of the moments in between with others (as opposed to just paying attention to the ones that impact us)?”
Thanks for reading….and remember…YOU make a difference!
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