While Jay Smith, retired president of Cox Newspapers, Inc., was in his early twenties working as a reporter for the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News, he drove 50 miles south to his hometown of Cincinnati one weekend to visit his family. His trip home took a turn for the worse when he heard the devastating news that his father had been diagnosed with terminal malignant lung cancer.
Had Jennifer Johnson not spotted an advertisement seeking restaurant franchisees while sitting in a café with her weekly book club in the early 2000s, Atlanta may be missing out on two delicious dining establishments: West Egg Café and The General Muir. A six-year associate at King & Spalding law firm at the time, Jennifer had always dreamed of working in the hospitality industry. Seeing the flyer in the window reignited that flame of passion and ultimately propelled her to make a dramatic career transition.
“I started to think back to the dreams I had and the things that really fueled me creatively when I was younger,” Jennifer recalled in our accompanying HD Moments video.
When David Geller went through a divorce from his first wife in 2004, he found himself in the middle of a difficult life transition, worried about what his clients and colleagues would think of him. So he did what he always does when he feels stuck—he began to read.
After cracking open a book about the Positive Psychology Movement, he stumbled across an interesting fact about people who hit the threshold of $75,000 of income: As they get richer beyond that point they don’t necessarily get happier. Confused by the lack of correlation between wealth and happiness, David made it his mission to bridge the gap.
“I remember feeling like I was punched in the stomach,” David recalled of when he read that fact about happiness and wealth, as seen in our accompanying HD Moments video. “That Moment was really the beginning of a process that really transformed my firm.”
During late summer four years ago in the depths of the Great Recession, Cynthia Jones Parks was experiencing a significant drop in her business, Jones Worley Communications. She had prayed for months for God’s blessings and direction, but the downward spiral continued. However, that summer evening, she woke up in the middle of the night and sat straight up in bed when God’s voice whispered into her spirit: “I’ve already blessed you, go do something with it,” He said.
“We didn’t have very much business – many of our contracts had been cancelled or were on hold, waiting funding. I didn’t know what we were going to do,” she recalled in the filming of our accompanying HD Moments video.
For most budding professionals trying to make their mark in any given industry, the word “peanuts” represents the measly amount of money they make when they begin working their first entry-level job. For Lee Katz, however, peanuts represent far more than a starting salary. They represent the Moment that ignited his interest in deal making and the Moment he began learning valuable skills that he carries into his current role as the chairman of GGG Partners, one of the leading turnaround firms in the country. Just like all of us, he had to start with peanuts (in his case literally) to get to where he is today.
In 1964, when Lee was 13 years old, he began selling peanuts to sports fans at Georgia Tech’s Grant Field. For every bag he sold for ten cents, he earned a penny in commission. As an added incentive, the seller who sold the most bags during the day received a $20 bonus. Watch our accompanying HD Moments video.
On October 21, 1989, Keegan Federal received a call from Northside Hospital that would change not only his entire family’s life, but would ultimately lead him to add a new specialty to his law practice. His sixteen-year-old daughter, Megan, was in the emergency room, in a coma, with a severe brain injury she had sustained in a car accident. The doctor told him that the prognosis was grim.
After three days in the hospital, the doctors began to think she might survive, but told her father there was a 95% probability she would be in a “persistent vegetative state” for the remainder of her life.
Brandi Helvey was rushing around her house on Christmas Eve 2010, getting her family ready to go on a trip when tragedy struck – permanently altering not only the upcoming holidays, but the lives of her son, her husband Mike and herself.
While other family members were out shopping and preparing for the holiday trip, Brandi was preparing to move a load of laundry from the upstairs washing machine to the dryer while her three-year-old son Jacob was in the living room playing with his toy cars and watching his favorite TV show. The Helvey family lives in a multi-story home built into a hill in the Forsyth County community of Cumming. One of the home’s amenities is a home elevator.
“In a matter of five minutes, as I’m upstairs, he decides to call the elevator cause he wants to come see me.,” Brandi recalls in our HD Moments video. “He’s like ‘Mommy, mommy, I want to come see you.’ And I said, ‘Just a second, I’ll be right down.’ The elevator was on for a second and then there was silence. So, at that point I come running down the stairs. I’m tugging and I’m pulling on the elevator door.”
