TED Conversations

L. Denise Jackson

Founder & CEO,

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What is the most defining moment in your life and how did it change your view of your past and your future?

Defining moments in your life shape your mindset, planned path, and actual thought process to reach more than a satisfactory level of your emotional accomplishment and self-pride but the level that we strive for and at the same time don't often believe that we will reach. One of my defining moments was death and I thought about my life, what I have done and what I need to do to make my dreams come true and live the life I know that I am fully capable to live.

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    Apr 14 2012: I was in a serious car accident when I was 17.

    It effectively ended a period in my life when I was doing all the wrong things, making all the wrong decisions, failing badly at growing up. I knew it, but felt doomed to riding it out until I "grew up".
    The car accident brought my life to a screeching halt (no pun intended) and during the period of my recovery I discovered poetry again (when I was very young I had a fascination with poetry in a "Hallmark Card" kind of way). Music also re-entered my life and helped me to recover.

    I wasn't "perfect" after the accident, but it caused me to strike out in a new direction that was truer to myself than the person I was before the accident.
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      Apr 14 2012: How very nice to see you again Jim....it's been a while since we have been in the same conversation.

      I enjoyed reading your experience. Poetry and music are so very personal and have such therapeutic effects.

      There are two conversations on TED right now about poetry and music.

      The music one is from Edward Long....he has a 6 min. video to watch, and then you can comment...it is phenomenal.

      The poetry one, a TEDster is inviting us to contribute some free verse....maybe you can provide one?

      Have a great weekend Jim...again, nice to hear from you.
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    Apr 5 2012: For me it was the 26th of October 1996.I was 16 years old and I was engaged in a progressive conversation that seemed to enlighten me to the extensive privilege and opportunity that was my life. From that day forward I have had sincere belief that we all have the potential to affect change, and accomplish anything we set our minds to.

    it was my vision to create or assist in the creation of a closed loop resource management system.I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. But that didn't matter. What was important then remains important today. Unless everybody on earth just gives up, eventually, our civilization will reach a symbiotic balance with nature.

    Since that day as a teenager, I don't think a single day has past where I haven't thought about that.
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      Apr 14 2012: Great John! It is really cool when you realize something at a young age and it continues to define and shape as well as direct you! Love it!
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    Mar 27 2012: My defining moment was when I realized, after watching Dr. Wayne Deyer on a PBS special, that happiness is a state of being. We can CHOOSE to be happy......what a tremendous paradigm shift I underwent....I am a different person.

    Also, another defining moment was the realization that I cannot ever control others, I can only control my self. This freed me from judging others, and also from getting upset at others actions......now I know everyone has a right to do as they please.......and I don't have to be bothered. That was liberating for me!
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      Apr 1 2012: Hi Mary,
      It was Wayne Deyer who first introduced me to the idea of choices 30+ years ago with his book "Pulling Your Own Strings". I was feeling very disempowered, physically and emotionaly spent. I felt emotionally disempowered because my marriage of 10 years was not good. I felt physically disempowered because I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease in the spine, which is generally, a progressively disabling condition, and I was in a great deal of pain.

      A very good friend, who was a psychologist (she died of cancer years ago) gave me Wayne Deyer's book, and it opened new doors for me, which started the process of self empowerment. We CAN choose to be happy/content regardless of the circumstances of our life, and it is true...we cannot control others. Trying to control others is one major struggle people create for themselves. I absolutely agree that to be free of judging others is incredibly liberating...freeing:>)
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        Apr 1 2012: Good Morning Colleen!!

        How very interesting that Wayne Deyer's book helped you. He has a great gift, and he shares it with others.

        I think that the feeling of being disempowered can lead down two roads...one is acquiescing, the other is fighting your way out of that position...I think we both chose the right road....thanks to various outside forces.

        It is no wonder that we both see certain things the same way.....suffering can empower us to then help others.

        What a wonderful way to start the day. Have a great Sunday Colleen.
        BTW, have you seen all the quotes.....Wayne should write a book....what do you think?

        Mary
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          Apr 3 2012: Hi Mary,
          I agree, Wayne Deyer shares many good ideas with us:>)

          I also agree that experiences that may seem disempowering can indeed lead us down a different path. I don't agree with "fighting" however. I saw way too much of that with my father's behavior and at some point in my childhood, I decided that fighting anyone or anything was something I was not willing to do. Perhaps that was another defining moment in my life that changed the path of my future:>)

          "Fighting" to me suggests struggle or resistance, and that has not been the way in which I have traveled through challenges. I like to use one of the core concepts of Martial Arts...come from the core with strength and yield:>)

          I also have never accepted "suffering" as a way to help myself or others. The life experience for me certainly includes emotional and physical pain at times, and to me, suffering evolves when we hold onto the pain, which I choose not to do.

          My choice, is the path which takes me down the road to exploration, discovery, learning and growth. That seems to be your path as well Mary, and perhaps we are simply using different terminology?

