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Don’t wait for dumb luck: Create more defining moments by doing this

Imagine you’re a 20-something sales rep for a tech company. You sell disaster recovery software and make good coin doing it. Your wardrobe and your wheels reflect your success.

Then, gas skyrockets past $3 a gallon. There’s even talk it’ll flirt with $4. Suddenly, you and the other young sales reps in the office aren’t living so large. Like them, you see that the lengthy commute you’ve tolerated because of the pay has become a burden to your bank account.

You and many on the sales team begin looking for work that’s closer to home. After all, you know the CEO expects his sales reps in their seats. So you’re stunned to learn about the plan he put in place: As long as gas stays above $3 a gallon, he’ll provide every sales rep with a monthly $100 gift card to offset the cost of keeping the tank full.

That’s a defining moment.

What if you created more moments like these—short experiences that are memorable and meaningful? For your customers. For your colleagues. For yourself.

The CEO succeeded by “breaking the script” — a term and act that’s explored with several anecdotes in an audiobook full of them. This anecdote, from 2008, is one the CEO shared when he hired me to his corporate communications team a few years later. It came to mind while listening to The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact.

The book’s thought-provoking premise is that “Many of the defining moments in our lives are the result of accident or luck … But why would we leave our most meaningful, memorable moments to chance when we can create them?

Breaking the script with “a strategic surprise” designed to “defy people’s expectations of how an experience will unfold” is one way to do it.

In the case of the gift card giveaway, the CEO created a defining moment that benefited both sides. The sales reps saw the temporary program as an acknowledgement that their contributions to the company’s success were not only valuable but valued. With a newfound, stronger sense of loyalty, most of the team stayed—a big win for the company.

What might lead to a defining moment in your line of work? The spark could be:

  • Anticipating aspects of a big presentation that may be met with resistance, and mentally rehearsing how you’ll respond. (“Practice quiets the anxiety that can cloud our mind in a tough moment.”)

  • Building more milestones into team projects, celebrating those achievements, and recognizing the people whose contributions at those stages were critical. (“A wise leader can look for milestones on the way to a larger goal.”)

  • Demonstrating your desire to help customers get what they want, in the way they want, by asking, “What matters to you?” in addition to “What is the matter?” (“If we want more moments of connection, we need to be more responsive to others.”)

At the heart of the matter is understanding that a defining moment is created from one or more of the following elements:

Elevation – Defining moments rise above the everyday.

Insight – Defining moments rewire our understanding of ourselves and the world.

Pride – Defining moments capture us at our best—moments of achievement.

Connection – Defining moments are social. These moments are strengthened because we share them with others.

Each of these elements is explored in detail. The stories that frame the larger conversation are short and relatable. And the thread tying all of the chapters together is that individuals, teams and even organizations from all walks of life recognized moments matter.

So they manufactured more of them.

If you’re looking for pointers to do the same—especially  in the current climate—The Power of Moments is a sound place to start.