Creating Peak Moments in Your Startup

Peak moments last a lifetime.

I want to share with you a peak moment in my career, and why it matters that we strive to create them whenever we can — not just for ourselves, but for everyone around us as well.

It was May of 2011. My VP of Sales and I had just come back to the office from a meeting down the street with a potential customer. When we walked in to the building, there was a lot of buzz in the main conference room where our merry band of 10 or so employees typically camped out and worked side-by-side.

I walked in to see what the commotion was all about. I started to ask a question but stopped mid-sentence when I saw it. Everyone was watching my reaction — and smiling ear to ear.

There on the conference table was a complex piece of hardware that embodied two years of planning, evangelizing, fundraising, engineering, development, and software project work to pay for it all.

I picked it up, held it, smiled, and in that single moment it felt like all of those months of drama and difficulty were suddenly completely worth it.

Someone snapped a (somewhat blurry) photo of that moment, but it’s crystallized in my mind forever.

That peak moment — circa May 2011.

My first startup had just received the first demo unit of SCOUT — a satellite communications test and management device that, coupled with some incredibly novel software, could replace sending field engineers to dangerous parts of the world and empower soldiers to operate and troubleshoot complex satellite equipment on their own.

The thing that struck me about the moment wasn’t so much the demo unit itself. It was the unfiltered pride and joy on the faces of the others in our company watching me play with the thing as if it were a prized toy on Christmas morning.

This was one of many peak experiences I carry with me from the four years of my life I invested in that company.

I’m currently reading a book recommended to me by a close friend called The Power of Moments by Chip & Dan Heath. The book points out that humans tend to remember peak experiences (both good and bad) and base our generally irrational decisions on those experiences. The Power of Moments suggests that those experiences can sometimes be manufactured, and lays out a blueprint on how to do so.

Great book if you’re interested in creating peak moments.

Thinking back to that moment in time, I can’t help but smile and feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. It was just a singular moment — the rest of that particular day was filled with challenges with our payroll, a customer complaining about a flaw in a website we had just launched, and having just come back from a meeting with a customer that had my VP of Sales and me wondering why we had to fight so hard all of the time to win even little deals.

But that moment stands out in time as a peak experience. A simple, clean moment among all the other moments where, just for a minute or so, the challenges melted away and the focus was on this beautiful milestone.

I’ve experienced even higher peak moments since then, as well as a healthy share of personal and professional nadir moments (valleys). But I call attention to this moment for two reasons.

First, it was as pure and innocent a moment as I can recall in my professional career. Here we were, this tiny band of misfits that had no business revolutionizing a multi-billion-dollar industry by solving a real problem with technology that wasn’t available just a year earlier. It was every bit the David-and-Goliath startup story we read about so often on the tech blogs. We were even covered on one of those blogs — which actually shut down our website from the traffic surge.

Second, it helped me to understand that my team was as every bit as invested in building something big, and they needed to share in that moment in order to recharge their momentum towards our greater goals. My sincere gratitude and joy in that moment were as much for them as it was for me.

My super-power is my ability to evangelize an idea. I’m not a superstar salesperson, nor am I entirely comfortable in evangelizing myself. Unlike so many successful people who have their face on whatever product they sell, I’d rather build an image of what others can achieve with the idea I want to share with them.

But in the ever-tumultuous world of startups and small businesses struggling to achieve and maintain momentum, we sometimes tend to forget to take a moment and manufacture a moment for everyone involved to share.

Those peak moments last forever. And they help to build what your customers and employees need to put your mission and vision in front of other opportunities they consider for themselves.

You don’t have to be a natural evangelist in order to to create these peak experiences. You do have to work at manufacturing them, and understanding the value of these moments is critical to understanding what it takes to create your own good fortune and luck.

Not every moment can be a peak experience. Nor should they be. And not every attempt to manufacture a peak experience will succeed. I can look back and count dozens of missed opportunities in my career. I wonder how different my career would be had I capitalized on those moments with employees, customers, vendors, investors, etc.

It’s been more than 7 years since that moment I held SCOUT for the first time. But, right now, that moment feels like it happened yesterday.

I’ve come to realize that generating those peak experiences, not just for myself but for everyone else around me, is the most important work I can do. People build a story in their mind about everything. Taking the opportunity to create a peak experience for those people will undoubtedly return so much more than just about anything else you could give them.

What peak experience can you create right now? Is there an opportunity to imprint pride, happiness and trust on those around you that you’re missing?

Those peak moments are more precious than anything else we can create or experience in life. Because in the end, our lives are a collection of moments. Take the opportunity to create more moments that are memorable, and you’ll find that you will have a sense of actually living longer.