Some people positively change the trajectory of our life.

It might be a word, action, compliment, or just them taking a chance on us that changes the course of our lives in a powerful and profound way.

We usually don’t realize it at the time – and they might not initially grasp their important impact either…

But looking back, we see how that relationship and/or interaction was the critical catalyst that subtly or significantly turned our life in a different direction. We realize we might not be the person or professional we are today without their influence. Only through the benefit of hindsight do we fully understand and appreciate their indelible impact.

“Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” Soren Kierkegaard

Who are your life’s trajectory changers? How have they impacted your life?

I’ve been fortunate to have many trajectory changers at different points in my life… And after learning about the 10 Life-Changing Lessons from Heaven shared by Near-Death Experiencers, especially how important it is to Appreciate Regularly, I’ve consciously invested the last few years reconnecting with and thanking my life’s trajectory changers. I’m visiting them in person whenever possible, looking them in the eye, and sincerely expressing my immense gratitude for the HUGE difference they made in my life.

It’s been one of the most gratifying and heartfelt things I’ve ever done – and I highly recommend you thank your trajectory changers too!

They’ll enjoy it as well as they hear about how they made an unforgettable difference in your life.

For example, I recently invited to lunch all of the people who had ever coached me in any sport from grade school through high school in my small hometown in Wisconsin.

Many of these people I had not seen in 35-40 years since I moved out of state right after college – but it was so nice to personally reconnect with them and sincerely thank them for all the time and effort they invested in coaching me and my teammates.

One in particular, my 8th grade football coach, Lari DeBruin, had a huge impact on my life. In 7th grade, I had been the reserve, third-string quarterback on our community’s football team so I sat on the bench and didn’t get on the field very much. Because all the same players came back to the eighth-grade team, I knew I had to find a different position if I wanted to play. During the first days of practice, I went over to the wide receivers’ group hoping to find a new position where I could make my mark. Since tryouts occurred during those first few days, it was important to impress the coaches, especially the head coach, Lari DeBruin.

As I was in line waiting my turn, I noticed Coach DeBruin heading over to our receivers’ group to observe. I could feel my heart racing and my palms sweating as I thought, “Oh boy, Coach DeBruin is watching. You can’t screw up or you’ll end up sitting the bench again this season like you did last season.”

I nervously sprinted out and executed my route. As I turned over my right shoulder, I saw a perfectly thrown pass from the first-string quarterback spiraling toward me. The ball hit me right in the hands, but because I was so nervous, I dropped it. Instantly I thought, “Oh no, Jeff, you really blew it! That was a perfectly thrown pass and you dropped it. Maybe Coach DeBruin was looking the other way and wasn’t watching.”

I hesitantly looked up at Coach DeBruin. Not only was he watching, but he motioned for me to come over to speak with him. Now I’m thinking, “Oh my goodness, they’re making cuts soon and I wonder if he is going to cut me.” Terrified, I jogged over to Coach DeBruin thinking my eighth-grade football career might be over before it even started. He put his arm around me and said, “Son, I don’t think you have what it takes to be a receiver.”

Those words tore through me like a knife. I thought, “Oh my gosh, my career is over. I’ve actually been cut from the team. What am I going to tell my dad? He is going to be so disappointed in me.”

Coach DeBruin continued, “Son, are you listening to me? I don’t think you have what it takes to be a receiver – but come on over here to the running backs’ group. I’m going to make you our team’s running back.”

I thought, “Huh? Are you kidding me? I couldn’t play quarterback last year and I just dropped the ball right in front of you this year. How are you going to make me into the team’s running back?”

But Coach DeBruin saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. With his arm around me, he guided me over to the running backs group. Surprised but also tremendously relieved, I walked over to the running backs group with him. He patiently showed me how to hold my hands depending on which side the quarterback handed me the ball. Of course, I made a lot of mistakes at first, but Coach DeBruin supported and encouraged me every step of the way. I gained a lot of much-needed confidence from his coaching and ended up being the team’s starting running back that year and leading the team in rushing.

While I wish I could tell you I went on and won the Heisman Trophy and played professional football, I honestly can’t tell you that. But I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that the difference Coach DeBruin made at a pivotal moment in my life as an eighth grader is something that absolutely changed the trajectory of my life.

His confidence in me transformed me from a highly doubtful and inept young boy into someone who had confidence and ended up training thousands of coaches on the power of their leadership over a 30-year career because of the impact Coach DeBruin had on me. His small act of confidence in me decades ago was life-changing.

In honor of Coach DeBruin’s trajectory changing impact on my life, I donated and named a Leadership Academy after him for my hometown high school. This gesture was my way of saying thank you to him and all the coaches who had positively impacted my life.

His coaching and belief in me 40 years ago still ripples through my life TODAY! And I’m beyond thrilled to continue that Ripple Effect through hundreds of other kids in the community in his name!

Who are your life’s trajectory changers?

How can you acknowledge and appreciate the impact they had on your life?

You don’t need to name something after them – just a small word, call, note, text, and/or prayer of thanks is enough.

I guarantee you’ll be glad you thanked them – and they’ll be gratified to know they made a positive difference in your life.

Connect with them this week! It’s more important than 99% of the things on your To Do List.

Put it in your calendar TODAY to reach out to them! Or pick up your phone RIGHT NOW and give them a quick call.

  • Finally, in honor of your life’s trajectory changers, how can you pay their kindness forward?
  • Whose life can you positively influence this week?
  • How can you communicate and demonstrate your confidence in them?

Your belief, support, and encouragement, like Coach DeBruin showed in me 40 years ago, can create a similar long-lasting Ripple Effect that could change the trajectory of their life…

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