The Power of Moments

by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

How do we create more moments that matter?

In The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact, the authors claim that our most memorable positive moments are dominated by elevation, insight, pride, and connection. Join us as we explore these elements and learn how to create more memorable moments for others. This book discussion is a low-stakes event (i.e., join in anytime, even if you didn't have time to read). It's also free to join.

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All dates meet 4:00-5:00 pm ET

September 21, 2021 Book Club Kick-off/Introductions (30 min)

Share one positive defining moment from your life. It need not be a big, life-shaping moment like getting married or giving birth–it could be a smaller moment that you’ve never forgotten.

Do you feel these moments owe more to serendipity or to the conscious effort by you or someone else to create them?

October 19, 2021 Chapters 1 & 2 Discussion Questions

Have you had an experience where the moment-by-moment experience may have been mixed like the Disney and Magic Castle Hotel examples given (or even negative), but in memory you remember it fondly? Describe the experience you’re thinking about.

Think of a recent service experience: a flight, a customer service call, a hotel stay, a doctor visit, a restaurant meal. Was there a “peak” or a “pit” moment that stands out in your memory? What was it?

Talk about the “treasure chest” you keep in your house (if you do). Where is it? Tell the group about three particular items that are in your collection. Which of the four categories of defining moments (elevation, insight, pride, connection) do they reflect?

What do you remember about the first day of your most recent job? Was it closer to the underwhelming hypothetical example that starts the chapter–or was it closer to the John Deere First Day Experience? How can we create first day experiences like John Deere’s for our staff?

The Heath brothers make the case that there are many “missing moments” in our lives—that we aren’t paying enough attention to transitions, milestones, and pits. In the first Clinic, they point out all the moments that are missed by banks. Did any “missing moments” come to mind as you reflected on this section? Are there opportunities in your district/organization to create new defining moments?

November 17, 2021 Chapters 3 & 4 – Discussion Questions

Jeff Gilbert, the principal of Hillsdale High School, said, “We run school like it is a nonstop practice. You never get a game. Nobody would go out for the basketball team if you never had a game. What is the game for the students?” Do you agree with this sentiment? What kinds of “games” can we create in our school systems to build peaks for our staff and students?

In Chapter 3, the Heaths argue that in most service businesses, managers spend too much time “fixing potholes” and not enough time “building peaks.” Do you think your school is guilty of that? How can we change this?

See page 77 for the discussion of “minimizing negative variance” versus “maximizing positive variance.” The Heaths write: “In families, so often we are hustling to ‘minimize negative variance’ — getting kids to school on time, managing household chaos, keeping sibling spats under control. But are we focusing as much energy on increasing positive variance from week to week?” Does this resonate with you at home or at school — or do you feel like the need to ‘increase positive variance’ is just one more burden to add to the shoulders of already-busy parents and educators?

Reflect on this quote: “We feel most comfortable when things are certain, but we feel most alive when they’re not.” Does this feel true for you? What’s a recent time when an uncertain experience made you feel “alive?” (It need not be something dramatic. Perhaps something that was so novel that you experienced a time of slowing down.)

What did you think of the concept of the “reminiscence bump” — that period from roughly age 15 to 30 when our life is filled with so many “firsts?” If you are 25 or older, does it bother you that, in some sense, your most memorable days are behind you? Does that idea seem natural or untroubling to you, or does it make you anxious? (Or are you determined to fight the trend and ensure that your older years are as memorable as your younger ones?)

January 20, 2022 Chapters 5 & 6 – Discussion Questions

Recall the story of Microsoft’s Scott Guthrie, who asked his colleagues to create an app using their own platform (called Azure). They struggled badly, which caused them to “trip over the truth.” Tripping over the truth is triggered by (1) a clear insight; (2) compressed in time; and (3) discovered by the audience itself. Can you think of a time when you have witnessed this happening? (For instance, an experience or demonstration that sparked an “aha!” experience.) Have you ever tried this strategy yourself? Are there ways we can use this with our staff and/or students?

Consider the story of Lea Chadwell, who ultimately decided to close the bakery she had started. From a business perspective, the bakery was a failure. The Heath brothers argue that for her, it was a success, in the sense that it boosted her self-insight. Do you agree with this logic? Was there a time in your life when a failure taught you something about yourself that outweighed the “defeat?” What do you think would happen if we shared these stories with others?

