Book Review: The Power of Moments by Dan and Chip Heath

Power of Moments

Last October, I was fortunate enough to attend a Strength & Conditioning conference that hosted a great talk by Ron McKeefery. If you don’t go to seminars and conferences, I would encourage you to do so for the simple fact that you meet people doing exactly what you’re interested in and you might pick up something like I did.

Ron McKeefery has been around the strength & conditioning profession for a really long time and held several high profile jobs in the pro and collegiate setting. He has a great podcast called “Chalk Talk” that you should definitely check out. His talk was well done and pretty impactful on my thought process.

It centered around two books he had read by Chip and Dan Heath called “Switch” and “The Power of Moments”.

He gave a synopsis on each one and then discussed how he applied them into his own coaching with picture slides and examples of ideas. It motivated me to buy and read both books (pretty quickly I might add). While I did enjoy Switch and highly recommend it, I felt like The Power of Moments made more of an impact on my mindset going forward and got my creative juices flowing to a greater extent. So, as I read it, I decided to take some notes so I could share the highlights with you.

I really enjoy the Heath brother’s books, even another called Made to Stick, because of the way they speak to their audience and present the information. Their books always contain solid sources detailing situations or studies that really drive points home. They take an observational approach to answering questions instead of filling the entire book with their opinions. It’s refreshing to read something written by people who spent time researching a subject because they were genuinely interested. I wanted to highlight a few things from their case studies in this article.

The basis of the book is to review and deconstruct the power that certain moments have in our lives. It starts with questions like, “Why are some moments like birthdays or anniversaries so powerful in our memory?” and, “Can we create our own powerful moments in our everyday lives?”. It also stresses the importance of thinking in terms of moments and trying to spot occasions in our work and relationships that are worth investing in creating powerful moments or peaks.

The authors bring out four moments that are present for something to be remarkable:

  1. Moment of Elevation
  2. Moment Pride
  3. Moment of Insight
  4. Moment of Connection

Moments of Elevation-Moments that are elevated like birthdays or graduations have specific things like gowns or cakes with candles that make it a special occasion. In order to elevate a moment, it’s important to a) build sensory appeal b) raise the stakes and c) break the script. Doing these three things allow you to build what they termed “peaks”.

Moments of Pride-example of this is when someone acknowledges your work and it gives you a feeling of pride. The authors make a good point that pride for something is never without recognition from someone else. And that in order to create a feeling of pride to an employee, a genuine compliment can go a long way. Creating moments of pride can be done by setting up milestones like FitBit does by giving a badges for a certain number of steps. This creates a unique way to say “you’re doing great, keep going”.

Moments of Insight-Whereas elevation is a powerful moment because of it’s mostly positive effect, moments of insight can happen when the not so positive moments happen. These deliver realizations and transformations almost like epiphanies. But you can create moments of insight by “making someone trip over the truth” or “stretch for insight”. This is like the saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink it”. Sometimes people can’t see the truth until it’s staring right at them. If you really want the light bulb to go off, sometimes you have to make them trip over the truth. The authors give an example of a company trying to show a village to change their way of going to bathroom in order to improve sanitation and health in the area. Instead of scolding the people and telling them how terrible it is there, he asks them questions that they answer in front of the town. He continues to lead them to the truth by asking questions and not attacking anyone. Eventually, just by answering these questions allowed they become embarrassed and come to the realization of their mistake. Instead of attacking someone you think is doing something wrong, ask them questions and see if they will have the “aha” moment.

Moment of Connection-the last of the four includes the power that connection can have. We can create these by putting people in a situation to deepen ties to each other or create a shared experience. Making your group feel like they are all in it together can make a huge difference in the energy and attitude they bring to the workplace. Mentoring can be an extremely effective way to help someone that’s coming up in your field. It can help to create a connection for that person and improve the amount of success they have by taking advice from someone who has been there. I can say that a big reason my knowledge base has grown like it has is because of the mentors that took the time to teach and educate me outside of a classroom. If you aren’t taking on any new mentees, but expect someone else to mentor you then you are not understanding how it works. Learn as much as you can and then give that back to someone else who is in the same spot you once were.

My goal is not to spoil the great stories in the book, but to highlight the key points that can help you create powerful moments and discuss a few of my favorite stories.

Two of my favorites

“Popsicle Hotline”

One of my favorite stories in this book was the one about the Magic Castle Hotel in California that elevated their guest experience. They are rated one of the best hotels in LA, close to the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, despite being a very average hotel overall. Nothing that they have should make it stick out considering it’s a former two-story duplex built in the 1950s. So how is this possible?

The hotel has found out how to take what they have and deliver memorable, unique experiences to their guests. One thing being the cherry red phone they have by their pool that you can use to call the “popsicle hotline”. This is a line that you call and minutes later someone wearing white gloves deliver you a cherry, orange, or grape popsicle on a silver platter for no charge. They have magicians doing tricks three times a week at breakfast and offer tons of snacks, board games, and DVDs at no charge. They’ve found a way to make the experience at their hotel remarkable. People can forgive a smaller pool or less than luxurious accommodations, especially when you’re giving them a popsicle hotline. That’s something you remember and tell your friends about later.

“Trial of Human Nature”

The second story that really struck a chord with me was “The Trial of Human Nature” at Hillsdale High School. This story talked about two teachers collaborating to come up with an idea to create an experience in the classroom that students could look back on and remember forever. Students often look back on their most memorable times that include things like prom, a football game, or something else that’s extracurricular. That’s because things like sports have practices that are followed by games (peaks). School has no real peak, just the same structure over and over with the “learn this skill and then test on it” approach that isn’t great at creating elevated, memorable moments.

So, when students complained that two big exams fell on the same day, their teachers saw an opportunity and seized it. Since one class was based on the book, “The Lord of the Flies”, they cooked up an idea in which the students would host a trial deciding if the author slandered human nature in his book that portrayed mankind as being a bunch of savages. In the first year, the students were shaky in some of the execution, but they seemed to really enjoy it. They saw students who never really were active in class participating and opening up like never before. Since that first trial, it has become a yearly tradition. Witnesses like Darth Vader, Florence Nightingale , and the Dalai Lama have been called to the stand. It’s such a monumental experience for a kid in high school to be a lawyer in a trial in front of the whole school. These teachers took a school curriculum and made something powerful on their own.

Final summary

This was a great book because as I’m reading these stories I was thinking about how I can improve my own career and create powerful moments for the people I work with. Case study after case study gave me inspiration to break from the script of the daily grind and look for opportunities to make long lasting impactful moments. I hope  you check out this book and that it helps you brainstorm ideas in your own career and lives.

Here is the clickable picture that will take you to Amazon to get it.




Published by strengthcoach7

Graduated from Florida State University with a Masters in Sports Sciences. Strength and conditioning coach, Sports Scientist, and passion to help people find their athleticism.

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