When you look back and reflect on your life, are there moments that stand out? Either curveballs you were thrown, detours you weren’t expecting, or experiences that just changed your trajectory?
While many of us may wish life followed a perfect, linear path, often that’s not the case. And it can be those detours that shape who we become and the path we find ourselves on.
I’ve had my share of life-altering moments, and I thought I would share them in today’s post. Hopefully, by sharing these stories, I’m able to convey some of the best lessons I’ve learned, and give you some insight that you can apply to your life.
(Also, I’d LOVE to hear your life-changing moments! Please share in the Comments section below.)
#1. Getting 70s in University.
From elementary school and through high school, I was always an A-student. I enjoyed learning, and didn’t find the curriculum to be terribly challenging. While I wasn’t great at math or science, I was able to choose many of my courses in high school which helped me excel further.
Enter: first year University.
I went from being a 95-average high school student to an “average”, 70-something average Commerce student. All of a sudden, I didn’t feel so special anymore. My business school was filled with other 95-average high school graduates, and among them, my grades were nothing special.
The material moved at an incredibly rapid pace, and at times I struggled to keep up. Concepts took a bit longer to grasp, and I found myself questioning my identity. I thought I was smart! School was never a struggle. My intelligence used to make me feel special. How could I now be struggling in my finance classes? Why was I getting such a low average? What was wrong with me? And who was I, if not a smart, competent person?
This experience taught me a few things.
First, that I’m not defined by my grades. What makes me unique are the values I hold, the actions I take, and how I treat people. It’s about my character – not a mark on a page.
Second, that your environment shapes your circumstances. At high school, my marks were quite a bit higher than average, but put me in a top business school and my marks will be more average. It doesn’t diminish my academic abilities – it just shows that the absolute numbers will be shaped by the pool they are viewed in.
And third, that 70s are ok. As I entered third and fourth year of university and could choose the courses that applied to my areas of interest (and ultimately, career aspirations!) my marks improved. And even then, they really didn’t play a big role in my success after university. Yes, some prospective employers requested a transcript. But I still had 3 jobs to choose from in fourth year, and was able to work at my top choice company.
#2. Losing my first job.
This was a huge one, and I actually filmed a whole video about it a few years ago.
Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I started my career in a really promising role at a large, national company. It impacted where I chose to live, made me buy a car, and I was so excited to join the work force.
Unfortunately, it was a restaurant company, and the year was 2008. As you might have guessed, they experienced some financial setbacks due to the recession, and it meant that most of the new hires were shown the door. No more than 5 months after starting my “promising” career, I was unemployed.
One of the worst parts was, I felt like I was in no man’s land: I wasn’t a university student with the support of a career centre and companies coming to recruit on campus. Yet, I also didn’t have enough work experience to really go for jobs for experienced professionals.
I felt trapped, alone, and very scared. I had moved to Toronto for this job, and I had bills to pay.
Thankfully, after about 6 months of looking, I landed an incredible job in brand management (more on that next).
Losing my job taught me a few things.
First, to always be grateful to have a job. After that experience and landing somewhere new, I don’t think a month went by without me feeling deep gratitude to be employed. It made me realize that layoffs and restructuring can impact people no matter their work ethic or job performance. Having gratitude for my jobs made the bad days more manageable and put everything in perspective.
Second, to leverage the power of networking. Through connections and not being shy to reach out, I was able to connect with a career counsellor, have informational interviews with other people in my industry, and open doors to potential jobs. It would have been easy to curl under the covers and avoid seeing people, but I forced myself to pound the pavement and get out. This also made a huge impact on my mood and confidence.
Third, to see the potential. The role I landed after the layoff was incredible, and I worked at that company for close to 4 years. That company didn’t recruit from my university the year I graduated, so I wouldn’t have been able to be hired from them in fourth year anyways. It ended up being somewhat serendipitous.
#3. Working in Brand Management.
In case you’re not familiar with brand management, it’s so much more than marketing. Instead of only managing the promotional or communication aspects of how a brand shows up, you’re acting like the CEO of your brand, responsible for everything from strategic planning to innovation to pricing and everything in between.
What I didn’t realize at the time, was how brand management was setting me up to be an entrepreneur. It gave me exposure to the various elements involved in running a business, and also imbued in me the confidence that I could wear the multiple hats and demonstrate that versatility.
Without that experience, I don’t think I would have had the ability to seamlessly start my side hustles or grow them. And I’m very grateful for that.
#4. Speaking to a group of students about my career path.
When I was a few years into my career, a professor from my former university asked me to speak to his Marketing Strategy class about my career. I touched on things like being laid off and how I managed that season of life, as well as giving them an inside look into what brand management was all about and some of the projects I worked on.
I wasn’t expecting the talk to make a big impact on me or the students, but boy, was I wrong.
The students were so engaged in the presentation, and asked a ton of insightful and thoughtful questions. I ended up staying over time answering their questions and speaking to the students one on one. It was so incredibly rewarding to feel like I was able to give them insight into a career path, and I felt honoured to be able to speak to them.
As I was able to leave, I saw a piece of folded paper with my name on it sitting on the podium. It was an anonymous letter from a student, thanking me for my presentation and saying that they believed that in some way, I had helped shape their path. It was so touching, and I’ve held onto that paper to this day, years later.
This experience reinforced that to the right audience, I have something important to share. And that being vulnerable and open (like I was about my lay off experience) can breed connection. The experience made me want to do more speaking, and it ultimately led to me starting my YouTube channel.
#5. My grandfather passing away.
As I shared in my entrepreneurial story post, another big turning point in my life was the passing of my grandfather.
He passed away in June 2016, and the experience led to a lot of reflection. I reflected on the importance of making time count. On the entrepreneur that he was, starting from extremely humble beginnings and working incredibly hard to grow a business from scratch and provide for his family. On how fulfillment, while at times risky, is something we should never stop pursuing.
At the time, I was blogging and running my Etsy shop, but still working full time in the corporate world. I felt a lot of tension between following the “traditional” career path I was on and pursuing my dreams of being an entrepreneur. I went back and forth, and struggled to make a decision.
By the Holidays, this inner tension had reached a breaking point. I knew in my heart that I wanted to really give both of my side hustles a shot. And that I wouldn’t be able to do so without giving them substantially more time and attention.
So only 7 short months after his passing, I quit my corporate job to pursue self-employment full time.
The last 2 years have been quite a journey, and there are plenty of days where I worry I made the wrong choice or long for some of the highlights of corporate life, like the friendships and stability. But I always remember the courage it took to believe in myself and give my dreams a shot. And whatever happens, whether I choose to return to corporate life or keep on my entrepreneurial path, I’ll be proud of the decisions I made. And I think my grandfather would be proud too.
As time marches on, I’m sure there will be many more life-changing moments that shape my path, my journey, and the person I’m becoming. Finding out I was pregnant this summer was another big one, and I can’t wait to be a mom and start that new chapter.
Writing this post brought to light how important it is to look back and the moments that shape us and how far we’ve come. I would absolutely LOVE to hear from you – what moments shaped you? What experiences stand out in your mind? And why did they make you who you are today? Let me know in the Comments section below.