The other day, I was telling the story of sitting under a corporate boardroom table... crying... because in my quest that day to be a great employee, I had dragged my four-year-old (at that time) half-dressed into a January winter's day, his little socked feet dangling an inch into the snow drifts (I'm short; he was long). He was screaming he didn't want to go to day care and I was trying to be at work for 8am on the dot as per instructions.
I made it in by 8:10 and my manager was furious. Even though I was a salaried employee and never missed a deadline, she took it personally that I could not be at the office the second she arrived. She pulled me aside that day and told me to "get my priorities straight."
I did. I don't work there any more :-)
It's amazing how much clarity comes from a bad moment - the kind that sticks with you. Priorities become clear. Choices are made. Mistakes are not repeated.
Fast forward to a great moment... I was being awarded for outstanding effort... a big cake, lots of my peers, and some speeches. I was moved to tears. I can't remember what I did that garnered me that award but I remember the cake. I truly wish someone had said something to enable a moment of clarity like I had under the boardroom table so I could repeat that winning formula instead of feeling "appreciated" immensely but unsure exactly why.
Maybe the worst moments give us the clearest feedback. Maybe the best moments are just supposed to be celebrations and nothing more.
If we think back on our best and worst work moments with our mentors & mentorees, maybe we'll see the point is not to understand why that particular moment occured - but that it was pivitol in making new choices for new moments. Meanwhile, I take care now to be specific in my praise and critique and hope I never send anyone under a table.