          "How beautiful a day can be when kindness touches it"
          Have a wonderful day Mary:>)
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        Apr 3 2012: Thanks for the reply Colleen....you are very insightful....."fighting and suffering" were used figuratively in my comment, as you very well allude to in the end of your statement.

        Yes, we are down the same road of learning and growth.......My road is very cramped, like Jesus said, but I have the utmost respect for you and your wonderful insights on many of the topics here on TED.

        Have a beautiful day Colleen.....you have touched my day with kindness....may you have it ten-fold.

        Mary :)
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      Apr 14 2012: Mary this is so true! We do choose. We often wait for things to happen to us or to affect us so that we can change but it is so much simpler than that. All we have to do is wake up and change. Change before we go to sleep. It is all about making a decision.
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        Apr 14 2012: Yes, definitely. Until that defining moment I had not realized the choice was MINE!!!!


        Some people just don't know that regardless of whether we realize it or not, we all make a choice....sometimes the choice we make is to do nothing.....be a victim.....live in the past.....

        Thank you kindly for replying to my comment.

        Have a great weekend. Great conversation topic.
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    Mar 26 2012: The defining moment for me was the failure of my mortgage firm in 1999. The lesson learned is that "failure is an event", It is NOT a person. My father was keenly aware of this loss and he was the one that motivated me to stand back up and dust off my pants and get back on living.
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      Apr 14 2012: Bryant I had one of these moments too! I am young, Black, female, and made more money then my parents ever did and I felt like a failure when my contracts dried up. I called one of my industry mentors and he said very matter of factly "So go get a job." Now I thought, "is this man crazy, I can't do that after I became a business owner" and I asked, how can I do that when I own a business. I cannot fail, I just cannot fail. He said "Denise, it is called survival and we all do it when the market downturns and when it comes back, we open up the doors again. We don't get rid of the business, we just "go on vacation" for a while." It was so easy but I didn't realize it at the time and the failure stigma was not as bad as I thought. Bryant the funny thing is, I did get back to living and my professional life and salary never suffered.
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        Apr 14 2012: Great experience L. Denise.

        Here is a quote for you:

        While you many not be able to do anything about your circumstances, you can certainly do something about your attitude......it is so nice to know that women of all cultures and backgrounds and ages here on TED have a powerful voice, and despite setbacks, continue to be good role models and leaders.
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    Mar 26 2012: Most defining ideas of life come only when you realize you are mortal. when people who shared laughs, memories and pains with us, leave us alone, its only when we are forced to find the real meaning of our living.

    I had one near death experience and it was just a very closed escape, I realized only one thing for sure, it doesn't matter how "I" lived, the thing matters, did my being alive status brought something good in this world?
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    Apr 16 2012: Thank you Colleen!
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      Apr 25 2012: My pleasure Denise...thanks for the opportunity:>)
  • Apr 10 2012: To become a father. And now I will share a future even after I have passed away. This is the most defining moment of my life and even though I still do the same tasks and hobbies as before there is an underlying happiness in all my being and all that I do. Sure, my kid will grow up and move away but whatever I do I always consider the impact for my kid.
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      Apr 14 2012: Congratulations Bengt! You are so right. Everything you do impacts and shapes him!
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    Apr 1 2012: I found it interesting that Ms. Jackson, Mr. Trevedi and myself are drawn to this question by death experiences. I dropped dead from triple pneumonia (in an emergency room at U.C.S.D.) and was held in a coma on life support for two weeks in June of 2005. When I woke, I began a new life with a very different perspective. I fully agree with Mr. Trevedi's perspective of "doesn't matter how "I" lived, the thing (that) matters, did my being alive status brought (bring) something good into this world? Additionally I would add, I have described this second awakening as "Double Jeopardy" or more correctly: "Squared Jeopardy". Things seem to be multiple factors more, 1) Challenges are more important, 2) Difficulties are harder to overcome, and 3) Wins and good relationships are much more fulfilling. - I would be very interested in hearing more details of the effects of death experiences from anyone.

    Good question Ms. Jackson.

    Warmest regards,

    Gerald
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      Apr 14 2012: Gerald, thank you for sharing. "Bringing something good into this world" is one of the keys that we should do anyway and we don't really know the real impacts of that and the virality of one good thing.

