The Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath – My Six Lessons and Takeaways

What’s indisputable is that when we assess our experiences, we don’t average our minute-by-Power of Momentsminute sensations. Rather, we tend to remember flagship moments: the peaks, the pits, and the transitions.
Chip Heath and Dan Heath, The Power of Moments


We don’t remember the day in and day out details of our lives very well.  But we do remember moments – special moments, moments that are great, and moments that are not so great.

This is the idea behind the excellent book by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, The Power of Moments:  Why Certain Experiences have Extraordinary Impact.  And they believe that we can create, and/or craft or design some very special moments.

I presented my synopsis of this book at the September First Friday Book Synopsis.  This is the fourth book I have presented by the Heath brothers.  I also presented synopses of:  Made to Stick; Switch; and Decisive.  In other words, when they come out with a new book, they are pretty much an automatic selection for our monthly event in Dallas.

As always with my synopses, I ask Why is this book worth our time?  Here are my three reasons for this book:

#1 – The “everyday” is not enough – not enough to give us meaning; to keep us motivated.  We need special moments; moments with power to touch us and change us. This book explains the why behind such moments of power.
#2 – These special moments need to “break the script.”  In other words, they have to have some level of the unexpected.  This book is a catalyst to help you think about how to create such moments.
#3 – These special moments weave together to create the timeline of your life.  This book will help you think about the moments that shaped you and your life.

The moments they describe include moments of remarkable customer service, moments of work transitions (think:  first day at work in a new job), and all sorts of one-moment-in-time moments.

Here are a few excerpts from the book:

The surprise about great service experiences is that they are mostly forgettable and occasionally remarkable.
If you’re struggling to make a transition, create a defining moment that draws a dividing line between Old You and New You.
Transitions should be marked, milestones commemorated, and pits filled.
Moments that break the script are critical for organizational change. They provide a demarcation point between the “old way” and the “new way.” 
Moments of elevation lift us above the everyday. Moments of insight spark discoveries about our world and ourselves. And moments of pride capture us at our best—showing courage, earning recognition, conquering challenges.
Expressing gratitude pleases the recipient of the praise, of course, but it can also have a boomerang effect, elevating the spirits of the grateful person.
In health care, caregivers are switching from the question “What’s the matter?” to “What matters to you?”

And I love this “warning” — Beware the soul-sucking force of reasonableness: “Couldn’t we just put the Popsicles in a cooler by the ice machine?”

So, what is this moment that is so powerful?  For the sake of this book, a defining moment is a short experience that is both memorable and meaningful. This is a book about the power of moments and the wisdom of shaping them.

As will all good books, this one is overflowing with great stories.  You’ll want to sit and read and enjoy, but look especially for the way that the Ritz-Carlton provided a photo album of Joshie’s vacation experience (Joshie was the stuffed giraffe accidentally left behind by a little boy who was distraught at his missing friend).  And, you will enjoy reading about the “Popsicle Hotline” a at the Magic Castle. Among others…

Here are the elements that make up these special moments:

ELEVATION: Defining moments rise above the everyday. They provoke not just transient happiness, like laughing at a friend’s joke, but memorable delight. (You pick up the red phone and someone says, “Popsicle Hotline, we’ll be right out.”) To construct elevated moments, we must boost sensory pleasures—the Popsicles must be delivered poolside on a silver tray, of course—and, if appropriate, add an element of surprise.
INSIGHT: Defining moments rewire our understanding of ourselves or the world.
PRIDE: Defining moments capture us at our best—moments of achievement, moments of courage.
CONNECTION: Defining moments are social: weddings, graduations, baptisms, vacations, work triumphs, bar and bat mitzvahs, speeches, sporting events. These moments are strengthened because we share them with others.

(The Heath brothers decided against rearranging the order to spell EPIC Moments, deciding it was a little too cute – but they did call attention to the possibility).

They write that to elevate a moment, do three things:

  • First, boost sensory appeal.
  • Second, raise the stakes.
  • Third, break the script. — To break the script is to defy people’s expectations of how an experience will unfold. It’s strategic surprise.

And they are really big on the idea of being truly responsive.  This is such a simple, yet powerful reminder.

  • Learn to practice responsiveness:
  • People want to be cared for…
  • The power of responsiveness; the devastation of non-responsiveness
  • Responsiveness is not compatible with a canned agenda

And here are my six lessons and takeaways:

#1 — Cultivate the ability to see moments, to grasp moments, and to create moments.
#2 – Celebrate milestones with great moments. — Create great moments to celebrate milestones.
#3 – Create recognition moments.
#4 – Create transition moments.
#5 – Create beginning moments.
#6 – (Even) Create ending moments.

On this blog, I always write posts with my lessons and takeaways from the books I present at the First Friday Book Synopsis.  And I pretty much always end up saying that reading the book would be worth your time. I think maybe I’ve gotten good at selecting important, useful, well-written books.

And this one is certainly worth your time.  After all, don’t we all wish we had more powerful, uplifting, remarkable, memorable moments in our lives?


My synopsis will be available soon on our web site at the buy synopses tab. Each synopsis comes with my comprehensive, multi-page handout, along with the audio recording of my presentation. And, yes, my synopses of their earlier books – Switch, Made to Stick, and Decisive – are all available. Check out our most recent additions by clicking here.

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