Dan Heath is a Senior Fellow at Duke University’s CASE center and co-author of Decisive, Switch, Made to Stick, and most recently The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact.
What We Discuss with Dan Heath:
- Why we remember certain defining moments over others across the countless experiences of a lifetime.
- How we can use the defining moment formula to create such moments for ourselves and others.
- The opportunity most companies miss when hiring a new employee and how one organization goes over the top to get it right.
- Action leads to insight more often than insight leads to action.
- Why time seems to go faster as we age.
- And much more…
Like this show? Please leave us a review here — even one sentence helps! Consider including your Twitter handle so we can thank you personally!
Life is made up of countless sequences of experiences; much of it is forgotten over time, but certain memorable moments can endure for as long as we live.
In this episode we’re joined by Dan Heath, co-author of The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact, to explain why these defining moments stand out above all other experiences and how we can cultivate these moments in ourselves and others. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
Please note that some of the links on this page (books, movies, music, etc.) lead to affiliate programs for which The Jordan Harbinger Show receives compensation. It’s just one of the ways we keep the lights on around here. Thank you for your support!
Sign up for Six-Minute Networking — our free networking and relationship development mini course — at jordanharbinger.com/course!
More About This Show
Imagine visiting Disney World with a Fitbit equivalent that counted our level of happiness throughout the day rather than steps.
“If we looked at the data that popped out at the end of your park visit, for the outright majority of those moments, you would have been happier sitting on your couch at home,” says Dan Heath, co-author of The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact. “Because parks can be a pain in the butt! There are long lines, it’s inevitably 95 degrees and humid, everything’s expensive, there’s crowds everywhere. There’s a lot of nuisance involved. But then, six months later, you look back on your year, and you’re like, ‘You know that trip to Disney? That was one of the highlights of the year.'”
So how can something that wasn’t so great in the moment be looked back upon as the highlight of one’s experience?
The Peak-End Principle
Psychologists talk about the peak-end principle, which says that when we remember our experiences, ultimately what we remember are moments — not a beginning-to-end, second-to-second playback, but a highlight reel of moments.
There’s a logic to which moments we remember — often the peaks, the end, and the transition points.
“What we remember when we’re remembering Disney is the great adrenaline rush after a roller coaster or that cute moment when Goofy came over to your little boy and patted him on the head and gave him a treat,” says Dan. “Those moments stick to memory, and all that moment-by-moment sweatiness and irritability just fades out.”
Accentuate the Positive
While not all defining moments are positive, Dan (and his brother Chip, the other co-author) accentuate the positive for the purposes of The Power of Moments to teach us how to use these principles of psychology in a way that’s helpful to ourselves and others.
“Nobody in the world is looking to create more of these negative peaks!” says Dan.
Nobody we would want to encourage, anyway.
The Defining Moment Formula
When categorizing the defining moments we tend to remember, Dan and Chip came up with these four to create the defining moment formula:
Elevation. Moments that lift us above the everyday. They spark positive emotions like joy, delight, and engagement. Think birthday parties, athletic competitions, cocktails with friends at sunset.
Pride. Most of us tend to collect a souvenir or two of moments we associate with pride in our lives. Think certificates, awards, trophies, letters of approval, or things we’ve created — ways of commemorating great work we’ve done or talents we have.
Insight. Moments that rewire our understanding of ourselves or our world. Think epiphanies, realizations, and “ah-hah!” moments.
Connection. Moments that tie us closer with other people. Think personal relationships, or bonding moments like product launches or deep conversations.
We reversed Dan’s presentation of insight and pride to spell out EPIC for ease of remembrance — just in case this part of the podcast doesn’t make it into your long-term roster of memories.
Peak Moments Don’t Create Themselves
“Great experiences hinge on peak moments,” says Dan. “So when we talk about experience, what we’re actually talking about are moments. But peak moments don’t create themselves. We have to invest in them. We have to create them.”
When we’re trying to create these defining moments for ourselves or others, Dan stresses it’s usually something personal that prevails over the flashy and overproduced.
Dan relates how Spanx founder Sara Blakely’s father would ask her and her siblings this question at the dinner table when she was growing up: “What did you guys fail at this week?”
“She said he would be disappointed if they had nothing to tell him,” says Dan. “That seems like a weird question. It’s almost like he’s encouraging failure. But of course the point was he wanted them to try the things they wanted to try and not be paralyzed because they may not be good at it at first or because they may not succeed. So he was trying to, in a sense, inoculate them against the sting of failure.
“A moment like that is, to me, a peak moment for kids. Just a question at the dinner table that gets them to look at the world — to look at the chance of failure in a slightly different way.”
Ritual as a Chapter Divider
Ritual is another powerful way to create peak moments we remember, as grief counselor Kenneth J. Doka demonstrated when giving a widow an elaborate un-marriage in front of an assembly of loved ones as a way for her to move on.
“A lot of the way we make meaning in our lives is precisely these kind of chapter dividers,” says Dan, “these moments that divide the old us from the new us. What was so powerful about the ceremony for her is it provided a specific day — a specific moment — when she could say, ‘Okay. As of this day, I’m ready.’ And that’s a great example of a peak moment that was created from scratch.”
On a larger scale, culture uses rituals to instill a sense of importance to events we want to remember, such as birthday parties, weddings, and funerals.
On a corporate scale, there’s often a conspicuous absence of ritual surrounding what might otherwise be a peak moment — like the first day of work in which the receptionist isn’t expecting us to arrive until the next week and maybe there’s not even a desk set up for us yet. Dan says this is how most companies miss out on an easy way to generate immediate goodwill and loyalty with new employees — and then he tells us how The Motley Fool does things the right way.
Listen to this episode of The Jordan Harbinger Show in its entirety to learn more about how smart gamification can create peak moments even for people (like Dan) who think they’re immune, how to start thinking in moments by using your calendar, filling pits and building peaks, how a seemingly nondescript hotel in Los Angeles uses the power of moments to outrank its swankier competition, how much of an effect on customer loyalty Southwest’s unique announcements really have, the oddball effect and how surprise stretches time, the ignition moment a social scientist uses in developing countries to influence sanitation policy, why getting someone to understand the need for a solution to a certain problem on their own beats explaining it to them, and lots more.
THANKS, DAN HEATH!
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources from This Episode:
- The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
- Chip and Dan Heath’s website
- Chip and Dan Heath at Facebook
- Happiness: It’s All About the Ending by Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D., Psychology Today
- How Sara Blakely Got Spanx Started, Inc.
- The Use of Therapeutic Ritual by Kenneth J. Doka Ph.D.
- How to Create Moments That Matter, The Motley Fool
- The Magic Castle Hotel
- Southwest Flight Attendant Loony Tunes Announcements
- The Possibilian: What a Brush with Death Taught David Eagleman about the Mysteries of Time and the Brain by Burkhard Bilger, The New Yorker
- Surprise: Embrace the Unpredictable and Engineer the Unexpected by Tania Luna and LeeAnn Renninger PhD
- CLTS Foundation
- Microsoft Once Had to Rebuild a Critical Product Because Even Its Own Managers Couldn’t Figure out How to Use It by Matt Weinberger, Business Insider
Transcript for Dan Heath | The Power of Moments and How to Create Them (Episode 12)
Dan Heath: [00:00:00] It’s a mistake when we think we can get people to have “ah-ha” moments when we just beat them over the head with facts, right? It’s like we want to just share, “Here’s the data, here’s the solution. Here are the bullet points. I figured this out. Hey, let me just give this to you.” But what’s far more effective is to have people discover for themselves, you know, the need for the solution.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:24] Welcome to the Jordan Harbinger Show. I’m Jordan Harbinger and as always, I’m here with my producer Jason DeFillippo. Oh, and this episode is brought to you by Varidesk. Try the new ProDesk 60 Electric. Sounds fancy! Try it risk-free for 30 days with free shipping and free returns. Learn more at varidesk.com/forbes. That’s V A R I D E S K.com/forbes.
Today we’re talking with Dan Heath, co-author of The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact. We’ll discover that we all have defining moments and these aren’t just things that happen to us. They’re actually created. And of course we’re going to learn how we can construct these moments for ourselves and others according to what’s called the defining moment formula. And we’ll uncover how we can inspire action and insight in ourselves and others using the same methods that social workers use to get people in developing countries to stop pooping in their front yard. Yes, really. So enjoy this episode with Dan Heath. Dan, thanks for joining us today.
