Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t the big achievements that matter most in your life, it is the little tiny moments that matter…
When I was in the financial services industry I had the opportunity to work with IDEO, which is known as the premiere innovation and design firm in the world. They designed the first mouse for Apple, the Palm V and hundreds of other amazing gadgets. We were working with them on how we could improve our financial advisor recruiting process.
Now for those unfamiliar with the industry, recruiting a financial advisor to change broker/dealers (platforms) is a tremendously long process. The advisor has to change nearly every detail about how they transact business. The computer systems they use will be different, the forms they fill out will change, client statements will change, compliance rules will vary and there will be hundreds of other changes that impact not only the advisor but also their clients.
This being the case, advisors often came to visit our “home office” to meet and greet various people and hear from the experts on exactly what we had to offer. As part of our research with IDEO they encouraged us to look for the “moments that matter” in the recruiting process. As we interviewed financial advisors who had recently joined us, we heard numerous stories that were interesting, but one sticks out for me.
The advisor told us the following: At one point during a casual conversation in my office, prior to me visiting the home office, your recruiter asked me about a peculiar tea that I had in the office kitchen. I told him that it was my wife’s favorite tea and that it was very rare and hard to come by. Well, when the time came for my office visit, sitting in front of my wife’s chair was that specific tea. We were impressed. That night, as we were talking my wife said, “They paid attention to the tea. These guys care about us” and that was it. We decided to come aboard the next day.
As we heard this story, we were shocked to find out that the key detail was the tea. It wasn’t our teams, it wasn’t our systems, it wasn’t our research… it was our attention to detail in one very human, person to person way. We had showed them that they were important.
It’s the moments that matter.
If you take a minute to reflect on your life, I’m guessing that most of your fondest memories are mere moments in your life. –And chances are they are not special events or major milestones.
When I look back on one of my proudest professional accomplishments, a project that literally saved the day for my firm and relied on quickly training and mobilizing over 100 people from a variety of departments, I barely remember celebrating our success. What I actually remember most clearly is taking one of my most important leaders out for a drink 1:1 to see how he was doing. In that meeting he told me that he would absolutely, without a doubt in his mind, deliver the project. I had my doubts at the time, but he did it.
When I think about graduating from Harvard Business School, the whole graduation event seems like a blur other than my family making lots of signs and giving me hugs after the ceremony.
My point is this: we spend so much time going from event to event, thing to thing that we often don’t stop even for an instant to pay attention to where we are and what we are doing. We rarely consciously enjoy the little moments that matter.
Mobile phones are a great case in point. People literally cannot let their mind be unoccupied for mere seconds as they wait for an elevator anymore. There is a constant need to have our minds working on something, thinking about something, and most often, it is not appreciating the present moment.
As I’ve delved into meditation and gratitude exercises that work to focus the mind on the present, perhaps the greatest benefit I have noticed is being more aware in the moment. I now notice the flower or the leaf on the pathway between my office and the parking lot that I never saw before. I now notice the small moments that go well rather than quickly moving on to the next thing. –And most importantly, I now savor the special moments with my kids.
Several weeks ago I found myself chasing my four year old son down the sidewalk. We were both riding scooters and he was smiling and shouting with joy over how fast he was going. As I followed him, focusing perhaps a bit too much on whether he would stop at the next stop sign, I stopped and realized something: I was having the time of my life. What could be better than riding a scooter down the street with your kid? I took a moment and I realized it, while I was doing it, and I was aware of just how special a moment this was.
I have ridden scooters again with my son down the sidewalk. This wasn’t a once in a lifetime event or anything else. –But I can tell you I enjoyed it more than graduating from business school or delivering a big project at work. When I’m present enough to notice these magical moments, I get the same excitement from my 2 year old running towards me as I pick her up from school as I do from delivering for a client.
Ultimately, we just don’t have much time in the world, and as everyone older tells you, life moves very quickly. You have to stop and notice it. All of which is to say that we need to take a moment to focus on the present, embrace it and enjoy the positive moments that happen each day, whether at home or at work. There are miracles happening around us constantly, yet we so often look past them.
Take a moment, breath, look around, and embrace a moment that matters. Stepping out of the race for a moment to just be present can be a wonderful experience, and it just might be one of the greatest moments of your life…