What if you had a single day to show someone everything life has to offer?
Finding Magic in the Mundane
December 12, 2012

On a recent flight home, I watched “Born Yesterday,” a film about a young couple whose son David ages from birth to his late-70’s in a single day.  “What are we going to do?” his parents asked.  “The best thing you can do is make every moment count,” said the doctor. “Surround him with good people, feed him good food and fill his day with as much joy and warmth as you can.”
What if you had just one day to show someone everything life has to offer?  With aging parents and a child heading off to college next year, I am feeling the magnitude of this question all the time. In the film, David’s parents demonstrated that simple everyday acts– throwing a ball, riding a bike, talking over a meal, or walking on the beach – offer as much or more than moments we strain to create. 

I came to realize that we could make every moment count by understanding that we can create magic in the mundane.  When I discussed this with one of my CEO friends, she said, “Great concept, but with all that we have going on in our organization, I can’t imagine how there could be any room for magic.”  I offered two examples:
  • Surgeon General Regina Benjamin taking the final three minutes of her plenary speech at a national conference to have everyone get up and dance to her favorite Motown hit.  With Regina leading the way, everyone was laughing and singing along within seconds; and
  • My partner Greg surprising his faculty with homemade cookies, and transforming what was to be a difficult week of mandatory testing into one with a lighter step and spirit. 
At her next staff meeting, my CEO friend baked some cookies and opened her meeting with a three-minute Motown groove session.  She reported that her staff was more engaged, excited and productive that week, noting that a little magic resulted in a good return on her investment.
Times are tough and I see the signs everywhere. Several friends are taking care of sick and aging loved ones.  Another is embroiled in a tough custody battle.  And another is just downright blue on life.  In the midst of these times, I ask that you please be kind, because everyone you encounter – the bus driver, the grocery clerk, your ex-, and most especially your colleagues, family and friends – is fighting their own battles and often hanging by a very delicate thread. If you can find ways to turn tough spots into opportunities that leave people smiling, that’s the best gift you can give.
At the very least, try turning on a little Motown at your next staff meeting and see how many seconds pass before the smiles appear and the groove takes over.


Elemental Partners cultivates healthy and prosperous organizations through clarity of purpose, alignment of principles, and integration of systems.

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Kevin will be co-facilitating with Dave Nakashima a Board/Staff retreat for the Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum in San Francisco from December 17-18.

Elemental Partners has contracted with Boat People SOS to facilitate a strategic planning process.

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