Dan Heath: [00:01:24] Hey, thanks so much for having me on.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:01:25] So I read the book Moments, and at first I thought, “Oh, okay, it’s a business book about creating experiences, you know.” Is this going to be different? But I love the idea that we all have these defining moments and I don’t know about most people, but I certainly, I don’t think in moments. So I wanted to discuss the concept of moments and thinking in moments, these things that just happened to us or do we create them somehow? How do these construct the narrative of our lives and why do we care?
Dan Heath: [00:01:56] Well, it all comes back to experience. I think probably everybody listening right now in some way shaped somebody else’s experience. So if you run a business, you’re thinking about the customer experience or if you’re in healthcare, you’re thinking about patient experience and anybody who’s a parent is thinking about their kids’ experience. And so the book is really about how do we shape people’s experience in a way that is meaningful and memorable. And one thing I like to offer as a thought experiment is what we might think of as the Disney paradox. So if you’ve ever, in your life, been to an amusement park, I think you can relate to this. Just imagine that we had a kind of Fitbit equivalent for your wrist that would measure your happiness levels, that every moment of the day as you go through the park. My guess is that if we looked at the data and the popped out of that at the end of your park visit, for the majority, the outright majority of those moments, you would have been happier sitting on your couch at home.
[00:02:50] You know, cause parks can be a pain in the butt. There are long lines, it’s inevitably like 95 degrees and humid. Everything’s expensive. There’s crowds everywhere. There’s a lot of nuisance involved with visiting Disney, let’s say. But then you know, six months later you look back on your year and you’re like, “You know, that trip to Disney, that was one of the highlights of the year.” And so the question is how? How could something that wasn’t that great in the moment become, you know, a highlight of your experience. And this brings us to something that psychologists talk about as the peak end principle, which says that when we remember our experiences, ultimately what we remember are moments. You know, if you think about a vacation you took last year, if you think about a semester in college or a project that worked from a couple of years ago, one thing that’s pretty obvious is you don’t remember the whole experience start to finish.[00:03:44] You just remember certain scenes, certain moments. And the peak end principle tells us that there are certain moments that you disproportionately remember. There’s a logic to which moments we remember. And psychologists say one of those moments that we tend to recall is the peak, which is the most positive moment and a positive experience. And then there’s the ending. We’ll complicate that later because I think beginnings are important too. But in general, what we remember from our experiences are the peaks and the transition points. And so back to the Disney scenario, what we’re remembering when we remember Disney is the great adrenaline rush, you know, after a roller coaster or you know, that cute moment when Goofy, the character, came over to your little boy and you know, patted him on the head and gave him a treat and your son just smiled with delight. And those moments stick to memory and all that kind of moment by moment sweatiness and irritability just fades out. And so the book is about how do we create those peak moments, the ones that are most memorable, the ones that are most meaningful as a way of improving people’s experience.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:51] So is the peak always positive or can it be, can we have peak negativity? Because the Disneyland example is great and I think a lot of us understand that. However, I think where the work also takes us is when we’ve been affected by something that with the maximum level of feeling might not have been so good.
Dan Heath: [00:05:12] No question. Yeah. And in fact, that’s something we talk about at the outset of the book, that if you talk to people about the defining moments in their lives and you listen to their stories, it’s probably half and half, you know, then half of the things they remember are really intensely positive moments and the other half were things that shaped them but that were awful to live through, you know, moments of loss or tragedy. And so you’re right, in terms of peaks, peaks can be negative and they’re equally memorable. But in the first chapter we say, you know, the reason we’re not going to talk a whole lot about these negative moments is this is how-to book. We’re trying to teach you how to use these principles of psychology to do better work. And nobody in the world is looking to create more of these negative peaks. And so we acknowledge that they’re an important part of our memories. At the same time, nobody wants to produce anymore.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:06] Right. So it makes more sense for us to study how to produce peaks and moments that make us feel good because nobody’s really, hopefully not that many people anyway, are trying to figure out how to produce the utmost negative experience for people. And I guess there is sort of a tunnel of negative rabbit hole we could go down there because there are people out there that are trying to figure out how to scare the largest amount of people or do traumatic traumatizing things to the largest number of people. And let’s just hope they don’t get ahold of this book anytime soon.
Dan Heath: [00:06:36] Yeah. They should not read the book.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:38] No, don’t read the book if you are with ISIS or Al Qaeda or any affiliated organization thereof. Yeah. You have the defining moment formula and this is something that I thought for sure it’s got to be in the book. They have to have a formula for this. And fortunately slash unfortunately the acronym for it is EPIC. And then you just went, “Nah, that’s stupid. We’re not using that.” But it is easy to remember in there. That’s why I’m throwing it out there for everyone.
Dan Heath: [00:07:05] So what we found is we were looking at memorable experiences of all kinds, you know, ranging from your wedding day to a great dinner you had maybe you know, some fine dining experience, things that are more personal like you know, maybe a teacher that took you aside when you were in school and commented on some talent you didn’t even know you had. And what we found is that there are four elements that recur again and again and again across these different kinds of memorable moments. The first is elevation. So these are moments that lift us above the everyday. They sparked positive emotions like joy and delight and engagement. So think birthday parties, think athletic competitions. Think cocktails with friends at sunset, that’s elevation. The second is moments of insight. So these are moments that rewire our understanding of ourselves or our world.
[00:07:59] So think of epiphanies and realizations and “ah-ha moments”. The third are moments of pride. These captures in our best, I might, my guess is everybody listening somewhere in your house or your apartment, there’s a stash of your personal mementos from life and there are things that would be valueless to everybody else, but to you they’re priceless. And my guess is a lot of those things that you keep that you just can’t bear to throw away our mementos from moments of pride in your life. Maybe they’re certificates or awards or plaques or nice letters that someone wrote you, you know, ways of commemorating great work that you did or talents that you have. And then finally, these memorable moments tend to be moments of connection. Moments that tie us closer to other people. And sometimes that’s in a personal relationship. Other times it’s groups that are bonded together, know they work on something really big or important and find themselves, stitched together for life. So you think a product launches or deep conversations with someone that you respect. And so back to your point, we thought the little cheesy saying calling these EPIC because we didn’t want people talking about epic moments, but the fact is that it does, in fact, spell out EPIC — elevation, pride, insight and connection. We reversed a couple of those to make it EIPC but I don’t blame you if EPIC is the thing that you remember.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:28] Yeah. I mean it could be CPIE, but it’s just less catchy.
Dan Heath: [00:09:32] Yeah, CPIE was one we considered and the focus groups just didn’t like it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:35] No, you could have, I wonder if is there anything you could find that starts with S and then it’s SPICE. SPICE is a good thing. That’s a good one for moments, right?
Dan Heath: [00:09:45] Spicy moments. Yeah. Alternate alternate titles. Yes.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:49] Yes. Hey, you can keep that one. That one’s on the house then. You’re welcome. Can we overdo it with some of these types of things? So elevation and extraordinary moment, insight really caught me because that’s what we’re trying to do a lot on the Jordan Harbinger Show is have someone go, “Oh that’s what’s going on here. Oh, this is why this has or has not been working for me, or here’s a new strategy. I can try and get out of this rut.” And I love to deliver as many of those as possible. But when I look at something like elevation or pride, I start to think of negative examples and I’ll give one here if I can sort of anonymize it. I went and I was interviewed by somebody who has a studio, really nice one and it’s really well done.
[00:10:31] It’s great place. The show is solid, but one thing I thought was kind of weird, and this could just be my own sort of stuff coming up. He had photos of himself with every single person that he had interviewed, but it was a little bit kind of, it was self-serving in a way that I was a little uncomfortable with because it was like him with a ton of celebrities. And I’ve got a handful of pictures of me with well-known folks that I’ve interviewed, but they’re kind of stacked up on the floor and I told Jen, “Ah, we can hang those later.” And it seems like you can really, you can go down the rabbit hole with these and they might either start to lose their effectiveness and, or we can kind of get sucked into elevation or pride. I don’t see how you could negatively get sucked into connection or insight, but I’m sure it’s possible if you really tried.
