A Defining Moment

 Rewind my life five years. Rewind anyone's life five years.  So many variations of how we all got from there to here, but we’d all likely say the same thing about every outcome. Life sure is different. 

Rewind five years and I remember like it was yesterday – I was new to the wonderfully always-bustling Des Moines, I had a new job that had gracefully thrust me out into the community, and I was happily meeting friends and business acquaintances that would one day become confidants and mentors.  There was rarely a networking event I wasn't at, there was rarely a committee I wasn't on. I dove into most anything I could, not sure where it was going to take me or what I was going come out of it learning, but I didn't mind.  Because I was a networker, the classic definition of “networker” in fact, according to Oxford Dictionary: a person who interacts or exchanges information with others in a similar field, especially to further their career.


There was no night I wasn't busy with events or committees. I had work events, YP events, chamber events, coffee meetings, happy hours, Friday nights out with friends, date nights, workout classes, volunteer hours, out-of-town trips to see my family, MORE work events, MORE networking events, MORE coffee meetings, MORE happy hours, MORE volunteer hours, and it went on from there.  Again, there was no night that I wasn't busy, and I LOVED IT.  I may have been scattered, I may have been exhausted and I may have been growing less passionate about my once loved organizations, but it was okay.  I was busy and I was needed, so I was a success.

Now, fast forward five years.  I’ve grown to call the always-bustling Des Moines “home”, I have a job that still gracefully thrusts me out into the community and I find myself meeting new people every day even after a full five years of trusted confidants and mentors.  I’m still busy and I still consider myself a networker... I’m still a part of committees, I still love attending networking events, I volunteer, I have happy hours and coffee meetings, and my passion for our amazing community is stronger than ever.


But, there is one major occurrence that shifted who I was then versus who I am now.  On January 25th, 2014 at approximately 10:30pm I got a call from my sister, telling me that dad had been in a serious car accident.  Most of us have had a moment in life we can look back to, saying that very second was where it all changed and we’re grateful we survived (and we’re stronger because of).  That call was my moment.  He's okay now, we all made it through the rollercoaster of that year, but as I look back on my life five years ago I am acutely aware that why I am different now is largely due to that moment in my life. 


It's a lesson that most of us learn as we get older, that we need to live in the present and consciously decrease the number of days we juggle too many things at one time... That multi-tasking without limitations involves much more risk than it does reward.  However, had I not been ripped from my skewed perception of "the busier one is, the better" as suddenly and alarmingly as I was, I'm not sure I would learned this lesson when I did.

To be more focused and present makes my life fuller and more meaningful, molding me into a more of a networker than I ever once considered myself to be.  I will always love being on committees, attending chamber meetings, supporting the community through events and volunteering, and meeting my friends, confidants and mentors for coffee and/or happy hours.  However, I will take on the role differently now.  I will continue to be a part of what makes me happy, more successful, and passionate; just more slowly with more intent and clarity.     


On January 25 of 2014, when I watched my dad struggle physically and mentally with what had just occurred, I promised him there was a silver lining.  I promised him that there was a lesson we would learn.  And this blog today is proof of that silver lining and lesson learned.  I continue to make it my commitment to not only make the most out of any networking I do or group I belong to moving forward, but to also live in the present and appreciate what we have in this very moment of our lives. 


Five years ago I would have thought that meant failure and to go any less than 100mph meant I wasn’t busy or needed.  Now, I’m thankfully aware that, even when it’s not easy to do, to slow down does not mean failure. It means being truly being that classic definition of a networker: meaningfully interacting or exchanging information with others, not only to further my career but my life.


Rewind my life five years and I can confidently say things are different.  But, they’re different in the best way possible.  Because as Rowena Crosbie, leadership expert, stated in a recent Business Record Daily, “The research is clear. Our brains are designed for focus and it is when we concentrate that we are at our productive and inventive best. Scattered attention guarantees we do neither task well and research reveals that the stress hormone, cortisol, is released into the system. Far from a time-saving approach, multitasking is a time waster and a stress inducer.” 


More about Leslie


Leslie Jasper is an advertising sales professional with Business Publications Corporation, Central Iowa's largest publisher of niche products including Business Record and dsm magazine.  She is on the Board of Directors for the Des Moines Downtown Chamber and volunteers for community organizations, including Community Youth Concepts and Animal Rescue League. She graduated from The University of Iowa, moved to Minneapolis for almost 10 years and now is happy to call Des Moines her long-term home.  She resides downtown and enjoys spending time outdoors with her dog and family.