Stories shared from life lessons learned originate in a variety of  circumstances from a vast cast of characters. Parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends and colleagues all contribute to the tales in our personal storybook. Our teachers may tuck us in at night, take us fishing, laugh with us over lunch or instruct us in classrooms where curriculum and syllabi try to structure learning.

Good teachers follow the rules. Great teachers encourage “ah-huh” moments by stretching rule limits and recognizing when the student connected the dots outside the box.

For me, an “ah-huh” moment is a takeaway that lasts a lifetime. The slap-shot in time nudges us from the oblivious to the obvious in ways so subtle it may take years to understand.

Professor Ray Chohan’s assignment required advertising students to form teams and choose a client. He advised and coached the decision making process from the sidelines. On the last day of class, each team presented their campaigns.  All but one team had selected established businesses to tweek.  My team developed a campaign from scratch for a newly-opened deli on the blue-collar side of town.

Professor Chohan complimented and critiqued all but my team.  We exchanged nervous glances, rubbed sweaty palms together, and shrugged shoulders, anticipating a less than stellar review. We didn’t have the corporate logos and four-color handouts to display. Our promotional creations were drawn by hand on paper and cocktail napkins in the dark ages before Photoshop and Adobe.

Finally, the professor called on us. He acknowledged that our work was unpolished. But he praised our choice of an unknown and rewarded us for connecting the dots.

The Meat Market is still serving customers 36 years later. I’m not sure if my team had anything to do with that success.  But I’ve used this story as an example to push myself and others to connect the dots.

Professor Chohan’s memorial service is Tuesday.  His life lesson lives on whenever I tell this story.