Dan Heath: [00:11:16] Yeah, I think that’s a fair point. I mean, you know, one of my fears about this book was that parents would read it and think, “Oh, you know, I get moments from my kids and, you know, so I’ve got to have like a bounce house for my kid’s birthday and you know, we’ve got to have like a three foot tall cake with like sparklers on top and just go over the top with it.” And in fact, a lot of what the book’s about is not these kind of over-the-top produced moments but even more personal moments like one of my favorite stories is about Sara Blakely who started Spanx and became the youngest self-made female billionaire in history. And so a lot of people kind of know the arc of first story and her entrepreneurial success. But one thing she talks about is, it wasn’t the idea.
[00:12:01] And I think tons of entrepreneurs will tell you this, that the idea is two percent of the battle. And she fought just relentlessly to get this product to market. You know, she said everywhere she turned there were people slamming the door in her face and rejecting her. And she talks about one interview she had with some lawyers that she was recruiting to her team. And one of the law partners kept looking suspiciously around the room and she was like, “Oh, what is he acting that way for it?” And later he confessed to her that he thought she was part of a candid camera crew because her idea was so bad. He was convinced there were hidden cameras filming their response. He was trying to find the cameras. So the real question for someone like Blakely is not where did the idea come from?[00:12:46] But basically where did her resilience come from to endure this kind of gauntlet? A failure? For years and still persist. And she had a fascinating comment in her memoir. She said when she was growing up, her dad used to ask her and her siblings a question at the dinner table. And the question was, “What did you guys fail at this week?” And she said, he would be disappointed if they had nothing to tell them. And that seems like a weird question. It’s almost like he’s encouraging failure but of course the point was, he wanted them to try the things they wanted to try and not be paralyzed because they may not be good at it at first or because you know, they may not succeed. And so he was trying to, in a sense, inoculate them against, you know, the sting of failure. And so back to your question, I mean, a moment like that is to me a peak moment for kids. Just a question at the dinner table that gets them to look at the world, to look at the chance of failure in a slightly different way, I’d take that over the bounce house any day.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:53] So actually we can sort of prioritize the defining moment formula, is that what you’re saying? So do we say, “Oh, connection is better than insight, which is better than pride, which is better than elevation?” Or is it, are they kind of all on the same level?
Dan Heath: [00:14:07] No, I think the number one danger we’ve got to protect against is, is ignoring moments. You know, I think that in general, the argument we’re making with the book is we think a lot about experience. And we talk a lot about experience. There are customer experience conferences in healthcare. They’re our chief patient experience officers. There are people in the academic world who think about nothing but the student experience. And yet we’re missing a really obvious point, you know, back to the Disney paradox. And that is that great experiences hinge on peak moments. You know. So when we talk about experience, what we’re actually talking about are moments, but peak moments don’t create themselves. You know, we have to invest in them. We have to create them. And so what we’re arguing in the book is look, anybody who’s in the business, that experience needs to get in the business of creating peak moments. That’s what we’re trying to get people to see.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:02] This episode is sponsored in part by The Great Courses Plus. They got a new featured series. The world of business changing faster than ever before. No surprise there. The internet has created infinite, the opposite of finite, possibility but also presented entrepreneurs with far greater challenges. The Great Courses Plus has created a brand new series with revolution CEO and co-founder of America Online. — I love that they like AOL in parentheses. Yeah, I think we know what AOL is. Steve Case. Steve Case’s the man on there. Everyone should be checking out. It’s called The Third Wave: The Future of Entrepreneurship in America. They explore the role CEOs and corporations will play in the coming decades. There’s a lot of insight on how businesses can begin preparing for the future now and the only way to access this series is by signing up for The Great Courses Plus, that’s how they get you.
[00:15:51] The Great Courses pPlus is a really good way to discover fascinating information in virtually any category. I’d named some categories, but they got 8,000 plus courses in here and you can watch them or listen along anytime from anywhere, unlimited access. It’s an all-you-can-eat model, which we all love over there, don’t we, Jay?
Jason DeFillippo: [00:16:09] Absolutely.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:10] All right, so start exploring The Great Courses Plus today and as one of our listeners, you’ll get a free trial to watch or listen to any of these fantastic lectures, but you need to go to our special URL. So sign up for your free trial and show your support of the show. We really do need it, especially now that we’re in the beginning here. Once again, trial by fire. Go to thegreatcoursesplus.com/jordan, that’s thegreatcoursesplus.com/Jordan. This episode is also sponsored by Varidesk. Traditional static offices.
[00:16:39] Those were a thing of the past. Those cubicle walls, they’re around, but they’re phasing out. Today, companies and employees want an active workspace. Varidesk helps people re-imagine their work environments and transform their office design. Be more active at work. Stand more, sit less, can help improve your employee health. That can boost your energy, can boost your productivity. Varidesk Active Workspace Solutions make it easy to encourage more movement to any workday. The new Pro Desk 60 Electric standing desk is the cornerstone of the active office. It’s got commercial grade materials stable at any height, fully assembled and under five minutes. Well, I would say it probably depends on how fast you can assemble something, but five minutes is a good guesstimate. Plus, all Varidesk products are made to last and designed to be both simple to set up and easy to move or reconfigure as businesses change and grow. You can try Varidesk products, including the new Pro Desk 60 Electric risk-free for 30 days with free shipping and free returns. If you need to do one of those, learn more at varidesk.com/forbes. That’s V A R I D E S K.com/forbes
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:45] Well, first of all, how do you even know that these can be manually created? Because it seems like when we look at a lot of moments, we look at things like experiences and things that happen to us, but we don’t really think about, or at least I wasn’t before I read this book, thinking about how this process could be hacked as much as I hate phrases like that, but how this could be manually created. And we see these moments cultivated, especially in the stories and anecdotes in the book that are based on sometimes really positive things and sometimes really negative things. One that really popped to mind just now is the woman whose husband died of ALS and she couldn’t take the ring off. Can we dissect that a little? I thought that was a really beautiful and interesting example.
Dan Heath: [00:18:26] There is a grief counselor that had a woman come to him whose husband as you said, had passed of ALS, the grief counselor’s name is Kenneth Doka. And so this woman comes to him and it had been years since her husband had passed away and she was in this kind of dilemma where she felt like she was ready to start dating again to potentially consider having someone else in her life. You know, it’d been six years since her husband had passed. And so she’d done a lot of grieving and a lot of thinking. And yet every time she kind of thought about going on a date, you know, she just looked down at the wedding ring on her hand and felt like, “Ah, just, I don’t know if I can do this. I can’t take my wedding ring off.”
[00:19:11] She’s a devout Catholic. And they had tremendous faith in their marriage. And, and so she came to Doka basically saying, you know, “What do I do? I know in some sense I need to get on with my life. But you know, I believe that marriages are for life.” And so Doka had written a bunch about the power of “therapeutic rituals” to help people who are grieving. And he suggested to her that she might benefit from a ritual transition. And so here’s what he proposed to her. And what eventually happened that with her priest or Catholic priest, they created a ceremony one Sunday afternoon. And it was actually in the church where she had married her husband and the priest called together, you know, her close friends or family members. A lot of them had been at the wedding, you know, years prior.
Dan Heath: [00:20:00] And the priest calls them up around the alter and then he starts to ask her some questions. He says, “Were you faithful in good times and bad?” She said, “yes”, “in sickness and health?” And she said, “yes”. And he led her through the remainder of her wedding vows. But notice they’re in the past tense, were you faithful in good times and bad? And so she was able to affirm in the presence of all these people who are special to her, that she had been faithful, you know, that she had loved and honored her husband. And then the priest said, “May I have the ring please?” And she took it off her finger and handed it back to him. And later she told Doka that the ring came off as if by magic and the priest accepted her ring and he and Doka, the grief counselor arranged later her ring to be interlocked with her husband’s ring and then kind of put inside a photo of them at their wedding or attached to the photo.
[00:20:57] And so what this ceremony did in a sense was it allowed her to turn the page. It’s like in the same way that a wedding ceremony marks the transition between being a single person and being a married person. I mean, this was the opposite. It was a ceremony that marked the transition between being a married person and being a single person. And the insight here that was so powerful is that a lot of the way that we make meaning in our lives is precisely these kind of chapter dividers, these moments that divide the old us from the new us. And so what was so powerful about the ceremony for her is it provided a specific day, a specific moment when she could say, “Okay, as of this day, I’m ready.” And that’s a great example of a peak moment that was created from scratch.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:50] I love this example because it’s not exactly what we’re thinking of when we go with the Disneyland type of scenario, but I think it might be even more relevant for us when we’re thinking about how to apply this. Most of us are not in the hospitality business and even if we think we want to make these moments great for our family, our wife, our kids, or something like this, we also have to think about how we can construct these and use these moments for ourselves and our family to keep us moving forward. And in her case, in this woman’s case, she was really stuck and we had to create this moment for her, this particular type of release for her or she would’ve been stuck there forever. And you do, in the book Moments, you do bring about the idea that cultures and societies, they all have these moments too — birthdays, funerals, weddings, things like that happen as in Western culture kind of organically.
