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SURPRISED: The Science & Art of Engagement
A Substack Chapter-By-Chapter Reveal
Authors note: Inspired by Thomas Wolfe’s reveal of ‘Bonfire Of The Vanities,’ chapter-by-chapter in Rolling Stone magazine in the 80s, I’m using Substack to do the same thing. Subscribe, tell your friends, and enjoy :-)
In a dimly lit and dilapidated apartment, a man sits alone, submerged in contemplation, burdened by profound sorrow. He rhythmically grinds his teeth, each grate mirroring the shadow of his troubled mind in this musky space. With a damp forehead cradled in his hand between an arthritic thumb and forefinger, the smoke of the flickering candle gasps for more fuel, and the hum of his dying refrigerator punctuates the background serving as a grim soundtrack to his reality.
When it seems his evening couldn't get any darker, the room suddenly erupts into a chorus of "Happy Birthday."
An old friend, someone he hadn't seen in years, unexpectedly walks in with a cake, his face glowing with joy. In that split second, the man's melancholy is pierced by a golden beam of Surprise, and the whole emotional landscape changes.
Surprise: Engagement Amplified
I wrote SURPRISED: The Science & Art of Engagement with the core principle that Surprise is the catalyst transitioning individuals from passive observers to active participants. Surprise initiates engagement, sustains engagement, and elevates engagement. While there's a plethora of Surprise you can employ for various objectives, the endgame remains consistent: facilitating engagement. Whether executed with subtlety or grandeur, this transitory yet potent emotion amplifies your connection with others instantly.
Throughout the book, I'll guide you on leveraging Surprise for distinct purposes using specific instances. Given its universal applicability, examples span from business strategies to personal interactions, sales pitches to parenting moments, leadership scenarios to daily interactions. These diverse instances underscore the versatility and efficacy of strategically deployed Surprise. Envision yourself in these narratives and adapt them to enrich your personal and professional engagements. It’s fun.
An Emotion, A Bridge, A Connector
To truly grasp the transformative power of how emotions effect engagement and how Surprise facilitates that transition, ponder the following graphic metaphor, stretching out before you in a spectrum of colors and scenery.
Imagine standing before a broad panoramic landscape representing the whole of your emotional spectrum. On one end, there are deep, crimson valleys which symbolize emotions like sadness, anger, or fear. These valleys evoke the visceral feelings of stress, the heat of a fresh argument, or the boredom of another conference call. When you're fixated in these valleys, your brain feels trapped, a prisoner to its own thoughts, preventing genuine interaction or engagement with the world around. You can’t see yourself out.
On the opposite side of this emotional landscape, imagine dazzling green summits representing the emotion of happiness and its nuanced shades of acceptance, trust, and enjoyment. Here, atop these peaks, your mind feels liberated and poised, completely open and ready to actively engage, connect, and respond to what ever comes at you.
Now, here’s where the magic happens: Envision a golden-yellow bridge, symbolizing Surprise, that connects the valleys to the peaks. This isn't just any bridge; it's a transformative pathway possessing an undeniable, observable presence in our experiences. Like a cold splash of water on your face or the warmth of the sun on a winter's day as you emerge from the shadows, you travel this bridge, from the valley to the peaks, and your brain loves the trip. Much like discovering a shortcut during a mountain expedition or when that split-second a lightning strike reveals a visible path in the darkest of night, Surprise is that momentary brilliance that links the deep red valleys to the lofty green peaks facilitating your transition between the two.
That takes you from unengaged through every level engagement, placing you in the dynamic intersection of attention, connection, and meaningful interaction. True engagement transcends surface-level interest, drawing the individual deeper, evoking emotions, curiosity, and delivers a genuine commitment to the subject or experience at hand. Shaped by Surprise, engagement is the product of moments that challenge, resonate, and spark a transformative shift in understanding or perspective. Surprise is the bridge between passive consumption and active participation.
This golden bridge of Surprise ensures that, no matter where you or your audience stand in the emotional landscape, there's always a way to cross over.
Surprise does so much more than offer pause from our emotional troughs; it accentuates those emerald peaks. When you stumble upon a piece of unexpected good news or witness an unprompted act of kindness, the joy you feel is not mere happiness — it's an intensified burst of elation. Surprise and it's possibilities for you are boundless, profound, and teeming with applications for you to masterfully redefine the understanding of your audience.
At its core, this book elevates Surprisation to a masterful strategy carrying the power to create impact, shift perspectives, and kindle inspiration. This golden touch in communicating beckons, challenging you to braid it into narratives that resonate deeply and endure for effect.
