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Taylor Swift, Passover, and the Power of Moments

There’s a quote from the 2001 movie Riding in Cars with Boys that I will always remember – “One day can change your life. One day can ruin your life. All life is is three or four big days that change everything.” The movie itself is not remarkable, and I remember nothing about it other than I think Drew Barrymore was in it, but I revisit this quote all of the time and think about to what extent I agree. I also think about slight tweaks to the wording and whether I agree more or less with the adjusted version”

  • All life is is three or four big days that change everything?

  • All life is is three or four big decisions that change everything?

  • All life is is three or four moments that change everything?

Regardless of the specific wording and implications surrounding the choice of words, the main idea remains – days or choices or moments matter.

I recently read the book The Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. In the book, the Heath brothers discuss how defining moments (which they define as moments that are both memorable and meaningful) shape our lives. They share that when we recall an experience, we tend to remember certain “moments” within the experience – the peaks, pits, and transitions. We don’t remember the entire experience, it’s the moments that count.

I recently got back from taking my daughter to the Taylor Swift concert in Arlington, TX. Yes, we live in Denver. Yes, Swift is playing a couple of shows in Denver in July, but they are on a Friday/Saturday night, which makes it challenging for a family that observes Shabbat traditionally, in addition to the fact that my daughter will be at camp in July on the east coast. Some may say that I am crazy...I waited in (virtual) line to get us tickets and woke up at 2:45 am to another state for a concert with my 10-year old a couple of days before Passover (none of which is exactly cheap). And we will both remember this forever. But we won’t remember the whole thing; we’ll remember the moments. She won’t remember that cold perogies we had for dinner or the bed we slept in or the snacks she didn’t eat on the plane. But she’ll remember the peaks of getting to see Taylor Swift in concert and getting to drink her pink Starbucks drink while she had my undivided attention. She’ll remember the pit of having the wait in line for 45 minutes to go up Reunion Tower and how hot our ugly red car was. And she’ll remember the transition of what it felt like to be an only child for 27 hours going back to being one of four. And I will forever remember the look of absolute joy on my daughter’s face when Taylor Swift appeared on stage for the first time – and how I got to make that happen for her.

A point that the authors make, which I found to be incredibly powerful, is that we don’t have to wait for these moments to happen – we can create them (they talk about playing offense, not just defense when it comes to moments). They posit that defining moments are created from one or more of the following elements: elevation, insight, pride, and connection. And we can take control of these moments instead of just letting them happen to us by intentionally integrating and/or focusing on one of more of the elements:

  • Elevation refers to moments that surprise and engage us, giving us a sense of joy and/or motivation.

  • Insight refers to moments that may shift our thinking about the world.

  • Pride refers to moments that capture us and celebrate us at our best.

  • Connection refers to moments that arise when we create shared meaning.

The Heath brothers also discuss the power of disrupting the schedule and going out of the norm in creating memorable moments. They suggest that you break the script as often as needed to make an impact, not often enough to create routine. I remember, for example, when I was a classroom teacher, I started doing what I called “MMS,” which stood for Meaningful Moments from Shabbat (or Saturday or Sunday). On a Monday, I would ask students to share, and, in return, they would get M&M candies. The first few times I did this, it created memorable moments. It broke the script (who gets to start class with a teacher giving out chocolate??). But then it became routine, and it lost its power once it became a part of the normal script (it was no longer a memorable moment).

For me, I think this is part of the reason that the Jewish holiday of Passover is my favorite – it’s a complete breaking of the script. We turn our homes upside down and eat food that we would never usually touch. We literally recite a passage that poses questions about why this night is different from other nights. The whole holiday is full of moments of elevation as I break from my normal routine, put extra care into delicious food and festive table settings (my kiddos love to create elaborate renditions of scenes from the Exodus), and just do things that are totally different for eight days. Through the questions and exploration of the haggadah and learnings my kiddos add to the conversation, it’s full of insight. And there is a sense of connection between and among families and other Jews and across time and space.

For leaders in organizations, we sometimes forget about the individual moments and the opportunities that we have to make them memorable when we’re focused on a whole school year or achieving the objectives of a strategic plan. And, really, no one will remember the whole school year or camp session or the entire program. They will remember the key moments.

So, how are you taking control and making these moments?

  • Elevation: What opportunities do we have to elevate otherwise mundane moments to make them memorable?

  • Pride: How do we celebrate teams and individuals in ways that feel authentic and meaningful?

  • Insight: Where are we providing the time and space for insight?

  • Connection: What moments do we build in for creating new connections?

By considering these and other questions and embracing the power of moments, we can ensure that they are truly memorable – for the right reasons.

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