[00:22:41] We don’t think about them that much. These are constructs. They were constructed for a reason and we still do them because we still find them culturally important. One thing that, I’m sure was not in the book because this is such a weird little anecdote, when I went to North Korea, I noted that most people didn’t celebrate their birthday at all. They celebrated the leader’s birthday only and the leader’s father and the father before him only. And so I remember asking someone, “When’s your birthday?” And I remember getting kind of a weird look, weird conversation about it as if it was no big deal because it wasn’t a moment in the North Korean culture that had been erased and the moment had been replaced with something that everyone celebrates at the same time. Namely, I think it was Kim Il-Sung’s birthday. And then of course Kim Jong-il and now Kim Jong-un, his birthday — these are the things that they were celebrating, but the big holiday is Kim Il-sung, the original sort of OJI founder of North Korea. That’s the big deal holiday, that’s the Christmas. There’s nothing really else that comes even close to comparing to that level of pomp and circumstance. And they’ve done that very deliberately of course. And that Stalinist tradition, that straight out of the Soviet playbook circa 1950 whatever that comes out of that because they know at least in the dictator handbook, they’ve got a lot of the same knowledge that you’ve researched here in your book Moments because they figured that that’s how they can draw people together, I suppose. Do you have any insight as to what might be going on there?
Dan Heath: [00:24:17] Well, I think you’re exactly right. I think you can learn a lot about a culture from what it celebrates. And so the example you gave is spot on. You know, if the celebration is about the dear leader’s birthday and you know, most individuals’ birthdays are kind of passing without note. That tells you something so different than a society that celebrates every individual’s birthday every year. And what’s also interesting is, is what different cultures have in common. I mean, virtually everywhere on earth, a wedding day is a huge deal. And let’s just remember how kind of unreasonable a wedding day is. Just the amount of money and the amount of time and the amount of obsessiveness and the dress have to be just right. And we blow a lot of money on flowers and food and we obsess about the play list. And even in the poorest places on earth, families will save for months, if not years, to make that wedding day special.
[00:25:17] And that’s diagnostic of the fact that, you know, for human beings, moments are the thing, you know, moments are what we remember in life when you’re 85 years old, sitting on the front porch reflecting on your life, what’s you’re going to have, you know, your wealth is those moments. And so what was fascinating to chip in me is that cultures have evolved a lot of these moments naturally, wedding days and rights of passage and graduation ceremonies and on and on, funerals. But in a lot of organizations it’s just mystifyingly absent, you know, to take a smaller example. Think about the first day of work. You know, most organizations just treat this with kind of benign neglect. You know, it’s like the employee shows up and the receptionist didn’t think they were starting until the next week and you know, you get shown to your desk and there’s a computer there but it’s not set up and the IT people haven’t set up your account.[00:26:13] And so they give you like an ethics binder to review and somebody finally takes pity on you and shepherd you around and you meet 24 people in 10 minutes and you forget all their names and then you’re too embarrassed to ask for six months because you think you should know him. That’s the first day. That’s the way it works in most organizations. And so in the book, we point out like this is a classic transition moment in the same way that we naturally spot and celebrate transitions in life — wedding days and graduation ceremonies and on and on — in organizations we’re missing a really obvious transition moment, a moment that deserves attention. And I’ll tell you, something that isn’t in the book but that I learned since is we tell a story in the book about what John Deere does on the first day.[00:26:58] And it’s kind of a fascinating story, but I want to share something I learned since, which is from Motley Fool, the financial advice website. They did this fascinating thing where, so first of all, before you even start, you’ve submitted your acceptance of their offer letter and then you start getting kind of advanced emails from them and they tell you how excited they are about you joining and they give you this questionnaire so they can learn a little bit about you and you come in the first morning and your desk has been just completely tricked out with all of this stuff that is specific to you. You know, like you mentioned you grew up in New Orleans and there’s like a Café Du Monde Beignet mix on your desk. And you mentioned you’re a Chicago Bears fan and there’s like a Bears jersey with your name inscribed on the back and there’s a book from your favorite author and just kind of this incredibly thoughtful thing that’s literally your first impression of sitting down at your desk, which is so powerful.[00:27:56] A couple other things I want to mention, there’s about 20 different things they do, so I’m shortchanging them here. But I just want to hit some of the highlights. The afternoon of your first day, they have you pushed around what they call the Fool cart — Fool from Motley Fool. And the cart has like a bunch of free snacks and free beer, so it’s like you’re going around the office basically a Santa Claus giving out free snacks and chips and beer to your colleagues and so you’re the most popular person in the office on your first day. It’s a great chance for you to meet people in a fun way. What I haven’t mentioned is by design, every first day at Motley Fool is Friday. They only start new employees on Friday so that your first week is one day long and then on your way out the door Friday evening, just before you leave for the weekend, your boss takes you aside and gives you $100 gift certificate to take your partner or a friend out to dinner over that weekend to celebrate your new job. Like how would you feel after that day? Just amazing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:57] That is pretty phenomenal. And I would imagine that it gets people pretty excited about being in there. I love that these are all milestones and some of them are pretty common sense, right? First day at work. But how have you seen people slash companies and organizations handle these milestones in different ways? Because sure, graduation, a wedding, unfortunately funeral, things like that that are milestones. Are you encouraging us to create new milestones? Like, “Hey, you’ve been here for a hundred days, congratulations.” Or are we looking at different types of moments in addition to milestones?
Dan Heath: [00:29:31] You know, so the first point is if you want to create a better experience for anyone, including yourself, you should think in terms of moments. And then the next question is, okay, given that, when should we be planting these moments so to speak? Like, you know, there’s a lot of time, there’s a lot of different aspects of an experience. When is the right time for a moment? And so one of the answers to that is transition points. Like the first day is an example. Another example is milestones. And what’s interesting is organizations have a pretty good instinct for celebrating time-based milestone. So you know, your 25th anniversary with the company or in your personal life, you celebrate your 40th birthday or your 50th birthday or your 30th anniversary. It’s like these time-based milestones. We seem to have a pretty good intuitive knack for marking those.
[00:30:21] But what’s really fascinating is organizations don’t seem to do work-based milestones. Like shouldn’t every sales rep be prized and celebrated for, you know, their millions dollar in revenue earned or $10 million or whatever the right metric is for the business they’re in. I’ll give you one example that’s kind of silly, but that I think is powerful nonetheless. I’m a kind of Fitbit junkie and I’m the kind of person who’s like pacing my bedroom to get my 10,000 steps and Fitbit does this cool thing where they’ll email you with these badges and I have to confess, I am not a badge kind of person. I feel like I’m gamification immune. And yet I still thought this was kind of a cute thing to do. Like one of the badges was they sent me an India badge, which meant my lifetime miles walked was at 1,997 miles, which is the length of India.[00:31:17] So they told me you have walked the equivalent of the entire nation of India. And so it’s like for the rest of that day, I was kind of puffing my chest out, you know, prancing around a little bit. And what I love about that is they just manufactured a moment of pride for me out of thin air. Like I had no idea how many miles I’d walked. I wasn’t paying attention, but they were. And the fact that they drew my attention to that and held that up as a reason to feel some pride, that’s powerful. And I think there’s a lot of organizations that aren’t looking for moments like that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:49] Yeah. You get this little email or this little icon on your Fitbit and you’re ready to prance around with a sorry, because of something that came out of thin air and it costs them nothing. Right? To do that.
