In the new issue of Closer Weekly, Jane Pauley admits that if it had not been for one high school disappointment, her life could have been totally different.

Growing up in Indianapolis, the CBS Sunday Morning host, 67, says she felt “pretty great” when she made the cheerleading squad in sixth grade. But when she failed to make it four years later, she was crushed. “But that’s when I discovered my big, suburban high school had one of the best speech and debate programs in the country,” Jane tells Closer. “I discovered I was a mediocre cheerleader, but I had another [talent] I didn’t know I had.”

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Jane went on to be a speech and debate champion at Warren Central High School, a talent that led her to TV broadcasting and to become the co-host of Today at age 25. “If you try real hard to be what’s successful for someone else, you’re probably neglecting, or not discovering, the thing that is your particular strength,” she advises.

Now Jane, who’s married to Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau, 69, and recently became a grandmother for the third time, still gets emotional when she thinks back on her own realization about herself. “Not making cheerleader in the 10th grade,” she tells Closer, “turned out to be a pivotal, life-changing opportunity.”

For more from Jane, pick up the latest issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now — and be sure to sign up for our newsletter for exclusive news!