Describe the most effective mentor you’ve ever had. Did that person make you “stretch?” If so, how? The Heaths describe a kind of formula for mentorship: HIGH STANDARDS + ASSURANCE + DIRECTION + SUPPORT = ENHANCED SELF-INSIGHT. Did this spark any ideas for how you might challenge or support the people who rely on you for their growth?

Is there an area of life where you would like to “stretch” yourself — that is, to deliberately expose yourself to a challenge where failure is a very real possibility — in hopes of learning and growing?

Michael Dinneen was shattered when his patient committed suicide, but he learned something about himself: I can endure. Have you ever lived through a difficult or traumatic experience and drawn strength from the idea that, “If I can survive that, I can survive anything?”

February 24, 2022 Chapters 7, 8, & 9 – Discussion Questions

Think of the story about Kira Sloop (the girl who was told to “mouth the words” in choir) and Gad Yair’s research on “Cinderellas and Ugly Ducklings.” Was there a teacher or a mentor who was responsible for a turning point in your life? What happened?

To whom would you most like to send a gratitude letter? Talk about what that person means to you.

In the “Multiply Milestones” chapter, the Heaths make fun of the milestone-free way someone might think about learning Spanish: Try to squeeze in a Spanish study session. Try to squeeze in a Spanish study session. Etc. Someday, eventually: “Know” Spanish. Do you think you’ve fallen victim to this trap? Did the chapter spark ideas about how you might create motivating milestones en route to a goal that is important to you?

If you’re willing, share a moment in your life when you had a chance to be courageous—and let the moment pass. What were the forces that led you to stay quiet? Conversely, can you think of a time when someone else’s courage was contagious for you, stiffening your backbone?

Did you agree with Mary Gentile’s assessment that people often know what the right thing to do is but fail to act on that judgment? Gentile argues that ethically-problematic situations are often predictable. We can foresee them. Did one of these potentially-problematic situations come to mind (perhaps something you’ve seen happen before at work)? Share with the group the situation you’re anticipating—as well as what you can do to “preload” your response.

March 28, 2022 Chapters 10 & 11 – Discussion Questions

Consider the transformation at Sharp HealthCare led by Sonia Rhodes. The All-Staff Assembly played a critical role in sparking the change. Yet we’ve all been part of “all hands” meetings in organizations that were not effective or inspiring. Why was the All-Staff Assembly different? What made it a defining moment for the Sharp team?

The Heath brothers write, “If you want to be part of a group that bonds like cement, take on a really demanding task that’s deeply meaningful. All of you will remember it for the rest of your lives.” Have you been part of a group like this in your life? Share the circumstances and why the work bonded your team together.

The parent-teacher visits at Stanton Elementary had extraordinary power. Yet they were a “drop in the bucket” compared with the hours invested by teachers, students, and parents. Why do you think they were so effective?

We all have customer service horror stories. Think about a recent frustrating experience— preferably one that was pretty small in the scheme of things and yet made you furious. Do you think the root of your anger was a lack of responsiveness? If so, which element(s) were missing: understanding, validation, or caring? If not, what was the root? Do we provide all these elements for our students, staff, and parents?

Mike Elam, in the book, described an experience where he pushed past small talk with a co-worker and said “it was like ‘peeling an onion’ where we were going just slightly deeper on each exchange and when finished, we had moved quite a bit.” Have you had a recent experience like this – i.e., one when you engaged in the kind of “turn-taking” described at the end of the chapter?

April 20, 2022 Chapter 12 – Discussion Questions

On page 257, the palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware discussed the five most common regrets of the people she had come to know. At this point in your life, which of these feel most “real” to you? Do you worry about having any of these regrets in the future?

Julie Kasten, sitting in her cubicle, had a sudden flash of insight that inspired her to find a new career. Later, when meeting with a career counselor, she had a second flash—I want to do what you do. Have you (or anyone you know) ever had one of these sudden realizations that sparks a change in jobs or careers?

The final story of the book is about two compassionate nurses who bring a bowl of snow to a very sick young girl. Their kindness is moving. What is the kindest thing someone outside your family has ever done for you?

What was the story or idea from the book that will stick with you the most?

*Questions used or adapted from the Book Club Guide by Chip Heath & Dan Heath.