Dan Heath: [00:32:00] Exactly right. Yup.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:02] Yeah. They just have to find interesting little numbers like factoid, the factoid version of numbers. They create milestones out of that and they go, “Oh, people will like to hear this. Oh, the average lightning bolt is six miles long. Okay, well when somebody walks six miles, give them a lightening bolt and they can collect a bunch and then they have a thunderstorm.” I mean, it’s really easy to create these. Is it only milestones that we’re thinking in? Before we get into that, actually you’d mentioned that one of the takeaways is to think in moments, how do we transition our thoughts to thinking about our lives in moments from just being on autopilot and going through it. Because it’s really easy to say, “Hey everybody, think in moments”, but I would love to hear what the action step is right now. If you’re telling someone, you’re telling your friend, “Hey man, you got to think in moments.” You got to start by doing what?
Dan Heath: [00:32:51] I think it’s very simple. Actually. It did. The first question you got to ask is whose experience are you interested in improving? And you know, your answer might be your own, it might be your kids’, it might be your customers’. Yeah. So, but it’s your own, I mean the idea is look ahead in your calendar for the next six months and do you see an obvious peak moment coming? If the answer is yes, then good for you. You’re already doing this naturally. If the answer is no, it’s worth the struggle to fight for that peak moment. You know, call up that old friend and you’ve always had the fantasy of seeing the Northern lights. But you know with each year that goes by it gets complicated and every now and then you kind of bring it up and joke about it, but you know, you’re really not going to do it cause you’ve got partners now and kids and you got to get time off from work and then should you bring your partners.
[00:33:38] But they don’t really know each other and it’s just like, it’s always easier not to do that thing. And if there’s one thing that we want to get across in this book, it’s that peak moments. Yes. They may take some investment, they may take some forethought, but that they are absolutely worth it because 10 years from now you’re not going to remember, “Oh, it was a nuisance to get a babysitter. Oh, it was a nuisance to get time off of work and it was inconvenient to have to pass your work to your colleague.” What you’re going to remember is. “My God! We saw the Northern lights. That was awesome.” You know you’re going to have that photo of you and your friend with your arms around each other. You know, we’re just a spectacular sky in the background. You’re going to have that mounted on your wall. It’s going to be one of those things that becomes a lifetime memory. And the tragedy is, you know, a lot of the grind of everyday life kind of deters us or distracts us from investing in peaks. And this book is a call to arms to fix that.
Jordan Harbinger: 00:34:31 This episode is sponsored in part by HostGator. Everyone is a brand nowadays that means you, and on social media, it’s getting harder and more expensive to get yourself noticed. And since those social media sites do come and go, you really do need a stable place on the internet that you can call home. A place you can send people to find you no matter what website is popular this week and that’s why we recommend HostGator’s website builder. You can actually create a professional looking and feature packed website. The best part is there’s no coding, no editing lines of stuff, hoping that something doesn’t break. You can choose from over a hundred mobile friendly templates. The site will look good on a smartphone, a tablet, a desktop, so it doesn’t look like crap on a phone, but okay on your back or whatever. It’s going to look good everywhere.
[00:35:11] HostGator gives you a bunch of add-ons so you can do SEO, get some PayPal going. People can buy things from your website without a bajillion different little third party plugins and you’re up the whole time. 99.9 percent all right, fine. It’s not a hundred, nobody’s going to give you a hundred but their support team’s there to help with any issues you experience 24/7, 365 because let’s admit it, if your site goes down, it’s not because they went down, it’s because you screwed it up, so they’re going to help you with that. Also, HostGator’s going to give you up to 62 percent off all their packages for new users, so go to hostgator.com/jordan right now to sign up. That’s hostgator.com/Jordan. This episode is also sponsored by Organifi, which ends in an I, which is kind of a cutesy little thing they got going on there. I like this stuff.[00:35:54] Jason and I sort of live on this here and there, especially when we travel. I’d love to say it’s organic. It’s upgraded with 11 superfoods. It’s quick and easy, on the go and it’s green juice without the mess, but really tastes good. That’s why I drink it. It tastes good, feels healthy. It ends up being about two bucks a juice instead of 19.99 or whatever you get when you go to a place and get some green juice. And Jason, I’ve got this in my luggage. I use it when I’m on the road. Especially because trying to get good healthy food on the road. Even when you go to a place, a conference like I was just at over at Social Media Marketing World, a lot of the sort of breakouts, they’re like we have healthy food and you go there and it’s like a radish in some dip.
[00:36:33] Lovely. Yeah. And I’m cool with that. But look, if you don’t get there first, somebody has already eaten the radish so you’re just stuck. You know he’s got dip. Yeah, he just got dip and unless you want to spoon that in your face, you can spoon some Organifi. You go back up to your room, grab a little Organifi. I keep it in my pocket sometimes because it’s a tiny little pouch. You just whip it out. You whip out the pouch just to be clear and you make your own green juice. So go check it out. organifi.com — O R G A N I F I.com and get 20 percent off using the code harbinger because Jordan was taken. So you got to use harbinger, which is fine with me. If you don’t know how to spell my last name. Well, you can just pay full price then organifi.com use the code harbinger for 20 percent off.
[00:37:15] And let me know what you think. And I love the idea of thinking in moments and I love the idea that we can sort of train ourselves by looking at our calendar and thinking, all right, “Well what do I have coming up? How can I create a moment out of this if there isn’t one already?” I noticed that in the book, you do mention a lot of businesses and individuals never really get far enough to create the peaks, right? They’re busy filling what you would call the pits. And by way of example, we see doctors and dentists office and they’re just kind of playing defense. You know, they, “Oh, let’s give kids a sticker when they come in”, and it’s like, “Oh, they’re really scared. Great, let’s have some bubblegum flavored toothpaste while we’re sticking metal objects in their mouth.” So they’re sort of paving over the potholes, right?[00:37:59] They’re paving over the potholes, but they’re not really creating a moment. They’re not creating a peak and your research has shown that elevating the positives actually yields more results than eliminating the negative. So in other words, just making it a palatable experience. “Gee, he came in and he wasn’t scared and he got his teeth cleaned it and it only kind of hurts and then everybody was nice to him.” That’s not quite enough to create the peak, right? If you filled the pits, congratulations. But it’s like I fly Southwest a lot and whenever we land, I never say, “Yay, we didn’t crash in a fiery disaster. We made it.” What I say is, “Oh my God, the flight attendant rapped the safety speech into the PA system and it was a pretty good rap.” He’s got a lot of practice under his belt, or the guy who had the birthday and they embarrass the crap out of him before we took off, that was pretty cool. You know, I secretly hope, but also secretly hoped that it doesn’t happen to me right? That kind of thing. We look at the peak. We don’t really look at the idea that everything went smoothly. Even if it’s a place we normally don’t like to go, like the dentist or the airport.
Dan Heath: [00:39:05] Everything you just said, I’m just nodding my head relentlessly. Yes, that is exactly how we approach things in business to our own loss. You know what we say my brother and I is that fixing problems doesn’t make people happy. Fixing problems whelms people. It doesn’t overwhelm them and doesn’t underwhelm them, it just whelms them, you know? So if you drive down the road for five miles and there’s no potholes, you’re not like giddy about that, you know, the same way you said when we land on Southwest, you’re not giddy about landing. It’s just that’s what you expected. You’re whelmed. But the point is if you want to make people happy, if you want to make people loyal, if you want to have people talking about your service or your product, then you’ve got to go beyond whelming. And the only way to do that is to talk about peaks, to talk about going on offense rather than defense.
[00:39:54] And so you know the funny rap flight safety announcement, that’s an example of a peak, you know somebody did that on purpose. They had some fun with it and in the course of a Southwest flight, my argument is that’s the peak because the peak was not the boarding process. That was pretty painful. It the peak was not having a plane fully packed every seat. The peak was not the beverage service or the little packs of peanuts. The peak was this kind of thoughtful funny moment. One of my favorite examples of this phenomenon is there’s a hotel in L.A. called the Magic Castle Hotel.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:26] Oh, I’m familiar. I used to live right pretty much right across the street.
Dan Heath: [00:40:29] Did you really? Okay. So, my guess is most of your listeners have never stayed at this place, so I’m just going to ask you if you have.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:36] I didn’t even know it was a hotel. I thought it was just a place you go for dinner. So if I didn’t know that and I lived next to it, I don’t think anybody else, many other people are familiar. But yeah. Interesting place.
