Sunday Gratitude: Surprise and Delight

Long ago and far away, the Owl went to business school. Quite a good one really–Kellogg was then and possibly still is the best of the marketing MBA schools (go ‘cats). While many of the learnings have faded over time (please don’t make me look at decision science again), one of my favorites came back to me this weekend. It’s called “surprise and delight” and I was reminded of it multiple times in the last week.

Here is a web definition of the term: “Surprise and delight is a marketing approach that seeks to attract and nurture customers by enhancing interactions with them and offering them unexpected rewards.” This is a most boring definition–what happens to marketing people when marketing their own stuff? Mystery. To me, it’s summed up most as “unexpected joy”– while surprises can be bad (that flat tire on the way to get emergency ice), and delight can be expected (peach ice cream on a hot day), putting the two together in a positive, unexpected way is gold for the psyche.

Last week, on a whim, my parents and I stopped at the Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge near Wells, Maine. I had never been, and we were running ahead of schedule and who doesn’t love Rachel Carson and woods walks? We wandered the most beautiful, surprising and delightful trail along the rivers of grass. It was unexpected and glorious, and we never would have been there without it being a year of staying close to home on vacation.

A few days before that trip, a brightly colored bag hung from my mailbox, and inside was a thank you note and a small jar of jam. I had given away a child-sized life vest to another Westonian family — we didn’t need it and they did. And in return, they left me wild blueberry jam from Southwest Harbor, Maine, not knowing how truly madly deeply I love Mt. Desert Island, and how this little surprise delighted me when I have yet to get to MDI this summer. The taste of Maine was soon on a nice piece of toast–and in my mind, I was at Schoodic, without any Maine Turnpike traffic.

And then this past Friday, a surprise visit from a Kellogg friend who has wandered the world in ex-patriate service to a consumer products company. Mr. Owl and I laughed and laughed with this friend, whose Italian accent still causes merriment and misunderstandings 25 years after we were last in an MBA group together. The surprise of his visit, the joy in reveling in humor and food on an outdoor patio in Boston: Priceless.

Not all surprise-delights need to be away from home. My favorite local one is back. Every morning, I walk the trails of Weston, checking on reports of trees down, wandering cleared trails and exercising Katie Puppy, WFTA’s K-9 ranger. On one of my usual loops, the apples are nearly ripe at the old orchard I have mentioned several times on this blog. Every time I am there, I am surprised by the quantity and old beauty of these trees and the fruit. Every time. And every time, I choose a tree and an apple, deformed and delicious from its lack of chemical sprays. And that early morning bite, sour and crunchy, is as delightful as anything you can think of.

Today’s gratitude: surprise and delight. Hope you find yours.

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