Normally I would not devote an entire blog post to a book I have just completed. I’d write up my happy little review on GoodReads and then move on to the next one. This time is different.
I just finished The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by brothers Chip and Dan Heath. My brain is buzzing, not only because I loved the book but also because of the clarity it gave me.
The Heath brothers write about creating memorable, impactful peaks in our lives and the lives of others. These peaks can be simple acts like complimenting someone on a job well done or shoveling an elderly neighbors driveway. They can also be large acts that require a lot of effort to pull off, like an all-company meeting meant to inspire employees to change the culture or, well, co-producing a stage show featuring amateur and professional local writers, some with lots of stage experience and some with none, reading their original essays about motherhood.
For six years I co-produced Chicago’s Listen To Your Mother (LTYM) show. When I started preparing for our first show in the fall of 2011, I had zero experience producing anything for the stage. I had zero experience being on stage. Still, I jumped in with both feet and learned a lot as I went. Our first show in May 2012 went off without a hitch, and the entire journey but especially the 90 minute show itself was pure magic for all of us. My co-producer Tracey and I were clicking imaginary cameras at each other as reminders to live in and absorb the moment, and our cast of ladies (and gentleman), who represented a wide range of experience in writing and public speaking, not only rose to the occasion but rose beyond the occasion, skillfully delivering an amazing evening to our audience. It was as if all the stars aligned, and I feel comfortable speaking for Tracey and our entire cast when I say that we were euphoric for a long time after that show. Each of our next five shows, by the way, though largely different in cast members and content, were just as magical. (Pictured above: the cast of LTYM Chicago 2013, ready to roar!)
The LTYM shows all across the United States were extremely special (and MAGICAL) no matter who produced them, who was cast, which essays were read or where the shows were held. The thing they all had in common was that they unified folks. We called it “Me too!” because one reader could validate so many others in the audience by showing them that although the details might differ, many of us share similar stories.
The Power of Moments further clarified the reason behind the magic (and beyond our “Me too!” moments) for me. Among other related points, the Heaths described the idea that bonding happens when people struggle together as they work towards the same task (a “synchronizing moment”), especially if it’s a task that is meaningful to them. Though I feel like the bonding that happened every year at LTYM Chicago was sort of legendary, each city had its own version of it during the three-month journey to stage. Our cast members were experiencing a life peak as a group (putting on the show as a whole) and many of them, especially those who were terrified of reading their personal essay on a stage in front of hundreds of people, experienced a life peak as an individual (triumphing on stage) that just might stay in their fond memories for a lifetime. Tracey and I experienced the peak of producing a successful show each year within a partnership, the peak of reading our own essays to an audience, and most of all, the peak of watching other people realize (just to name a few):
- A dream they didn’t know they had
- That they aren’t alone in whatever feelings and experiences they read about
- Their immense pride in their own abilities
- Their joy in being a part of something bigger than their average daily tasks
As I read the examples of “moments” in the book, I also thought of my fiftieth birthday letter-writing project from last year, inspired by my friend Nancy (who has her own book about the process coming out this fall, holla!). Taking the time to reflect on my entire life so far, delving into the people and experiences that made me the person I am today, and then putting my feelings of gratitude to paper was extremely meaningful for me. I consider the whole experience one of the best things I’ve ever done (similar to LTYM!) and am extremely thankful that I made the decision to take it on. Once I mailed the letters, I discovered (via the response) that I had created special moments for so many of the important people in my life, and that in turn multiplied the power of my own moments.
I’m a pretty good moment-creator already, for myself and for others; if you know me personally or through this blog, that’s no surprise. What I loved about Chip and Dan’s book is the reinforcement that we need more good in this world as a whole, and the encouragement to take action, big or small. I finished the book feeling inspired to create more, do more, and think more, and I recommend that you take a few moments (see what I did there?) to read it so you can be inspired, too.