      Thank you!
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        Apr 16 2012: Denise,
        In general, I agree...we often don't know the impacts of our words and actions. However, I had another "defining moment" that gave me important information:>)

        I've written about this before on TED, and I think it's worth repeating...it was a good lesson for me:>)
        After regaining consciousness from a near fatal head/brain injury 22 years ago, I recieved many cards, notes, letters and good wishes. Many times, they started out by saying...
        "you probably don't remember me, but 5 years ago you said something to me, or 10 years ago you did something for me...that changed my life". I wasn't doing anything special...simply being kind, which I do for my own pleasure, as much as for anyone else:>)

        At that time, I became more aware of how important every moment is, and how I live the life adventure in each moment. The past is gone by, the future is not yet a reality, this moment is the only reality, and the most important moment.:>)
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    Apr 14 2012: I completely agree - Be a good example - it can be contagious!
  • Apr 14 2012: The insight I got at TOFUKUJI changed my world upside down. Amazing!!!
  • Apr 12 2012: When I turned seventeen, my fastball turned 21. It was a day in the summer and after both my father and I had returned home after a long day's work. I had to beg him to play some catch, a regular tradition for us since childhood. After fifteen minutes, I had thought he was just fatigued; he strolled toward me, smiled a bit, and said, "Son, you are just too fast for me now. Let's stop for a while." That began a rain delay that lasted the rest of his life. I never truly realized what I lost that day. At age 60, I do now.
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      Apr 5 2012: Claude, I really enjoyed reading this story.

      Thank you for the entry. I am a bit confused though....was this YOUR experience, or someone else's?

      Loved the picture of the guy taking the plunge......

      And yes, paradigm shifts are so very noteworthy in our lives......I often think of them like shifting gears in a car.

      If I wrote a book about how my thinking has been transformed throughout my life, I would call it....
      "The many gears of my paradigm shift".....What do you think of the play-on-words?

      Thanks again for the wonderful story filled with vivid verbs and giving us a glimpse into a person's mind.
      • Apr 6 2012: Hi Mary,

        Thanks for your kind words. Yes, it is indeed my own experience.

        I think the gear metaphor is sensible. We usually change gears in order to make the car run more efficiently and effectively. In order for us to become more effective in life, we learn and update our worldview. However, I think of a paradigm shift as something even more profound. It is a change in worldview, which essentially changes a person.
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    Apr 1 2012: Hi Denise,
    I've had many defining moments in the life adventure. I like living in the moment, so all moments are defining:>) You're looking for those defining moments that help shape our mindset, planned path, thought process to reach a more satisfactory level of our emotional accomplishments....etc.

    The MOST defining moment for me, was facing death, so it looks like I'm in good company on this comment thread:>)

    A near fatal head/brain injury 22 years ago was an event that definitely shaped my life path. The facts that my mother and father died around the same time, I was ending 24 years of marriage, and diagnosed with cancer were added "courses" with this life lesson!!!

    I had been diagnosed with degenerative disc dis-ease 10 years prior, told I would never function "normally" again, and I faced that challenge, proving the medical professionals inaccurate regarding how I would function. By the time of the head/brain injury, death of my parents, ending of marriage and cancer, I was functioning at a relatively high level, both physically and emotionally.

    When I regained consciousness (which was not expected) after the injury, emergency craniotomy and two weeks on life support systems, my family and I were told that I would not function "normally" again. OH crap!!! Here we go again!!! LOL:>)

    Yes, I can laugh about it now, and the situation definitely threw me a curve ball!!! I was in a whirlwind of emotional and physical challenges. Thankfully, by that time, I had learned how to make choices about how I would live my life, and I decided I would NOT let the circumstances keep me "down" too long:>)

    I faced the challenge with compassion, empathy, patience and unconditional love for myself, along with the wonderful, amazing, incredible support and love of my family and friends:>) The near death experience, life review, healing, learning, and growth didn't actually change the direction of my life....it intensified and validated how I was already living my life:>)
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      Apr 14 2012: Colleen first, I would like to appreciate that you are still here for us to be able to experience you and what you bring to this forum and others you meet in your life.

      Your story is so true. You live with more direct purpose and intention because you know that you being here can end at anytime and it not some faraway notion that you might escape until you are ready.

      Excellent words Colleen. Thank you for sharing!
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        Apr 25 2012: Thanks Denise.
        I appreciate that I'm still here as well:>) Thanks also for the feedback, which I appreciate very much.

        Yes, I know that my being here can end at any time, and I want to make the best of every single moment in this earth school:>)

        As we've heard from a couple other people on this site and on various other TED sites, the thought of, or experience in facing the possibility of death often brings us closer to life, if we use it for an opportunity to learn and grow.

        I spoke about my NDE/OBE experience in a Sociology class at the Univ. for years. I went into the class a couple times during the semester to speak to the whole class, and also facilitated smaller discussion groups.

        One semester, I decided to attend the entire class, and it was very interesting to learn more about the dying process, and also to observe the other students. The professor was GREAT, while presenting accepted sociological/philosophical theories, the works of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, who she had personally worked with, and "Dying, Death & Bereavement", by Michael R. Leming & George E. Dickinson. We also had a very mind and heart opening workbook..."Life Before Death" by Jim Boulden - available on line.

        Although I had my own experience facing death, helped care for friends and relatives who were dying, and later volunteered in a terminal care facility, where we saw death regularly, the class offered some different perspectives.

        You're right Denise...none of us escapes death, so we might as well accept it. Part of acceptance, in my humble perception, is learning as much as we can about it:>)