The Power of Moments

Article about the Heath Brothers' book The Power of Moments and the workshop from #JCampConf2018 based on its ideas

by Tara Acker and Kevin Martone

“You are cordially invited to experience the Power of Moments.  Bring this ticket (and an open mind) to the MVP Grill entrance (2nd Floor of the Sheraton Springfield) at 2:55 PM on Monday, November 5, 2018 to gain entry.”   

The Power of Moments – a book by the Heath Brothers – was the inspiration for a workshop at this year’s JCamp 180 Conference. The text above was on the ticket each pre-registered participant needed to gain entry – escorted by a white-gloved, tuxedo clad guide - to the special event; it was the first of many “moments” we intentionally created for the participants to help them experience the kind of moments discussed in the book and in our workshop.

According to the book, great experiences hinge on the idea of peak moments. These peak moments – which tend to be beginnings, endings, and transition moments – often disproportionally color how we remember an experience. 

So why did we decide to run a session on “Moments?”

We know that camps already create magically moments for their campers – they’ve been doing that for years. But we realized as we read the book that there is an opportunity for camps to more intentionally create and elevate meaningful moments for ALL of their audiences – campers, parents, alumni, donors, Legacy Society Members, board members, staff, and more – once they know what helps create memorable, meaningful moments.

So…What Makes Moments Meaningful and Memorable?

According to the Health Brothers, defining moments tend to share a set of four common elements: Elevation, Insight, Pride, and Connection


Moments of elevation are experiences that rise above the routine. They make us feel engaged, joyful, surprised, motivated.

For example, the Magic Castle Hotel is rated one of the best hotels in Los Angeles - competing favorably with Hotel Bel Air and The Four Seasons Beverly Hills. But this hotel is an ugly canary yellow converted two story apartment complex from the 1950s with a small pool, dated furnishings, and bare walls. So why does it garner such positive reviews?

The Magic Castle Hotel installed a cherry red phone mounted to a wall by the pool – the Popsicle Hotline.  Guest can use this Popsicle Hotline any time to order unlimited poolside popsicles hand-delivered by a server wearing white gloves. For free!

This hotel also provides free snacks to order, loans games and DVDs, has magicians perform at breakfast, and will even do your laundry.

The Magic Castle Hotel has mastered the art of delighting and surprising customers. The book argues that they don’t worry about every detail – they know that customers will forgive the small things so long as the hotel delivers peak moments. Most organizations do the opposite – invest lots of resources in trying to fix every basic detail at their hotel (Newer furnishings! Fresher paint colors!), but under invest in building these peaks. As you can see from the reviews, the peak moments that the Magic Castle develops are much more memorable than more comfortable furnishings at other hotels.

Elevation in Our Workshop

As already mentioned, beginnings, endings, and transitions are the most likely candidates to be meaningful moments. With some planning and intentionality, you can use Elevation to make these pivotal moments more memorable.

For example, our workshop started when the participants were escorted into the room by our tuxedoed assistant (thanks Laurie Herrick!). They entered through a tunnel of gold stanchions and helium-filled balloons, received a glass of kosher champagne and a pair of cozy slippers, and sat down at couches while pleasant music filled the room. Not your everyday conference workshop setup! We hoped to turn this beginning into a peak moment.

Half way through the workshop we took a break from the book’s content to review the English translation of Hava Nageela. We pointed out the line in the song involving being awake (or arise) with happy heart. Soon after, participants heard the quiet introduction to Hava Nageela. As the music crescendoed, participants looked around the room surprised to see one man walking in while playing his guitar and another playing his fiddle. As they played with full speed, participants clapped along and many spontaneously got up, locked hands, and danced the Hora. Our hope was to create this transition moment into another peak.
How to Create Elevation

To elevate a moment:
  1. Boost sensory appeal. For example: calling on a bright red Popsicle phone or providing comfy slippers.
  2. Raise the stakes, add an element of pressure. For example: create a competition, deadline, public commitment.
  3. Break the script. Breaking the script means to violate expectations about an experience. For example, giving snacks out for free at a hotel instead of overcharging or providing a relaxed atmosphere in a conference workshop.
Moments of elevation need not have all three of these elements, but most have at least two.

Moments of insight deliver realizations and transformations that rewire our understanding of our world.  They are similar to epiphanies. When we have a sudden realization, one that we didn’t see coming, and one that we know viscerally is right, we have “tripped over the truth.” This experience is a defining moment that in an instant can change the way we see the world.

For example, the Heath Brothers discuss a social sector organization’s work to address open defecation - and the very real health issues it causes - in a village in Northern Bangladesh. They added latrines, ensured they were installed properly, but it did not change behavior – open defecation was still rampant. Villagers were set in their habits.