Dan Heath: [00:40:46] So call up in your mind, even the picture of the Magic Castle Hotel. Like just get that conjure that mental image. And let me tell you that the actual Magic Castle Hotel, it looks nothing like that. It is not magical looking. It barely even looks like a hotel. It’s actually apartment complex built in the ‘50s that was later converted to what’s effectively a motel. It’s painted bright yellow. The rooms are totally average. I stayed there about 18 months ago and it’s got a totally average pool. The lobby is probably below average. It looks, you know, vaguely like the waiting area in a doctor’s office or maybe a place you can get your car’s oil changed. And so the mental picture I’m painting now you’re thinking, well, why is this guy talking about this very average motel look and place?
[00:41:33] Why am I talking about this? Because it is ranked the number two rated hotel in all of Los Angeles on TripAdvisor, on the string of thousands of reviews. It outranks places like the Ritz Carlton, like the Four Seasons. And so you just kind of shake your head. You’re like, how could that be true? And by the way, it’s not like a buck 50 a night. It’s not a cost thing that’s so attractive to people. It’s priced about the same level as a Hilton. And the answer is that these folks at the Magic Castle have figured out the power of moments. Like my favorite example is by that very average looking pool, there’s a cherry red phone that has a sign above it that says Popsicle Hotline. And if you pick up the phone, somebody answers and says, “Popsicle Hotline will be right out.” And somebody comes out minutes later wearing a suit, carrying a silver tray loaded with grape and cherry and orange popsicles.[00:42:26] They present them to you, wearing white gloves like an English butler, all for free. They have a snack menu where you can get Cracker Jacks and Sour Patch Kids and cream soda all for free just by asking at the front desk. They’ve got a board game menu where you can check out games and a movie menu to check out movies and they’ll do your laundry if you drop it off in the morning and have it done for you by the end of the day. And they have magicians doing tricks in the lobby several times a week. And so when I paint that alternate picture, it’s like, now you can understand why a family with a couple of kids maybe taking a vacation in Southern California, why they might actually prefer to stay at the average looking Magic Castle Hotel versus the Four Seasons. Because you know, it’s back to that Disney paradox. You know, two years later, you’re not going to remember that, “Oh, you know, the bed was average”, or “Oh, the lobby was average.” Two years later you’re going to remember, “Hey, you’re not going to believe this, but there was a phone by the pool where you could order popsicles. Can you believe such a thing?” That’s the power of peak moments. And that’s why it’s so important to transition out of that mindset of fixing every last pothole into the mindset of we’ve got to build some peaks for our customers.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:42] And you can see that in the economics of this. I mean obviously having that type of level of review being the number two hotel in LA, a huge metropolitan area with a ton of tourists and a ton of traffic. Well traffic, I meant travel traffic, but there’s a ton of traffic too. That results in economic benefit. And we see this with Southwest as well. Later in the book, even after I wrote down the rap example, you dissected how Southwest is generated, something like over a hundred million dollars in value each year by encouraging the employees to be more fun and spontaneous. Can you explain how that works? I don’t really understand how you measured the amount of value, but a hundred million dollars, that’s like two new aircraft every year. Maybe a little bit less.
Dan Heath: [00:44:29] Yeah. So let me work backwards from the punchline. So what Chip and I got interested in is, you know, everybody knows the Southwest does have these cheeky announcements and they’re good fun and you can watch the YouTube videos and, but the question we had was do they have any business value? Like could we prove it? And so Chip was working with the Southwest insights team and it turns out they have just, as you might expect, a massive of data on their customers. And in fact they had enough data to kind of tackle this question but they’d never thought about it before. And so what they had was they knew from surveys when customers were commenting on these funny announcements, so they knew when people had flagged it. And furthermore they were able to follow those customers where could they had their purchase history, you know, both back in time and then they could follow them in the future.
[00:45:18] And so we were able to answer the question, “Hey, does someone who hears one of these funny announcements, did they actually start spending more with Southwest?” And the answer was, yes — to our surprise — that seemingly something so small would have an effect on loyalty that on average they took about an incremental half additional flight the year after commenting on one of these announcements. And so then we were like, “Well wow, another half flight per person, what does that worth?” And the answer was somewhere around $140 million annually as the pay off for what? For making some funny flight announcements, for flight attendants rapping, for cracking some jokes. And so it’s kind of this astonishing payoff. I mean, think about the ROI of some jokes for $140 million in revenue. And what that teaches us is the power of peak moments that again, most of an experience is going to degrade in memory.[00:46:19] And so really if you run a service experience whether we’re talking about, as you said, a dentist office or an auto shop or a hotel or a restaurant, you know, know that step one is to whelm people. You know, you’ve got to get in the game, you’ve got to deliver what they want. You’ve got to get them from, you know, Phoenix to Nashville in the air. That’s the whelming part. And that’s essential. But step two is create some peaks because the peaks are what differentiates you. And the peaks are what survive in the customer’s memory.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:51] Now, this dovetails nicely with what you, I don’t know, did you turn this the odd ball effect or is this just something you guys had detailed in the book, novelty and the odd ball effect where, which is the idea that surprise somehow stretches time. Can you discuss this sort of brown shoe alarm clock, picture experiment? I thought that explained a lot about why as I get older, time seems to go faster.
Dan Heath: [00:47:17] Yeah. So this is a study conducted by a guy named David Eagleman.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:21] Oh, of course. He’s been on the show before.
Dan Heath: [00:47:23] Oh yeah? No kidding?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:24] Yeah. A friend of mine.
Dan Heath: [00:47:26] So he did a study where let’s say you were shown a series of images — a brown shoe, and then it would be another brown shoe, and then another brown shoe, and then another brown shoe, and then it would switch. It would be like an alarm clock and then back to the brown shoe and the brown shoe. And then they asked the participants afterwards, you know, how long was the alarm clock picture shown? Was it shown same amount of time, longer or shorter than the brown shoes that you saw. And in most of the participants said that the alarm clock was displayed longer, but in fact that was false. They were all shown for exactly the same amount of time. There’s actually some online kind of versions of this that you can test this for yourself. And even after, you know what the punchline is supposed to be, you’re going to have a hard time believing it.
[00:48:15] And the reason is that Eagleman argues that, this is called the oddball effect by the way, you know, the alarm clock picture was the oddball in the sequence and the odd ball seemed to take longer. And Eagleman says that what’s driving this is that our brains kind of get bored with the brown shoe picture. So the first time you see it, and this is a horrible analogy that psychologists will hate. But imagine your memory kind of taking a bunch of notes rapidly. Brown shoe, you’re interested, you’ve seen it for the first time. You’re looking at it, whether the shoe laces, what is this the shape. Second time it comes up, maybe you’re still kind of noticing some nuances. By the seventh time you’re just like, “Oh that’s the Bbrown shoe picture again. And so you’re not, you know, kind of actively inscribing new “notes in memory”.[00:49:03] And then when you see the alarm clock, it’s like everybody wakes up again. You start logging more dense notes and your memory and the density of those notes seems to be a good proxy for time. You know, the fact that we took so many notes about the alarm clock picture is what made it feel longer. So in other words, surprise stretches time. Now what’s so interesting about this is that I think the consequences of this go far beyond, you know, pictures of shoes and clocks. I think that this is the intuitive explanation for the common feeling that lots of people have that time seems to accelerate as we get older because our lives, you know, become more routine, they become less novel. There are fewer oddballs tossed in the mix. You know, you could think about it like as life goes on, we’re seeing more and more brown shoes and fewer alarm clocks.[00:49:58] In fact, there’s something called the reminiscence bump, which says that if you interview people of any age 50s, 60s,70s, 80s, and you ask them, you know, about their most memorable experiences in life, they tend to disproportionately site memories from roughly the ages 15 to 30, which is strange because you know, probably a lot of psychologists would have predicted, “Oh, if you interview someone who’s 50, they’re going to come up with memories from when they’re 48 and 49 that there should be a recency bias.” But in fact, most people are going back to this same era, 15 to 30. And the explanation is that was an era characterized by nonstop novelty. It’s like your first kiss, your first fight with your parents, your first job, you know, your first chance to live away from mom and dad, your first real relationship, maybe your first marriage, maybe your first child.[00:50:54] And so it’s like you’re constantly seeing alarm clocks, you know, constantly seeing novelty after novelty after novelty. You know, things are happening that disrupt your life in fundamental ways. And by the time you’re 45, there’s just a lot fewer of those occasions. There’s a lot less novelty. And so, yeah, it’s kind of something to have mixed feelings about. Like your first reaction might be, “Well, God, I don’t want that to happen to me. I want to live a memorable life. I need to get some of that novelty back.” But realize what we’ve done by age 45 is we’ve made a lot of really good decisions for ourselves. You know, we figured out who we want to spend our time with and what our calling is in life and where we want to live. And so it’s not why. It’s to think about just, you know, dumping your spouse and moving cities and, you know, becoming a shepherd just because you want to introduce some novelty in your life.[00:51:47] But it does tell us that if we want to have more memorable experience in life, we can in interject some more novelty. But that doesn’t have to mean you know, the foundational elements of your life. It may just mean, “Hey, you know, finally write that screenplay you’ve talked about” or,you know, when someone asks you to do something that’s a little out of your comfort zone, say yes. You know that friend of a friend’s birthday party, it’s across town, you know, on a night when you just assume go home and have dinner and sit in front of the TV, you know, maybe that’s a yes instead of a no, that a little bit of novelty can go a long way.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:28] What does the novelty do for us aside from stretch the time out longer? Is this part of the sort of the elevation segment of moment creation?
