WOO Lesson 3: The Magical Power of Surprise!! by Brian Biro

Brian BiroAnother Window of Opportunity lesson- Create surprise… it can transform a life! The S in ESPN-Surprise-is the least understood and yet most powerful tool in your WOO kit! Using surprise to create moments has more transformational power than perhaps anything else you can do for another. The best example I can give is a story of surprise that truly helped change my wife Carole’s view of herself. Magical Moments – Surprise in the Family She still takes my breath away. How could she possibly look so young and beautiful? Though we’ve been married more than twenty years, I’m still stunned at how beautiful she is to me. As I look at my radiant wife, I know I am the luckiest man on the face of the earth.  NULL And yet there have been times through the years when Carole just couldn’t see the incredible person she truly is and the profound impact she has had on so many. At these times of shaken confidence she has doubted whether she really mattered at all. So when the big milestone of her 50th birthday came into view, I knew I wanted to create a moment for Carole she would never forget – a moment that would express far more eloquently than words how deeply she is loved and appreciated. Moments often become cornerstones in our lives that leave indelible imprints of fresh possibility, faith, connection, and transformation. It is in special moments that we take real steps toward understanding, connection, and confidence.

When moments are amplified by the wonder of surprise, their impact can empower us to break through fears and doubts and to see our true possibilities.

As I thought about Carole’s big day I wanted her to experience a moment that was all of these things and more. A moment she could carry always in her spirit that would lift her when disappointment, self-doubt, or stress challenged her peace of mind. I wanted to see her broadest smile, happiest tears, and most amazed expression of utter surprise. It was with this compelling vision that the seed of Carole’s magical moment was planted nearly a year before it would come into full bloom. In January, I flew to New York City for a speaking engagement and a visit with my publisher. As I floated above the Eastern Seaboard thumbing absent-mindedly through the Delta Sky magazine, I chanced upon an article about the Broadway stage version of Disney’s The Lion King. The description and photos of the play were sensational, and it struck me that a fantastic gift for my wife would be to fly with our daughters Kelsey (14) and Jenna (8) to the Big Apple to celebrate Carole’s 50th in style by attending the show. It would be such fun to surprise them all with the trip, and I envisioned their wide-eyed delight as we tasted the Big Apple together. But as I began to ponder the intricate covert planning needed to pull off this caper, I began to think more deeply about Carole and what was truly most important to her in her life. It was then that the light bulb went off for me. If this was truly to be an event of a lifetime for Carole, it had to be built around what SHE most valued and treasured, rather than what I would like the most. I had no doubt she would thoroughly enjoy The Lion King, and even get a big kick out of the surprise trip to New York for her birthday weekend. But, something would be missing. It would be off the mark because I had failed to ask the most crucial questions needed to create a masterpiece moment of the magnitude I wanted her to receive. I hadn’t asked, “What would CAROLE’S dream of the perfect celebration look like? What means the most to her?” Wham! The instant these questions popped into my mind, it hit me like a lightning bolt. Carole’s greatest passion is for her friends and family. New York was nice, Broadway exciting, but without sharing her 50th with the people she loves so dearly, it would be just another birthday and another trip. Instantly I knew that the heart and soul of Carole’s celebration would be a totally different surprise than I had originally envisioned. We would still fly to New York City for her birthday weekend. We would still go see The Lion King. But when we arrived in the City, she would be met somewhere totally unexpected by the friends and family that have filled her life with love. All at once I knew the real reason I had accumulated my zillion frequent flyer miles as a professional speaker. It was all for Carole’s moment! I would fly her friends in for one “gala gig” in Gotham! I was so inspired I wanted to jump out of that plane and get right to it! Later that afternoon I waited for more than two hours outside The Lion King ticket office. When I finally made it to the window I knew there was more than Disney magic in the air. There was no block of four seats available for The Lion King until March of 2001—five months after Carole’s birthday—except for the Sunday matinee on November 12th, the very weekend I had planned! I snatched those seats up in a flash, high-fiving the people behind me as I left the box office in triumph. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that in the past I have been known to get so excited about surprises that I have occasionally spilled the beans in advance of the event. That’s why I decided to devise a decoy plan to throw Carole completely off track. I figured the best way to keep such an enormous surprise from my clever wife was to let her think she already knew it! So when I arrived home from New York City I “accidentally” left The Lion King tickets out where I knew she’d run across them. When she found them and pressed me for an explanation, I crumbled. With feigned exasperation I fessed up about my plan to fly her and the girls up to New York for the show. Steven Spielberg would have been proud of my acting performance as I carried on about what an ignoramus I was to have left those tickets out. “At least,” I moaned, “we can still surprise the girls.” Carole bought the act lock, stock, and barrel. After all, it was so like me to botch the surprise. Now she was my partner in the caper, completely desensitized to anything but keeping the plan from Kelsey and Jenna. This was really getting good! During the five months leading up to November 11th, I set to work arranging for Carole’s closest lifetime friends to meet us in New York City. All of my calls were made when I was on the road for my seminars. Since my daughters were also going to be surprised, I couldn’t take any chances. Any communication to me from our friends had to be sent via e-mail because Carole and the girls never checked my messages. As soon as I began making calls, I was completely awed by the response of Carole’s friends to the plan. Without hesitation every one of them jumped in with unfettered enthusiasm. One special friend was extremely frightened of flying and would have to travel all the way from Seattle. But no matter – she would fight her fear for this event. She was coming! One of Carole’s sisters had never been in a plane before – but for this celebration she’d have parachuted from the Space Shuttle. Our wonderful friends, Robert and Kristie Werz were the most amazing of all. They were the only participants who lived in the New York City area out on Long Island in the lovely little haven of Seacliff. Though I was able to use frequent flyer miles for about half of the guests, the cost of flying in so many people was still pretty steep, so I asked if some of the friends coming in could stay with the Werzs at their home. Their answer stunned me. They said, “No… SOME of the guests will not do. ALL of your friends are welcome at our home. We don’t have tons of space, but it will be fun!” These remarkable people opened their hearts and their home to seventeen travelers, most of whom they had never met. The common bond was the love they all shared for Carole – and that was more than enough. We were to fly to New York on Saturday, and as the whole plan developed it became clear that I needed to get everyone else there on Friday because of
the varying travel schedules. After a seemingly endless stream of phone calls, arranging, re-arranging, and finalizing, all the travel itineraries were set. Robert and Kristie were primed for their roles as innkeepers and had contacted everyone by e-mail with directions and words of welcome. Virtually every square foot of floor space would be occupied by their new friends in sleeping bags and blankets. It was the grown-ups turn for a slumber party! With travel plans set, I turned my attention to the surprise party itself.


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Brian Biro
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