The Power of Moments


“We do not remember days, we remember moments.”

When I was in college, I heard this quote by the Italian poet Cesare Pavese for the first time, and it changed the way I think about life experiences.

Two of my favorite authors, Chip and Dan Heath, unpack this phenomenon in their book The Power of Moments. They discuss the psychology of perception and explain the reasons why we remember certain events and not others.

In the opening section, they walk through a family’s day at Disney World as if they were rating their experience hour by hour. Here’s their summation:

9 a.m.: Cattle-herding your kids out of the hotel room. There’s excitement in the air. Rating: 6

10 a.m.: Riding “It’s a Small World” together, with parents and children each under the impression that the other must be enjoying this. Rating: 5

11 a.m.: Feeling a dopamine rush after riding the Space Mountain roller coaster. Your kids are begging to ride it again. Rating: 10

Noon: Enjoying expensive park food with your kids, who might enjoy it less if they knew you bought it with their college fund. Rating: 7

1 p.m.: Waiting in line, for 45 minutes now, in the 96-degree central Florida heat. Trying to keep your son from gnawing on the handrails. Rating: 3

2 p.m.: Buying mouse-ear hats on the way out of the park. Your kids look so cute. Rating: 8

If you took an average of these six moments, the rating of the day would be a 6.5. Not necessarily amazing, but it was a pretty good day. However, if you ask this family to rate their day at Disney World a few weeks later, they would say it was a 9. This is because they will remember the way they felt after Space Mountain and the way they felt leaving the park. When rating an overall experience, you subconsciously average your best moment and your last moment together.

This should be an encouragement to us. It takes a little of the pressure off. Sometimes in our pursuit of perfectionism, we strive to make every moment memorable. The problem with this is that we almost always fail. It’s really tough to make every single moment magical–even at Disney. Some moments simply need to stand out and be better than others. When we fully embrace the power of moments, we can focus on carefully crafting those mountaintop moments that people will remember for a long time.  

At the local restaurant, you remember when the server walks up and ties the balloon around your three-year-old’s chair, and they all sing “Happy Birthday” to her, making her night. At the quick-casual restaurant, you remember when the person behind the counter offers to take your food to your table, so you can situate all of your kids. At the church, you remember the person who made you feel comfortable and helped you find a seat the very first time you attended. Then, you remember that person at the end of the service that said he would love to see you again the next week.

Want to know the craziest thing about moments? Sometimes, you can create a moment so powerful that you get credit for it even with people who didn’t experience the moment firsthand. Take a look at this example from a Chick-fil-A in Houston:

We most likely won’t get the chance to rescue someone from a flood, but each of us can intentionally create moments. A memorable moment creates positive memories for the participant and a positive affinity for the moment-maker.

Take the time today to think about creating moments.                                                                                                             Make memorable moments for your family.                                                                                                                               Make moments with your friends.                                                                                                                                                     And in your work, be intentional about creating these moments for your customers and colleagues.

Remember, one moment can define an experience and leave a lasting impact.

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Today, business means more than just mere products and services. Your organization needs to stand for something. Branding is what you tell the world; leadership is how you make it come true.

No one knows this dynamic better than Kevin Paul Scott.

Companies turn to Kevin for advice on how to up the meaning-quotient in their businesses, so that employees and customers alike champion the business as if it were their own.

Let Kevin come and teach your group about how to build a business and communicate corporate values in a way that resonates with consumers.

His speeches include:
• Building a Business with Meaning
• Leading When the Majority is Wrong
• In Changing Times, Hold to Unchanging Principles
• The War for Talent: Recruiting and Retaining Top Tier Talent
• Essential Exchanges: What You Have to Give Up to Go Up