It became clear to Dr. Karr, founder of Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS), that these villagers needed an adaptive solution not a technical one. The CLTS program works by having a facilitator arrive in the village and announce that they are studying sanitation habits. They inquire about where folks defecate. The facilitator uses the most profane word to describe feces to create a sense of shock/discomfort. “Is this where you normally defecate?” he asks.  “What about during storms? What do you do when you’re sick? Do you go right outside your home?”  

The facilitator then asks the villagers to draw a map of where everyone defecates and has everyone sprinkle yellow chalk over it. This usually creates nervous laughter. Soon they see yellow chalk everywhere. The facilitator asks for a glass of water. He asks if they would be comfortable drinking from the glass. They say yes. Then he pulls a hair from his head, walks to the poop pile, dips and then swirls in the glass. He asks if they would now drink this glass of water. They say no, obviously disgusted. 

Finally, the facilitator asks how many legs are on flies. They confirm that flies have six serrated legs. By now the villagers are quite agitated. He asks if they ever see these flies on their food. In an instant, the villagers realize they are eating their own feces. They have tripped over the truth. They experienced insight: a sudden realization that they are making themselves sick. They are embarrassed and ashamed.  These realizations happen quickly and can be transformative. CLTS was able to decrease Bangladesh’s open defecation from 34% to 1% with this program. The program has been successful and used in approximately 60 countries in the world.

Insight in Our Workshop

Insight is difficult to implement in a short workshop timeframe – the participants must come to those insights on their own, with the help of the facilitator. That said, as Laurie handed out log-shaped kosher chocolates during this part of the session, we took the opportunity to point out our own insight that this moment was not perfectly timed!

How to Create Insight

To produce moments of insight for others, help them to “trip over the truth” by revealing:
  1. A clear insight;
  2. Compressed in time;
  3. Discovered by the audience.

Moments of connection arise when we create shared meaning. People unite when they struggle together towards a meaningful goal such as a community cleanup project after a hurricane or a fundraising event to save a local library.
We asked participants to consider their stakeholders. Do they understand why their stakeholders are involved? Why do donors and board members provide their time, treasure, and talents to support camp? When people understand the why, it is compelling and connecting. Having stakeholders deeply involved in the mission, or why an organization exists, is crucial to feeling this connection.

How to Create Moments of Connection

To create moments of connection, try these strategies:
  1. Look for synchronized moments.
  2. Share in a purposeful struggle.
  3. Connect your work to meaning.

Moments of pride commemorate people’s achievements – they capture us at our best. They are moments of recognition such as during public ceremonies or when we receive praise from a boss. Feeling appreciated can be highly motivating. Take, for example, donors who receive thank you letters.  They will likely continue to donate or make larger donations in years to come if they feel valued and part of the mission of the organization. The book suggests we identify what is motivating and then celebrate it.

Another helpful way to create a sense of pride is to create achievable milestones…and then intentionally highlight and celebrate success.

Pride in Our Workshop

At the end of the workshop, Laurie handed clustered groups of participants a set of helium balloons. Attached to each balloon was a personalized certificate. Before the workshop, we reached out to each participants’ supervisor or peer to ask them to share one extraordinary thing the participant accomplished during the past year; these testimonials were printed on these special certificates.

Everyone in the room was asked to read another person’s accomplishment aloud to their cluster to give the honored participant their own public moment of pride.

Special thanks to Seth Godin for the “Certificate of Meritorious Awesomeness” which we used for these moments of pride!

How to Create Moments of Pride

To create moments of pride, try these strategies:
  1. Recognize others.
  2. Multiply meaningful milestones.
  3. Practice courage.
What Does This Mean For Your Camp?

Now that you have an idea of what defining moments are and how they can help make a connection or even more meaningful and memorable, it’s time to think about how to create moments for your camp. Keep the following in mind as you develop new moments at your camp:
  1. Consider ALL audiences (campers, parents, alumni, donors, Legacy Society Members, board members, staff, and more); don’t focus solely on campers, for whom your camp is already likely creating memorable moments.
  2. Can you elevate existing moments (beginnings, ends, and other special moments at camp)?
  3. Is there a way to multiply moments or intentionally finding new moments so you have more opportunities to create moments with your various audiences?
  4. Heed the Heath Brothers’ warning to “beware the soul-sucking force of reasonableness.”  Reasonableness can erode peak moments. What if Magic Castle decided to just have a cooler for the popsicles or – worse – charged for them? People love things that seem radical; things that break the script and delight. 
What’s Next?

What if we learned how to create more of these lasting moments for our stakeholders? Instead of waiting for moments to happen, what if we become the authors of them? If we learn to recognize these elements, we can learn to create more moments that matter. As individuals, and as people providing experiences for a variety of audiences, we want to elevate existing moments as much as possible and find ways to create new ones so that our constituents have many peak moments to consider when they recall their experiences with us.

We’ve created a Power of Moments Worksheet  to help you develop moments for all of your various stakeholders. It includes some examples to get you started, but only you and your team know what kind of moments will surprise and delight your stakeholders.