Book Reviews

The Power of Moments: Dan Heath [Part 4]


This is the last part of the series of posts about moments.

If you’ve missed part 1, part 2 and/or part 3, check them out!

Otherwise, enjoy part 4 on goal-setting with a unique twist…


Finish Lines


… A real life (example) from your book is your story about how (you can live) your life like a computer game where you can level up… in terms of achieving your next goal.

Could you please tell that story?


Yeah, I think this is a really subtle but really practical idea…

We talked earlier about moments of pride and so our quest here is for the things that we want in life.

Can we come up with a way to ensure that there are enough moments of pride along the journey that it keep us on the journey?

Let me explain what I mean.

A lot of listeners, especially (those living in America), were raised with one language. They may dream of learning a second language.

I know I’ve always thought about. I’d love to learn Spanish someday…

Think about how most people conceptualize that mission in their minds.

Number one, I would point out it’s not at all clear what the moment of celebration is.

I think it’s Jim Collins that talks about the champagne test – like when do you crack the champagne?

Well, it is very amorphous, and this (is a problem with) Spanish.

We’re running a race without a clear finish line…

What are the finish lines to master that goal?

So I think the way most of us think about it is in order to know Spanish, I’m going to have to squeeze in a Spanish study session and then I have to squeeze in another Spanish study session and then I’ll do some homework and then I’ll do some practice…

The way we’re thinking about it is you take your medicine, you take your medicine, you take your medicine, you take your medicine, you take your medicine, and then some day you, quote unquote, know Spanish.

And so when you conceptualize a mission that way, it’s no surprise that the vast majority of us fail.

We don’t get there…


Level Up

Chip and I came across a book from a guy named Steve Kamb  called Level Up Your Life and he’s got what I consider an antidote to that.

He talks about being inspired by the structure of video games which, you know, if you’ve ever gotten addicted to a video game… it’s just level after level.

Each one (is) slightly harder than the previous one.

But this is the important part.

Every level is fun.

So I never finished Donkey Kong – never – but I still had fun.


And I don’t regret the time I invested in it which is very different from a lot of the things we conceptualize for ourselves…

Steve Kamb wanted to learn to play the violin. That was his ‘learning Spanish’ kind of mission.

And so rather than fall into the trap of just thinking about it as got to do a lesson, got to do a lesson, got to do a lesson. and someday I’ll be able to play the violin, he created these video-game inspired levels for himself.

So level 1 was committing to one violin lesson per week for six months. That was kind of like the boot camp.

And that was not a lot of fun to be honest.

But the rest of these are much better.

So level 2 is to complete Celtic fiddle tunes a book by Craig Duncan.

Level 3 is learning to play ‘Concerning Habits’ from The Fellowship Of The Ring.

Level 4 is to sit and play the fiddle for 30 minutes with other musicians.

Level 5 is to learn to play the province Auri from the last of the Mohicans.

And the popping the champagne (moment) is to sit and play the fiddle for 30 minutes in a pub in Ireland…

Isn’t that great?!

Number one, he’s clarifying what’s the end and the end is that vision of himself in a pub in Ireland.

What a great fantasy. That’s something that will keep you sustained for a long time.

But even more than that, what he’s done is he’s created a succession of intermediate finish lines.

Each one is fun and satisfying on its own merits, (like) learning to play the song ‘Concerning Hobbits’ from The Fellowship Of The Ring which is a movie he just adored.

That’s something he can get to much much quicker than (the ultimate) fantasy but it provides a moment of pride in and of itself…


Spanish Example

(With) Spanish, (it) would be much wiser not to think of it as a succession of kind of boring lessons that we have to endure but in terms of levels.

Number level 1 (could be) can I order a meal in Spanish with proper pronunciation?

That’s something you can do in two weeks.

Level 2 might be to have a simple conversation. You know, how is your day, where are you from etc in Spanish with a taxi driver who speaks Spanish.

Level 3 is glance at a Spanish newspaper and find one headline in the newspaper that you can understand.

Level 4 might be to follow the story in a Spanish cartoon.

Level 5 might be read a kindergarten level book in Spanish…

See how dramatically that reshapes the mission.

It’s like every one of those levels is cool. Every one of those levels comes with the moment when you feel like okay, I’ve done something.

And then finally, every one of those levels is such that even if you quit after that level, you still feel like you’ve accomplished something.

That’s the Donkey Kong Story, right? It’s like if you conquer seven out of 100 levels, you still feel good about conquering seven levels.

There are so many aspects of our life I think this strategy would apply to that would keep us experiencing moments of pride and continuing onto the next finish line.


The Journey


You know, we were talking with Jesse Itzler who I mentioned earlier on the show and we made the comment that you’ve got to be passionate about something that you’re doing…

Jesse interrupted me and he says, “no, you don’t want to be passionate about the thing. You need to be passionate about the journey…”

When you’re talking about these levels and basically creating that journey… you’re not super excited because you finished that last level. You were having fun along the entire journey…

If you don’t treat your life like that, I think a lot of people are going to absolutely – like you said – just quit.

They’re not enjoying the process or the journey. They’re thinking too far to the end state and forgetting everything else in between.


Exactly right.

And I think what’s important for us to realize is that we have some control over this.

We can be shaping the journey…

There’s a kind of architecture of pride and if we understand that architecture, we can create our own journeys.

I have a friend who is a history buff and learning about history is another one of those things that could be very amorphous.

When will you, quote unquote, know history?

In a certain sense, never.

And so what he did was he turned his interest in history into a quest.

The quest was that he was going to read the biography of every American president starting with George Washington all the way up to Donald Trump, in order.

And so it became like this, you know – back to that mental image of multiple finish lines rather than one.

Now he’s got forty five finish lines.

And every time he finishes a biography, he goes and he buys the presidential coin with that president which is like a nice kind of souvenir from the experience.

Then he goes onto the next one.

Sometimes, the quest is fun and easy like when you read about George Washington.

Sometimes it can be incredibly painful.

(At) Millard Fillmore, he barely survived the process of reading that book.

But that’s what a quest is like, right? Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s hard. But the point is that we can bring structure (to) the quest that keeps us on the road…


I hope you enjoyed this series about moments as much as I did!

If you want to here the interview, check out the full episode!


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