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The Power of Moments

Ever since reading Made to Stick I’ve been a fan of authors Chip and Dan Heath. I read their follow up books Switch, Decisive and most recently The Power of Moments. As you might expect, I was very excited when I learned Dan Heath was going to be a keynote speaker at the Chief Learning Officer Symposium I attended a few weeks ago. Dan didn’t disappoint and everyone in attendance was given a copy of The Power of Moments.

My quick synopsis of the book is this: We know there are special moments in life that stand out from the rest and it turns out they’re not random. Chip and Dan have spent a good bit of time studying why some moments mean more than others. In the book they give readers ideas they can use to create their own powerful moments. They explore moments of elevation, insight, pride and connection. I encourage you to pick up a copy because you’ll get ideas on ways you can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.

After hearing Dan speak I had the opportunity to briefly meet him. All of this made me reflect on the power of moments in my life. I’ll share a few that really stand out.

Getting Engaged

When I asked Jane to marry me I did so on her 23rd birthday. Because it was her birthday she thought the dozen roses I sent to work were just a gift. Of course, getting roses in front of coworkers scored me some brownie points. Later that day I showed up at her apartment with a bottle of wine and another dozen roses. Another surprise was the chauffeuered 1963 Silver Cloud Rolls Royce I hired to take us to dinner that evening. It was later that night, in the back of the Rolls Royce that I asked her to marry me and as they say, “The rest is history.”

52nd Birthday

Milestone birthdays (30, 40, 50, etc.) are usually memorable because quite often then involve parties. For Jane’s 50th birthday I gave her (us) improv lessons which were a blast. But for her 52nd birthday I had my most creative and challenging idea ever. To commemorate 52, it occurred to me that there are 52 weeks in a year. With that in mind I decided to give Jane a gift a week for an entire year. It turned out to be great for three reasons:

  • It gave Jane something to look forward to every week.
  • I learned more about her because I had to pay close attention to her likes, dislikes and needs.
  • I spent more time with our daughter Abigail because she helped me pick out many of the gifts.

Special Day

Abigail is our only child. We would have loved to have more but it wasn’t in the cards for us. To tangibly show Abigail how much we love her we started a tradition we call “Special Day” when she was just a year old. This is a day we choose at random each year where we surprise her with gifts and plan the whole day around her. When she was little it might have been lunch at McDonalds, a Disney movie and cupcakes later that night. As she grew up it was horseback riding, plays, shopping sprees and other fun activities. To Abigail’s knowledge, none of her friends growing up had anything like a special day so it really continues to make her feel special.

Abigail’s Birth

One last occasion I’ll mention is Abigail’s birth. We tried for years to have kids but to no avail. When she finally arrived, she was an answer to many, many prayers. Within days of her birth I wrote a letter to her detailing the events leading up to her arrival in the world to let her know how loved and wanted she was. It was also my desire to give her to have a strong sense of how evident God was throughout the whole process. When she was 12 years old she was struggling with some identity issues so I gave her the letter. It was a powerful moment for her because she’s read it many times over the years and often asks questions about the events surrounding her birth.

I was fortunate that long before reading The Power of Moments I was creating powerful moments for my family that have influenced our relationships in very positive ways. The same opportunity exists for you. If you’re not sure where to start or what to do pick up a copy of The Power of Moments and you’ll learn everything you’ll need to know to create your own powerful moments.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE and Learning Director at State Auto Insurance. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed more than 125,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it and you’ll learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

Visuals, Stories and Analogies, Not Facts and Figures, Persuade

I recently attended a meeting where the presenter tried to prove a point using all kinds of statistics and charts over a 30-minute timeframe. Those of us who watched and listened were not the ultimate target audience but many in attendance would be expected to convey the message to the final audience. Unfortunately, the message is doomed for failure because when you’re trying to persuade people visuals, stories and analogies, not facts and figures, are your best bet to change thinking and behavior.

Facts and figures used correctly can make you more persuasive because they tap into the principle of authority. But, they should not be the primary way you attempt to persuade. Let me share an example from Chip and Dan Heath’s book Made to Stick to illustrate my point.

The Heath brothers shared a story about how unhealthy a medium sized buttered popcorn purchased at the movie theater was back in the 1990s. It contained 37 grams of saturated fat and people basically said, “So what?” Here’s an eye-opening stat; that’s almost twice as much as the USDA recommended daily allowance of 20 grams! And still, people thought, “So what?”

It wasn’t until the message was conveyed in a way that people could picture in their minds that change came about. What finally cause people to sit up and take notice? At a press conference the Center for Science in the Public Interest shared – with visuals – the following: “A medium sized ‘butter’ popcorn at a typical neighborhood movie theater contains more artery-clogging fat than a bacon-and-egg breakfast, a Big Mac and fries for lunch, and a steak dinner with all the trimmings – combined!” Use visuals, stories and analogies, not facts and figures, to persuade.