When Surprise strikes, it's like a pause button for our brain, momentarily suspending our regular programming. This slight interruption isn't a glitch; it's a feature. It makes us receptive, open to new ideas and feelings. Think of it as the brain's refresh button, clearing away cognitive cobwebs and making space for new tabs of thoughts.
The Surprise in any communication is what is ultimately remembered. Embrace the art and science of this incredible emotion.
The Superpower of Engagement
Picture yourself back when electric vehicles were intriguing novelties rather than the norm. If a passerby had mentioned, "Soon, electric trucks will be towing cargo across continents, and charging stations will outnumber gas pumps in many cities," might your eyebrows have shot up in disbelief? That's the gripping power of Surprise - the sledgehammer to complacency when a future vision stretches the elasticity of your comfort zone.
Fast-forward to the here and now, where artificial intelligence has shifted from science fiction to ubiquitous. Our daily routines are seamlessly entwined with prompt responses. Artificial intelligence navigates our commute, juggles our schedules, is the DJ of our preferred tunes, and even manipulates our home environments. The Surprise of yesterday is the banal normality of today.
But the echo of Surprise doesn't fade away. The Surprise is always remembered, as you'll soon learn.
As AI continues to evolve and shatter our expectations - from self-navigating care to algorithms that moonlight as artists, storytellers, and even medics with diagnostic precision - each breakthrough lands as a fresh Surprise, a hook that captures our attention and curiosity.
Reflect on it. How often have you been the herald of some AI novelty, stirring conversation amongst friends, family, or colleagues, playing with the possibilities at work, or musing over the future implications?
Behold the might of Surprise. It's more than an attention magnet. It's a thought catalyst, a communal journey of exploration and learning, a lesson that goes deep and is profoundly personal.
The one who experiences Surprise follows the breadcrumb trail of curiosity, engages in dialog, and evolves with the new normal. You're no longer a passive consumer of the story; you're a pivotal character.
Reflect momentarily on the tide of disruptive innovations that have shaped our world. Each groundbreaking shift wasn't just a headline in the news; it was a moment that halted your stride, demanded your attention, and resonated with an irresistible allure. Remember that initial awe, the flurry of questions, the rush to share or discuss it with others? These aren't mere technological advancements; they're potent catalysts, inviting you to engage, adapt, and actively participate in the evolving narrative of progress. Whether it was the first time you tapped a touchscreen, spoke to a digital assistant, or took a ride in an electric vehicle, the essence remains unchanged: innovation doesn't just present a change—it beckons you to immerse yourself within it.
Surprise is a lightning strike of inspiration. The spark inflames curiosity, stirs engagement, and rockets us into the future. Each Surprising revelation transforms us from passive observers into active explorers in the thrilling expedition of discovery you want your audience to uncover.
With this book and the knowledge it provides, your influence escapes the boundaries of the typical and crafts lasting impressions that drive action you're looking for.
No matter your role—a parent shepherding a child's worldview, a salesperson persuading and influencing, a coach igniting motivation, or an educator cognitively sculpting minds—this book is your road map to engaging anybody, in anything, at any time.
Tailor a Surprise that seizes their attention to immerse their minds in a dance of engagement that transforms your facilitation into an unforgettable personal experience for them.
Because Surprise isn't limited to grand gestures or headline news, you'll be threading subtle deviations into the expectations of your audience that commands attention. It's about perceiving the heartbeat of anticipation and punctuating it with an unexpected twist that reverberates deep within. The connection transcends the fleeting moment, creating an indelible mark and fostering deep understanding.
Reading this book is an investment in self-improvement, refining your communication skills, and extending your sphere of influence. As you uncover these pages, you'll acquire the insights to mesmerize your audience, no matter who they are, where they are, and your message. This book enables you to capture the attention of one or engage the masses.
In your world, brimming with relentless information, the ability to communicate effectively and persuasively is a priceless asset. For those aspiring to make an impact, to persuade genuinely, and to influence with integrity, I implore you to invite Surprise to be your navigator in the complex terrain of impactful & persuasive communication of consequences.
As you uncover the potency of Surprise and learn to master it, you'll enhance your communication skills and revolutionize the essence of your engagements. By perfecting this art, you'll become more than a communicator. You'll become a riveting storyteller, a compelling influencer, and a potent change-maker.
Harness the power of Surprise. Let it breathe new life and engagement into your communications. Develop Surprise as your superpower. Because, frankly, that's precisely what it should be.
Engagement Is The Game
The winding back roads of Washington state might seem like an odd place to start a conversation about engagement. But it was there, in a little roadside diner tucked between the curves of the Cascade mountains, that I stumbled upon a metaphor for something much more significant. I was calming a craving for a woodland drive and breakfast fare served on thick, white plates. I overheard an older couple at the next table as I sipped my excellent freshly-roasted coffee.
