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What’s your defining moment?

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in Leaders & Managers

When Bill Rasmussen borrowed $9,000 on his credit card for a new venture in 1979, he didn’t realize he was making a decision that would define his career—and the future of sports broadcasting.

Rasmussen was the communications director of the New England Whalers hockey team, but the team had a bad season and he was fired.  

Bill Rasmussen and his son Scott wanted to get involved in doing sports broadcasting in Connecticut. But they had a couple of problems. They had no money. And they had no way of broadcasting into people’s homes.

That’s when Bill borrowed $9,000 on his credit card. He made a deal with RCA to rent something called a transponder, which would allow him to broadcast into people’s homes.

Because of a lucky break in the contract, he was able to afford the deal: He wouldn’t have to pay RCA until 120 days after he signed the contract. That gave him time to start a 30-minute sports program called Sports Center, then strike a deal with Anheuser-Busch for $1.3 million to advertise their products.

ESPN aired for the first time because of that defining-moment decision by Rasmussen.

You may not realize what your defining moment was until you look back over your career. Or the moment may be immediately apparent. Either way, it’s the most important decision you make in your lifetime, a decision that defines you and has the greatest impact on your business life.

What’s your defining moment as a leader?

— Adapted from “Tough Calls: How 40 CEOs Made Their Career-defining Decisions,” Knowledge@Wharton.

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