When I was teaching, back in the ‘80s, we had someone give a talk for teachers about the danger of drugs for our students. He used a chart that I believe was called something like an Ecstasy Scale, where different experiences received a rating from 0 – 100. I don’t recall all his examples – he had about a dozen— but they were something like: Christmas morning surrounded by happy family might get 75. Getting a promotion (although teachers don’t get promoted) might get an 80. Getting a puppy when you were a kid maybe 85. He did say that having sex with your preferred partner under a blazing sunset might get a 95. But a shot of heroin, he warned, for some folks gets a 99. That’s what we were up against.
All of which is beside the point. I came up with my own scale for teachers, where a snow day off would get an 80, school millage passes 75, a cancelled faculty meeting 85, your most troublesome student transferred elsewhere a 90, plus a few more. I passed my list around until the principal told me to stop.
All of which is beside the point. I think it’s useful to have a scale. Let’s make it a 10-point scale since that’s how Kim is asked to describe her pain (usually about an 8). Here’s what I experienced that led me to this meandering blog post. When we lose power in a windstorm, that gets a – 6. But when the power comes back on, it’s a +8. Similarly, when I experience a computer problem (yesterday it was a router problem) that’s maybe a – 7, but when I fix it, usually by turning stuff off, waiting, then turning it on again, it’s a +9, the self-congratulation providing some of the boost.
Several years back I did some writing for a consultant, Tom Cates, who specialized in creating customer loyalty. One of the many things I learned is that the single biggest driver of customer loyalty is how the organization deals with the inevitable screw-ups. If you do something wrong, bend over backwards to fix it. I remember telling my manager at Starbucks that my job was to help create customer loyalty: I would screw up the drink I was making, and she would give it to the customer for free, leading to customer loyalty. My manager nodded and told me to make the drinks right – but my point still stands. And I believe it’s true for individuals as well as organizations.
But that’s beside the point – if I even have a point.
What would your Ecstasy Scale look like? Simply listing high positives on your Ecstasy Scale is itself a positive (so do it), much like watching a sunrise or eating one of Kim’s scones.
More interestingly, what are the ecstasy negatives that turn into even higher positives? For many of us, this election season provides some examples (remember late night “results” on November 3?). And then – how do you create that reversal? Is it a matter of waiting for something to happen (God, or perhaps the Great Lakes Energy crew, to the rescue), or seeing things differently (shoveling snow – but I can still do it!), or fixing something that you didn’t think you could fix (router malfunction, above, or more recently, a printer malfunction)?
I’m thinking, of course, of Kim’s health, which has led, most days, to a greater appreciation of each other and each sunrise. And Kim is still baking scones, with an apple pie in the near future. And the pandemic, which has led to a greater appreciation of the friends and family we are missing. Soon may it end . . ..
When I asked Kim about her ecstasy scale, she was not interested in the numbers, focusing instead on “small ecstasies” – though getting the giggles with her kids and grandkids would score very high. She mentioned the color of leaves, the way the wind moves the trees, the stones on our beach, the wind patterns on the lake surface, her granola with maple syrup, and the perfect cup of coffee (our Bark House Blend) with cinnamon toast just a little burned on the edge.