Dan Heath: [00:52:38] Exactly right. Yeah. So if we’re thinking about how do we lay down more memories, how do we make our lives more memorable? You know, one way to do that as my creating these moments of elevation and the argument we’re making in the book and this particular section is that we can break the script as a way to create powerful moments, break the script, meaning, you know, defy the expectations that people have or that we have for our experience. You know, I came across this quote from the authors of a book called Surprise, which is a really great book if you’re interested in this particular topic. They said we feel most comfortable when things are certain, but we feel most alive when they’re not. And so I think that’s the moral of this story is that if you want to feel more alive, what it means is push yourself beyond the zone of certainty.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:27] So we’re not always talking about novelty and high points and elevation and boosting sensory appeal and raising the stakes and breaking the script. Sometimes we’re talking about stepping in some human poop as one of the examples in the book. It’s details in graphic and graphic manner that sometimes we need to trip over it in order to come to a realization. And have our insight lead to action. Can you outline this? So I don’t just sound like a crazy person because this is a particularly graphic and interesting example of how you can use these moments or how we can use these moments to create change in other people and in societies and organizations. And I thought that was particularly fascinating and disgusting.
Dan Heath: [00:54:10] Yeah. So let me give you some backstory on this. I love this story. So the backstory is that in many places on earth, in fact about a billion people still practice open defecation, which basically means
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:21] Yeah, San Francisco is one of those places actually.
Dan Heath: [00:54:24] That’s what I hear in the news. Yeah, which basically means that people defecate in public areas. And so for many years the thought was, well the way you fix that as you provide latrines. And so that’s where our story starts. It’s 1999, there’s an organization called WaterAid that’s funded a bunch of latrines in Northern Bangladesh and they send an expert named Dr. Kamal Kar. The last name is K A R, to go check out the work and report back. You know, was it done properly? And so he goes to Northern Bangladesh and that’s where our story begins. So what he finds when he goes there is these two things. Number one, there were a bunch of people using the latrines and they were built exactly as planned. So check. But the second thing he found was wherever he went, he continued to find shit.
[00:55:16] And I should say, if that word gives you pause and I respect that. You may want to punch ahead a little bit because I’m going to use it about a hundred times in the next few minutes. I apologize. But I do think it’s important to use that word if for reasons we’ll see soon. And so Kar was kind of scratching his head, you know, the latrines are built. Why are people still shitting everywhere? And there were a bunch of problems involved. I mean a lot of them thought the latrines looked really fancy. They were like, “Why would we, you know, shit in the structure that’s nicer than a lot of the things we have in the village?” And others were just, you know, used to their patterns or behavior. And so Kar had this epiphany moment where he realized, “Hey, this isn’t a latrine issue.[00:55:56] This is a behavior change issue. And until people want to change, we’re not going to fix anything. And so acting on that epiphany, he created a methodology that’s now called community-led total sanitation or CLTs for short. And so that’s kind of a super boring phrase, but I’m about to walk you through it and I think you’ll find it anything but boring. This is pretty shocking. So here’s the way it works. If somebody practice the CLTs, a facilitator, will come into a village — let’s assume it’s a man. He’ll introduce himself and tell people, “Hey, I’m studying the sanitation profiles of some different villages in this area. Can you show me around?” And so some people will volunteer and take him on a walk from one side of the village to the other and he’ll start asking some pretty, you know, personal questions, you know, “Well, where do people shit here?”[00:56:49] And so the villagers will point them to the area of the open defecation and then he really ask them some probing questions, you know, well, “Who’s shit is this?” And you know, “Did anyone shit here today?” And some hands go up and then he’ll ask, you know, “Are there often flies here?” There’s a lot of nods all around and people are kind of getting a little anxious. They’re ready to move on. It stinks. And they’re embarrassed. And when they finish the walk across the village, they come into a public space and the crowd had gotten a little larger, because they’ve gotten wind of what’s going on. There’s a stranger in town that’s interested in their shit. And so they get interested in that. And so there’s a crowd forming in the public area. And the facilitator asked them if they wouldn’t mind drawing out a map of the village in the dirt.[00:57:34] And so they kind of sketch out, you know, here’s where the stream is and here’s the church and the school. And then they mark their individual homes with stones, just to show where they live. And once that map has been all filled in, the facilitator brings out a bag of yellow chalk and he says, “Use this to sprinkle on the places where people shit frequently.” And so the kids especially have a good time with that and they’re kind of sprinkling it on the open defecation areas. And then he says, “Okay, now. Where do you shit in an emergency, like there’s a rainstorm, you can’t get to the open defecation area or if you’ve got diarrhea and you just literally can’t make it? And so people are kind of giggling nervously and more yellow chalks getting sprinkled around. And at this point, it’s pretty obvious that like the entire village is covered in yellow.[00:58:27] And so this creates a weird energy in the crowd. People are confused, what’s happening. They’re disgusted. They’re a little embarrassed. And at that point, the facilitator asks for a glass of water. Someone brings the water and he asks somebody in the crowd, a woman if she would feel comfortable drinking in. And she says yes. And he asked other people and they said, “Yeah, we would drink it.” And then he pulls a hair out of his head and he says to the crowd, “What’s in my hand?” “a hair?” “Can you see it clearly?” “No, not really.” And he takes this hair and he walks over to a pile of shit that’s near the meeting area and dips his hair into it. And then he plunges the dirty hair into the glass and swirls it around. And then he hands that glass to one of the people in the crowd and asked them to take a drink.[00:59:18] And of course they refuse and he try someone else and everybody refuses. And he says, “Why are you refusing?” And they’re like, “Because it has shit in it”. And the facilitator kind of looks puzzled and he says, “How many legs does a fly have?” “Six.” “Right and they’re all serrated.” And so do you think flies when they’re on a pile would pick up more or less shit than my hair did, more? “Do you ever see flies on your food?” “Yeah.” “Then do you throw out the food when you see the flies?” “No.” “Then what are you eating?” And this is what Kamal Kar calls the ignition moment because they have to face the truth and that is that they’ve been eating each other’s shit for years and yeah, it’s brutal. It’s brutal. And people are agitated by this and you know, there’re arguments and discussions that break out, you know, we can’t continue this.[01:00:16] How can we stop this? And a lot of times they want the facilitator to tell them what to do. But the facilitators have been trained not to give the prescription, you know, they say you know your village best and you’re free to do anything you want, including continuing open defecation. And Kamal Kar says, you know, this is an emotionally wrenching process. I mean in some ways a manipulative process, but he says, you know, he wants to shock people or, or in this case maybe disgust people into recognizing what a big problem this is and recognizing that it requires them to change their ways. And based on some results he shared with me, he said that the rate of open defecation in Bangladesh has declined from 34 percent to one percent with CLTs being a major factor in that. And that’s an example of something that we call in the book — tripping over the truth — you know, to trip over the truth is to —
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:15] or stepping in the truth, maybe.