Alwyn Fredericks had his Moment a few months ago on a night that at first seemed much like any other. Then it got a bit more serious. After drifting off to sleep for a few hours, Alwyn woke up abruptly at 4 a.m. feeling tightness in his chest. His wife and children were all in a deep sleep.
Following the protocol he followed for a decade as a successful personal injury law partner, Alwyn resumed his familiar role of investigating pain and injury – though this time, he was researching on his own behalf. He walked over to the computer and Googled the symptoms he was experiencing.
“It said if you’re on the computer researching chest achiness and tightness, you need to get up and go to the hospital,” he recalled in our accompanying HD Moments video.
George McKerrow, co-founder of Ted’s Montana Grill, had a Y2K self-discovery Moment 19,365 feet above sea level that transformed his life, lifting him to both business success and personal fulfillment.
As a restaurant executive with RARE Hospitality, George was immersed in corporate success, developing beneficial Wall Street connections and helping build the publicly traded company. Near the end of 1999, as the world was bracing for projected computer breakdowns on “Y2K” — January 1, 2000 — George and his wife, Ginair, decided to escape the madness and take a trip to the remote east African country of Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Looking out on the mountains and valleys below, George began to reflect upon his career and his early business challenges and successes with his entrepreneurial neighborhood restaurant. At that Moment, he realized what had been missing during his successful steps up the corporate ladder.
Please watch our HD Moments video.
When Wright Mitchell was on a run with his two dogs one day, he inexplicably turned up Chatham Road in Buckhead, a street not on his normal route. As he neared the top of the hill at West Paces Ferry, he looked to his left and saw a strange stone obelisk sticking out of the trees and bushes on an abandoned lot.
“It seemed completely out of place so I went in to investigate and discovered that one of Buckhead’s most historically significant cemeteries had been right there on the corner and had become completely overgrown and neglected,” Wright told us in our accompanying Moments HD video.
Long before Shawn Wilson began traveling the world as head of the New Look Foundation of renowned Atlanta musician Usher, meeting celebrities and establishing a successful youth leadership program, he was dodging his college application and working at the Milwaukee, Wisconsin YMCA.
Instead of filling out college applications when he was graduating from high school, Shawn began working as the Aquatic Coordinator at the YMCA. At 19 years old, he liked being in charge of the pool and making good money. Yet, despite how hard he tried to justify his decision to put it off applying to college, he eventually decided to – thanks to a Moment forced on him by a YMCA member in one of his water aerobics classes.
In 1975, Bill Bolling was looking for a way to serve his fellow veterans of the Vietnam War – many of whom were homeless and unemployed. Bill’s own return from the war had been challenging, though he had “come through a time where I wasn’t exactly homeless but I did live in my van for three years. I felt very fortunate that I had come out on the other end.”
He walked into the community kitchen at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on Peachtree Street and volunteered to make soup.
“I knew at the end of that day, I had found my life’s purpose,” Bill recalled in our accompanying Moments HD video.
Tracey Jackson was a Marine with dreams of a career in medicine until she had an anaphylactic reaction that left her disabled, unable to work, and ultimately homeless. Tracey’s Moment with Atlanta nonprofit Nobis Works not only got her off the streets, it set her life on a new path of success.
Prior to her Moment, Tracey served in the United States Marine Corps, was scheduled to serve in the Gulf War and received a series of medical injections in preparation. Ultimately, she did not get shipped overseas, so she planned to go to medical school and, in anticipation of that, began studying nursing.
During her rigorous nursing classes, Tracey experienced an anaphylactic reaction that sent her into seizures. The unanticipated and severe reaction changed the rest of her life.
The Georgia Bulldogs were losing 7-0 in the fourth quarter in their season opener in Austin, Texas, when they fielded a punt on the five yard line. The University of Texas, then the #11 team in the country, seemingly had the game well in hand on that humid Saturday night, September 20, 1958. Eighteen-year-old Sophomore Fran Tarkenton was not only a third-string quarterback on the Bulldogs, his coach was planning to frustrate the ambitious athlete further by postponing his football career another year by designating him a “red-shirt” player.