You don’t have to be a health nut to know that eating all three of those meals in a single day is not in your best interests. Now picture getting all that fat into your system over the course of a two-hour movie. All of a sudden people stopped buying popcorn which forced movie theaters to change how they made buttered popcorn.

Here’s one more example. This one comes from William Poundstone’s book Priceless. Many years ago, an elderly woman severely burned herself when she spilled a scolding hot cup of McDonald’s coffee on her lap. The burns led to an eight-day hospital stay for the 79-year-old woman. Eventually she won a $2.86 million-dollar settlement! As outrageous as that seems, McDonald’s blew it when they refused to settle for just $20,000. The lawyer for the elderly woman didn’t ask the jury for nearly $3 million in compensation. Instead, he only asked for one or two days of McDonald’s revenue from the sale of coffee. That didn’t sound like too much to ask the jury except revenue was $1.35 million per day! Use visuals, stories and analogies, not facts and figures, to persuade.

Here’s the take away – next time you attempt to change people’s thinking and behavior with facts and figures stop! Take time to think about how you might put those facts and figures into a picture, story or analogy that will resonate with your audience. Do so and you’ll be far more likely to hear “Yes!” as illustrated by the Heath brothers and William Poundstone.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at InfluencePEOPLE. His Lynda.com course, Persuasive Selling, has been viewed more than 120,000 times! Have you seen it yet? Watch it to learn how to ethically engage the psychology of persuasion throughout the sales process.

The Right Comparison Can Make All the Difference in Persuasion

Have you ever run five miles? That’s not easy to do if you’re not in shape. How about this — have you ever walked five miles? That’s not as hard as running but can be taxing depending on your fitness level. Do you think it would be more tiring to walk in 70, 80, or maybe 90 degree weather? Throw on top of that playing a round of golf over four hours and it would be pretty tiring for just about anyone.

In 2001, golfer Casey Martin challenged the PGA Tour rule that prohibited golfers from using a cart on the tour. His challenge arose because of a rare blood disorder that caused circulation problems in his legs. Part of the PGA contention was that walking causes fatigue and is therefore an intrinsic part of the game. Casey Marti’s legal team disagreed. From The PGA Tour, Inc. v. Martin Supreme Court case in 2001:
“The District Court credited the testimony of a professor in physiology and expert on fatigue, who calculated the calories expended in walking a golf course (about five miles) to be approximately 500 calories ‘nutritionally … less than a Big Mac.’”

Walking the golf course burns fewer calories than a Big Mac? All of a sudden it doesn’t seem like such a monumental activity. Think about this for a moment; if Casey Martin’s legal team had simply cited 500 calories, the point would not have been as impacting. I’m sure everyone on the court could visualize a Big Mac. Martin eventually won the case.

Sometimes the right comparison can make all the difference when it comes to persuasion. Just using numbers doesn’t always work because they don’t always register for many people. Here are two more great examples of effective comparison points that led to change.

In Chip and Dan Heath’s best selling book Made to Stick, a story is shared about how unhealthy a medium-sized buttered popcorn was in the mid ‘90s. Trying to persuade movie theaters to change was going nowhere despite the fact that the popcorn had 37 grams of unsaturated fat. It didn’t register just how unhealthy that was until it was eventually pointed out how buttered popcorn compared to other foods. Did you know you’d get that much unsaturated fat (37 grams) if you ate bacon and eggs for breakfast, a Big Mac with large fries and Coke for lunch, and then had a steak and loaded potato for dinner…all in the same day! None of those meals is healthy but eating all three the same day with any consistency would eventually lead to obesity. That’s how much fat those who ate the medium-sized buttered popcorn were getting in the mid-90s. Thankfully theaters eventually changed their ways.

McDonald’s coffee case is noted in WilliamPoundstone’s book Priceless. You may recall an elderly woman severely burned herself when she spilled a piping hot cup of McDonald’s coffee on her lap. It led to an eight-day hospital stay for the 79 year-old woman. She won a $2.86 million dollar settlement. While that may seem outrageous, it only came after McDonald’s refused to settle for $20,000. Her lawyer took it to trial and didn’t ask for nearly $3 million. Instead he asked for one or two days of McDonald’s revenue from the sale of coffee. That doesn’t sound so bad except revenue was $1.35 million per day!

One last example came from the late Steve Jobs. He introduced the first iPod, which he pulled out from the front pocket of his jeans, saying, “A thousand songs in you pocket.” Wow, that amounted to more songs than most people had in their entire CD collections!  I doubt Jobs would have been nearly as effective if he’d have said, “10 gigabytes in your pocket.” Even techies wouldn’t be as moved by that as they were when he announced 1,000 songs.

Next time you’re going to attempt to persuade someone, or a group of people, think about the comparisons you would normally make. Then take a moment to consider other possible comparisons that are naturally available. It could be calories versus real food, money or objects money can buy, or songs versus gigabytes. Put the comparison in terms most people can grasp and you’ll have a much better chance for persuasion success.