Gary Ditsch

Peak Experiences

Written: 12/1/2018

I sat in the coffee shop on a Sunday afternoon hacking away on a client’s project. I received a text message that was a little cryptic,

“Can I tell you something?”

Anxiously and with hesitation, I said “sure”. What followed was one of the more kind and uplifting things someone has said to me within the past year.

We sat at the stop light and the tension was heavy. After arguing most the of the car ride, I yelled out something that should not have been said. It was said in frustration, with anger and with the intention to cause pain. That pain was hidden and never dissipated.

These are just two experiences that have lead me to start using a phrase repeatedly,

“words matter”

I say it a lot. I encourage others that I have influence on to consider it. But I primarily want to embed this truth into my own consciousness and behaviors.

I have always understood that words were important. I remember sitting down and writing a lengthy letter to my parents listing all the reasons why I should not move away from Broken Bow, Nebraska during my junior year. It was the first example where I saw that words had power.

My struggle for many years was figuring out how to use my voice to share positive words that mattered.

Words matter and the power of moments can change an individual’s life.

As I ran across the finish line of the 1999 Lincoln Marathon, I was devastrated and proud at the same moment. I was tired yet energized. I had more joy than I had experienced in months, but wanted to cry. Little did I know, that moment would shape my professional and social life for the next twenty years.

I have been reading the book, The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath, learning about the characteristics of a powerful moment. Moments that have the potential of becoming peak experiences have these four characteristics:

1. Some elevation of sensory pleasures or surprise.
2. Provide insight and rewire the idea of ourselves.
3. Create pride through acts of courage and achievement.
4. Provide connection with others and social satisfaction.

As I have been molding all these lessons into knowledge and cross referencing my experience, I have come to the following conclusion:

When you match the right words with the right moment, you can create memories that are unforgettable. This is important as our memories are a string of loosely tied together moments, opposed to a true recording of everything that happened.

The following is just an outline of thoughts I have had on this topic.

The good and bad: this powerful experience can create both good and bad memories, so it is as critical to understand how to avoid the bad as it is to create the positive.

Vulnerability: due to Brene Brown, I have spent a lot of time practicing how to be more vulnerable over the past few years. It has greatly impacted my ability to share with others positive words of affirmation. I often feel exposed and vulnerable when voicing affection or even praise for others. This has been a recurring topic in therapy.

Some words you can not take back, therefore; think before you speak: I remember stupid things I have said out of anxiety, anger and pride. The people I said them to often remember also. Even when there is forgiveness, the scares often remain.

Praise is a better teaching tool than criticism: Do you remember a teacher who provided praise, then suggestions on how to improve. How about a teacher who started with the criticism and expectations? Who inspired you? I am my own worst critic, as are most people their own. I am learning to lead with praise.

Random moments and words: The surprise of a positive message. The adventure of an unplanned experience. Those are the types of words and moments that have the opportunity to create something significant. When it feels manufactured, it doesn’t really work. In The Power of Moments, they share the “Employee of the Month” example. The winner of the award rarely feels special.

Seek adventure: it becomes very difficult to create impactful moments when things become routine. Find ways to challenge yourself. Ideally, find others to join you on those adventures.

Slow down time: the book talked about one reason that time seems to speed up as we age is due to the fact that novelty becomes less commonplace. We have less moments. This aligns with the last note, do not let your age decrease your ability or desire to seek adventure.

Practice giving complements: I find it easy to give complements in those moments that are socially expected. This happens after races, major accomplishments, etc. I have begun to practice giving praise for things that do not often receive it. It honestly feels difficult at this point, but I am working on it.

Keep your candor: there was a period (and I still hear it), where people talked a lot about being candid in their communication. It was often a signal that someone was about to be an asshole. I know of this well! I regularly masked my ego and jerkness in the blanket of ‘being honest’.

How I plan to implement this in 2019?

I have been trying to figure out what 2019 is going to be for me. The last few years have been very random, but in directed ways. For example, I never thought I would have created a software development company. However, I was focused on becoming better at the technical side of product development and working with high quality people. It just so happened Ventre Tech was born.

In that spirit, I plan to set my sails in the following directions:

  1. More travel and novelty.
  2. Creating some goal around a habit associated with gratitude, specifically expressing that gratitude.
  3. I’ve become plenty vulnerable with my feelings and emotions, but I need to continue practicing praise.

Ultimately, I’d like to have at least 10 powerful moments in 2019. As I think back on 2018, I can think of 6 or 7 moments, most are positive with one being negative. When I think about those moments, I image two of them will remain lasting peak experiences and memories. One of the positive moments and the negative moment. The elements they both have in common are words that stick, elevation of sensory, surprise and they lead to new personal insights.

I would love to hear your thoughts.