As the offensive players ran onto the field, Fran looked over and saw his team’s star quarterback sitting on the bench. In a move that today would no doubt be played over and over on ESPN Sports Center highlights, Fran strapped on his helmet and ran onto the field and knelt down in the huddle and called the next play.
As the captain of the Purdue Boilermakers women’s basketball team for a third straight year, Andrea ‘Drey’ Mingo is no stranger to hard work. The 6-foot-2 forward was a McDonald’s All-American at Atlanta’s Marist high school, an AP honorable mention All-American in college and has dreams of one day being a pediatric cardiologist. But no amount of physical or mental training could have prepared her for the trials and tribulations she faced starting in her junior season at Purdue.
Drey went to her trainer to say she wasn’t feeling well. She was prescribed some over-the-counter antibiotics and sent home. A day later, she was found unconscious on her bedroom floor. She had contracted bacterial meningitis. She lost her hearing five days later.
As a personal and catastrophic injury attorney, Andy Cash had grown accustomed to hearing sudden, life-changing events from his clients. His law firm represents individuals and families who have experienced devastating injuries in accidents. Despite his well-developed professional empathy, the news he learned in July 2004 about his own three-year old son, Gavin, was very difficult to bear.
Then, in October 2011, at age eight, Andy’s youngest son, Liam, was diagnosed with T1D – just as his brother had been seven years before. The news was once again shocking and life-altering for the entire family.
After serving 25 years as a minister in the Episcopal Church, Fred Northup opened up his newspaper’s sports section to find something more troubling than usual in December 1997. As he read a story on NBA basketball player Latrell Sprewell angrily walking up to his Golden State Warriors coach P.J. Carlesimo and choking him during a practice, he sensed the future of sports was in deep trouble. He wondered if he could help.
Living in Seattle at the time, Fred and his wife were preparing to move to Atlanta and he was looking forward to a lunch meeting with a friend to discuss his options in Atlanta. But their lunch conversation focused on the Sprewell incident. Fred tried to change the subject.
“He said, ‘Well, Fred, you can do a lot of things, but if you could get these athletes to grow up and behave then the world would love it.’ ”
In September of 2011 at age 36, Wendy Binns was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma – breast cancer. At that Moment, the owner and publisher of Atlanta INtown newspaper joined the ranks of more than 200,000 other women – including Wendy’s mother – who are diagnosed with breast cancer every year.
Wendy had seen the toll the diagnosis had taken on her mother and her family and she knew the difficulty of undergoing treatments. But she also knew had her mother not been diagnosed, Wendy might not have been as vigilant and discovered her own diagnosis so early. The mother and daughter saw that as a gift.
“The most excruciating part of getting the diagnosis was having to pick up the phone and call her and tell her that her baby girl was diagnosed with breast cancer too,” Wendy told us in our accompanying Moments HD video.
President and Owner of Coxe Curry & Associates Ann Curry had her Moment during a business lunch more than 20 years ago – presenting her with an opportunity that surprisingly summoned core values instilled in her decades earlier by her grandmother.
Ann’s Moment was during the summer of 1991 while she was chair of the board for Atlanta-Fulton Public Library Foundation. The library had formed a foundation to raise private money for the library system and had been working with a fundraising consulting firm, Coxe & Associates.
Bill Clarkson, who recently announced plans to retire after 23 years as President of The Westminster Schools, remembers the Moment that prompted and propelled his career as a chaplain, educator and administrator. It wasn’t in the hallway of a school or a church – it was in the hallway of a psychiatric ward.
Bill was an 18-year-old freshman at Duke University and, as a financial aid student, needed a part-time job to help pay for his ungraduate degree. He found the job at the University psychiatric hospital – a line of work that seemed to align nicely with his interest in pursuing a psychology major. He worked four-hour shifts as a psychiatric attendant three days a week.
“You got to wear a white coat and look pretty official, but basically you were there to aid the doctors and assistants,” Bill recalled in our accompanying Moments HD video.