Dan Heath: [01:01:17] stepping in the truth in this case. Well said. It’s to experience a clear insight that’s compressed in time and that the audience discovers for itself, you know, so that moment when they when they realize, “Hey, what have we been doing for years? This is crazy. This is madness. We’ve got to fix this.” That’s it’s like they’ve tripped over an idea and it comes with force. It comes with velocity. And so one of the questions that we’re asking in the book is this is a moment of insight and a lot of moments of insight in life happen serendipitously. You know, we’re in the shower and we realize, “God, I can’t stand one more day at this job I’m in. I’m out.” You know, we didn’t ask for that moment, it just came. But this is an example of a big, you know, forehead-slapping moment that was created intentionally. And so this chapter in the book or the section in the book about moments of insight is motivated by this desire. Can we spark moments of insight in other people?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:18] So these crystallization of discontent or this realization, this insight that people come to. This can be positive or negative because usually we think of moments of insight and we think, “Oh aha! This is going to change my life for the better.” And of course not pooping in your neighbor’s front yard could change your life and everyone else’s life for the better. But in the moment, yeah, it’s kind of negative because you go, “Oh, I need to sit down and sort of process the idea that I’ve been eating my neighbor’s poop for 15-20 years, in small amounts over time and it’s kind of gross and I may just need a moment to let this change happen.” So does this insight then lead to action or is it more the other way around? Is it that actions lead to insight more often? And pardon me if that’s too philosophical of a question for our interview here, but it’s kind of unanswered so far.
Dan Heath: [01:03:08] You know, I think it can go either way. Like I’ll give you a more kind of ordinary business example of the shit story. I met this small business owner who ran a factory and he considered himself kind of an enlightened owner and he’d set up this retirement plan for them so that they could invest and he’d agreed to match their contributions, but he’d been pretty frustrated that people weren’t utilizing it very much and he’d tried bugging them and reminding them and sending around the registration forms and all that. And it didn’t seem to work. And so one year in December, he brought everybody together in the conference room and he was the last person to come in and he walks in the room carrying this kind of heavy looking medical bag and he walks over to the conference room table without saying a word, unzips the bag, turns it over and out piles this huge amount of cash.
[01:04:01] And so now people are kind of looking at each other like, “What’s going on here? What’s the money on the table?” And he says, “This cash that you see here, this is the amount of money that all of you forfeited, that all of you left on the table. I mean, literally in this case by not maxing out your 401k match and forcing me, you know, to match it.” And he said, “After this meeting, I’m going to scoop all this money back in the bag. I’m going to zip it up, take it back to the bank and deposit it in my account.” And he said, “Next year on this same day, we’re going to do this again. And my question is, do you want that money in your pocket or in mine?” And he said there was a rush to sign up for the 401k Plan that day. And so you see the kind of the same engines in that story as we saw in the shit story that it’s a mistake when we think we can get people to have ah-ha moments when we just beat them over the head with facts, right?[01:05:00] It’s like we want to just share — here’s the data, here’s the solution, here are the bullet points. I figured this out. Hey, let me just give this to you. But what’s far more effective is to have people discover for themselves, you know, the need for the solution. So, you know, the CLTs facilitator didn’t come into the village saying, you know, “Here’s the data. Here are all the diseases that you can catch from open defecation and you know, here’s the logic of why you should start using latrines and on and on.” What he did was he dramatized the problem. You know, here is, you know, the visceral disgust of realizing you know, what you’re doing because of your practices. And similarly in the 401k story, you know, he had tried using data, using logic to get people to sign up and really what he needed to do is kind of shock the truth into them by showing them, here’s what you’re giving up by not doing this. And once people realize and kind of feel then the problem, then they’re receptive to a solution. In fact, they may even discover the solutions for themselves.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:06] So it sounds like a lot of the insight related moments, they’re not sudden realizations. They’re not sudden insights. It seems like they circle around actions here. There’s moments of intentionality. They’re seizing a moment or an opportunity to create change in people. And what I’m trying to lean towards here, Dan, is some sort of practical that we can leave the family with, that people can apply right after they finish listening in order to take advantage of either the persuasive power of moments or something in their own lives. Is there something that you can give us that you can leave us with that people can use to create change in their own life or that of others?
Dan Heath: [01:06:42] Absolutely. And if you don’t leave this with something practical, I’m not explaining it right because to me this is incredibly practical advice for anybody who’s trying to communicate with colleagues to sell them on an idea. So my advice is if you have an idea and you need to attract support, stop explaining and start figuring out a way that your colleagues can see or experience or feel the need for your solution for themselves. So one more example that may just add some clarity there. There’s a guy named Scott Guthrie that was tapped to lead what’s called the Azure Computing Service, Microsoft is their cloud computing service. And when he took over, of course, he’s the new guy on the block. And so he’s trying to get familiar with the product and he visits a lot of their customers to get their feedback and their impressions of what’s going on.
[01:07:33] And basically what he learns, it was a theme across these customer visits was that the customers liked the underlying technology for Azure, but it was pretty hard to use. Pretty customer unfriendly. And so, okay, freeze there. That’s the situation a lot of us are in. Right? We’ve got a good idea. So Guthrie’s ideas, we got to make Azure more customer friendly. You’ve got an idea about how to improve the sales process. You’ve got an idea about how to, you know, produce better benefits for employees, whatever it is. How do you communicate that? So one approach is he could do the PowerPoint presentation, presenting the data from what he found. He could, you know, share some real world customer feedback, but listen to what he did. So he schedules an offsite meeting, invites his software architects and senior managers to attend.[01:08:21] And then he surprises them with a challenge. He asks them to get into teams and build an app using Azure just the same way one of their customers might have to. And it wasn’t designed to be, you know, some horrific challenge. But the teams really struggle with this. You know, some executives couldn’t use certain features, others couldn’t even figure out how to sign into the software and he later told a reporter it was a complete disaster. But of course that was exactly the point. That was the design that he wanted them to see for themselves — how customer unfriendly this software was — their own software. And so by the end of the off site, not only did they have buy in and to his idea, but they started working on a plan to fix everything. And so that’s the takeaway is if we want people to trip over the truth, we’ve got to create situations where they can discover the need for themselves and once they discovered the need, then they become much more receptive to the kinds of solutions we might want to offer them.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:09:22] Dan, thank you so much. There’s a lot in this book. In fact, one of the things we didn’t get to was this intimacy building discussion with the 36 questions. And there’s a lot of manual, sounds so clinical, but there’s a lot of ways we can deliberately, maybe it’s a better word, create these moments in our own lives for our kids, for our colleagues, and business. The book really does go into detail and a lot of this stuff, so thank you very much for coming on the show today and discussing some of these techniques and some of the research that you’ve got behind this because it really is quite fascinating.
Dan Heath: [01:09:55] It’s been a pleasure, Jordan, and I hope we set the all-time profanity record on the podcast today.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:10:01] Well, you and Gary Vaynerchuk may be tied for number one, but you’re up there. You’re definitely in the top five. So interesting, right? I mean, it’s the thing with the poop that, at first, when I read that in the book of that, okay, where is this going? But I love the idea that action leads to insight more often than insight leads to action. You kind of have to have both of those things in order to be persuasive and I love that that’s the outcome because that insight into persuasion and influence is kind of unmatched. You don’t hear about that a lot in his research, although it wasn’t geared towards persuasion and influence per se, really does overlap heavily with that area. I found this book useful for people who study that kind of thing.
Jason DeFillippo: [01:10:42] Absolutely. He definitely stepped in the insights.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:10:44] Yes, he stepped in the insights and caused us to do so as well. So great big thank you to Dan Heath. The book title is The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact. And of course if you enjoy this, don’t forget to thank Dan on Twitter. I’d love to hear from you via email or Twitter. I’m @jordanharbinger on twitter, @jordanharbinger on Instagram. And email@example.com as my email. So if you can remember my name, you can find me anywhere. That’ll all be linked up in the show notes for this episode, which can of course be found at jordanharbinger.com as well. And I’d love to know your number one takeaway here from Dan Heath. Again, @jordanharbinger on Twitter. This episode of the Jordan Harbinger Show was produced and edited by Jason DeFillippo. Jason Sanderson, with us in spirit as always — and no, he didn’t die. I know people are like, “Oh my God, what — ?” No, he’s not dead. Jason Sanderson is not dead. Just so everyone knows.
[01:11:34] Show notes are by Robert Fogarty. Booking back office and last minute miracles are by Jen Harbinger. And I’m your host, Jordan Harbinger. We’re new, as you know. Please rate and review on iTunes, share with your friends. Now that we don’t have embarrassing branding to go along with us, it’s probably a lot easier for some word of mouth. We would love that. So if you share the show with those you love and even those you don’t, that would be great. And we’ve got lots more in the pipeline. We’re excited to bring it to you. And in the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on this show so you can live what you listen and we’ll see you next time.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.