Out of Chaos and Into the Moment

Humans are humans are humans. Whether you’re designing an engaging brand so that you can grow your market share or planning a great birthday party for your daughter, the thinking should be the same. Because neither challenge can be solved with a spreadsheet. True, you’ll need a project plan for that brand launch and a recipe for that birthday cake. But ultimately, to deliver something that matters – something that endures – you’ll need more than a plan. You’ll need to engage the heart and mind of a real person on the other end. It’s all very human.

To deliver something that matters – something that endures – you’ll need more than a plan. You’ll need to engage the heart and mind of a real person.Click To Tweet

When we walk into the world of work, most of us forget this. I know I do. I reduce the things I’m working on to a pressing client issue that needs a response, a proposal that needs to go out, a word doc that needs to be reviewed. It’s easy to forget that there is a person on the other end.

It’s not easy to design an experience that’s memorable and enduring. There’s so much coming at us that it can be hard to actually focus on the thing in front of you.

The continuous flow of emails. The ever-expanding to-do list. The responsibility for guiding the people around you. And don’t forget to buy milk on the way home from work, make some time to call your mom, and schedule time to actually think through how you’re going to save for retirement. Also, try to make some time to exercise so your body doesn’t deteriorate, making it less likely you’ll see your kids grow old.


It’s just a little much.

When we try to focus on everything at once things can pile up and quickly spiral out of control. It becomes chaos. The disorder, fragmentation and resulting confusion can be overwhelming. It can be hard to see the purpose and direction of it all when you’re just trying to get to the next meeting, the next deliverable, the next meal. Most of us are just trying to get through it. We miss the moments along the way.

It’s a problem. It keeps us from designing great experiences for our customers. It prevents us from actually serving our employees well. And it keeps us from being who we are meant to be for the people that mean the most to us. If you don’t work to solve it for your little corner of the world – the world may miss out on the fullness of what you have to offer.

I don’t have a perfect solution.

But I do have three thoughts:

1. Make some choices

Focus on what’s most important. You can’t do everything. You just can’t. You are finite and you only have so many hours in the day. And there will never be more than 24 hours in the day. You can’t please everyone that asks you for something. You have to make some choices about where you will focus: who are the people you want to focus on? What are the tasks that are truly worthy of your attention? And what will you firmly say no to?

It’s easier said than done. You must say no to good things. This probably is not a new idea for you. But it is HARD to be disciplined about declining good things in favor of the best thing. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all of the swirling chaos, you still have some work to do on getting to a better no.

2. Create a moment

Moments stick with us. They resonate and endure precisely because they are specific and particular. Think about your high school experience. Is there a memory or a moment that stands out?

Here’s a smattering of moments from my high school experience: I remember the terror and thrill of riding in the backseat of my friend Vee’s Volkswagen Golf as he recklessly weaved through traffic at 80MPH. I remember asking Serli to Homecoming in the back parking lot after school. And I remember getting hyped for football practice by listening to DMX in the locker room.

But other parts of high school have faded. Most of it, I just forgot.

That’s because high school, like a brand experience (and a lot of things in life), is mostly forgettable and occasionally remarkable.

So whether you’re trying to develop a more resonant brand experience for customers, deliver a more engaging employee experience for your team or working to develop a greater sense of connection in a relationship – don’t get lost in your head, trying to over-engineer every second of the experience. Think instead about how to craft a single meaningful, enduring moment. Start with just one. Because that moment is what will stick with the person you’re trying to reach.

3. String together a series of moments

Start with just one moment, but don’t stop there. Once you deliver one, do it again. And then do it again. People are wired for momentum. A couple of bad days in a row may leave you feeling like the sky is falling. But the reverse is also true, two consecutive good days can make you feel ready to take on the world.

People like progress. Take, for example, a group of researchers who studied car wash loyalty cards. The cards are exactly what you’d expect – it’s a loyalty card that lets customers earn a free car wash if they get the card stamped each time they visit. The researchers studied two groups: group A received a blank card with space for 8 stamps. Group B received a card with space for 10 stamps, but 2 of them had already been stamped. In either situation, it still required the customer to come back for 8 carwashes. Which group do you think was more likely to keep coming back for that free car wash? Group B. Having those 2 stamps to start made all the difference. We like that feeling of forward momentum.

So as you think about crafting moments for the people that matter, don’t do it once. If you do it once, it’s a fluke. Craft a series of moments in which each moment builds on the one before it. People will notice, they’ll believe in what you’re doing and they’ll join you for the journey.

In closing

You don’t have to be a passive recipient of the chaos swirling around you. You have the capacity to act. It starts with making choices about what’s most important and where to focus your energy. From there, start by creating a single moment. It doesn’t have to be grand. And then build from there. By creating a series of moments you’re well on your way to building lasting impact for the people that matter.

Make no mistake. This stuff is easier said than done. But you can do it. You’ll be surprised by the impact you can create. You just need to look for the spaces where you can act and give yourself permission to do something.

For a deeper look at how to make smart choices about what’s important in work and life, check out Greg McKeown’s Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. My thinking on the importance of moments was deeply shaped by Chip & Dan Heath’s, The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact. Both are worth your time. 

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