They were reminiscing about their first date, and the husband was laughing about how he'd surprised his wife by taking a wrong turn that led them to a magical overlook, a view that took their breath away. It was an unplanned, delightful accident. Yet, that Surprise twist led them to a moment of genuine connection, a bond that had lasted for decades.
That story reminded me of something quite extraordinary: the jack-in-the-box.
Now, stay with me here.
A child's toy, with its predictable melody, turns of the crank, and then - bam - a clown springs out. It's unexpected, powerful, and captivating. That sudden interruption of the repetitive triggers our curiosity and takes our engagement levels soaring. It's in this Surprise bridge that the heart of engagement is discovered.
Engagement is tossed around in business meetings or educational seminars as a destination, but it is much more than a noun. Treat engagement as a verb. It's a fundamental human dance of trust, intrigue, and relationship-building. It's as vital as the food and air we breathe, whether we are connecting with students, clients, children, or staff. It's a blend of art and science that finds its roots in the recesses of the human brain.
In "Brain-centric Design: The Surprising Neuroscience Behind Learning with Deep Understanding," Kieran O'Mahony, PhD., and I peeled back the layers of this fascinating concept, mapping out the road from simple awareness to profound comprehension. Throughout "SURPRISED: The Science & Art of Engagement" I will call out several engagement instruments from Brain-centric Design to ensure understanding and application here because it’s a framework for life, a way of engaging with the world.
Let's deconstruct the layers, one by one, in a way that can be applied practically to your particular skill set.
Engagement Has Layers
Engagement, the arrangement to do something, begins by ‘making visible’ via a simple acknowledgment of presence, the starting point of trust, when something suddenly becomes evident. It's like that first glance between two strangers across a room.
Next, we create a 'psychologically safe' environment where honesty and authenticity are cherished. It's like finding a confidante in a friend who allows you to be your true self.
Then, we move to 'emotional connection.' Here, the heartstrings are plucked, where empathy and compassion take center stage. It's the emotional resonance that turns acquaintances into friends.
The story grows more complex as we enter 'collaborative' territory, a symphony of different voices, a collective creation. It's the group project that leads to something more significant than the sum of its parts.
From there, we rise to 'generative' and 'contributive' engagement. Ideas are not just shared but actively cultivated and nourished. The brainstorming session leads to innovation, the contribution that adds a unique piece to the puzzle.
Finally, we reach the climax, the 'co-creative' engagement, where everyone paints on the same canvas and writes the same story. It's a masterpiece crafted by many hands, the orchestra playing in perfect harmony.
The magic in these layers and their profound potential is that each layer is predictable and manageable. When you know it’s coming, when you know it is there, then you plan for it.
In the kitchen, the layers of engagement are easily evident.
Making Visible - By 'selecting the right ingredients,' an acknowledgment of the base flavor. It's like the first glance at a set of ingredients laid out on a kitchen counter.
Psychologically Safe - Next, the 'perfect setting' where the oven's temperature and cookware come into play. It's like having the right tools that let your culinary skills shine.
Emotional Connection - Then, we dive into 'mixing and blending.' Here, the flavors meld, and aromas start to emerge. It's the gentle stir that transforms individual items into a cohesive mixture.
Collaborative - The process gets intricate when we enter 'layering and texture,' combining different elements to give depth. Think of it as carefully layering a lasagna, ensuring each layer complements the other.
Generative/Contributive - We progress to 'seasoning and refining.' Here, spices aren't just sprinkled; they're thoughtfully added, bringing out the dish's essence. It's like the last-minute taste test that prompts a dash of salt or a squeeze of lemon.
Co-Creative - Finally, we arrive at the grand finale, the 'presentation and garnishing,' where everything comes together on the plate, telling a unified culinary story. It's the pièce de résistance, the dish served with flair and enjoyed with applause.
In our world filled with information overload, engagement has become the top currency. The ability to use that currency for understanding and application in your communications is what sets you apart, what makes you resonate in a world filled with noise.
Engagement takes planning and your understanding of what you want your audience to walk away with in the first place. We don’t just engage, we engage for a purpose that can be measured.
Remember the jack-in-the-box next time you find yourself in a diner, classroom, or boardroom. At its core, this journey revolves around truly grasping a subject—feeling it resonate within you in such a way that you're not just aware, but profoundly connected. It's about harnessing the power of engagement, which is the captivating force that binds us, sparks our curiosity, and compels us to act. It's the difference between passive hearing and active listening. It's about mastering the art of cognitive communication, speaking not just to minds but to hearts and souls. For those bold enough to embrace this approach, to see the world through this transformative lens, the benefits are boundless. A vibrant, evolving world awaits. Together, let's shape and own it.