MF 054 : Incorporating the Power of Surprise, with Tania Luna
Updated: Jun 16
Tania Luna is a TED Speaker | Co-founder of Surprise Industries | leadership trainer with LifeLabs New York | Co-author of Surprise: Embrace the Unpredictable and Engineer the Unexpected. Tania shares the secret to reframing failure into a pivot towards success through the power of surprise.
Successes at a glance:
Co-Founder, Surprise Industries.
Leadership trainer with LifeLabs New York.
Featured TED Speaker (“How a penny made me feel like a millionaire”).
Contributing TED Blogger / Featured TED Blog Spotlight:
Co-author, Surprise: Embrace the Unpredictable and Engineer the Unexpected (paperback) | Kindle, which has been praised by Seth Godin, Adam Grant, Chris Guillebeau, Publishers Weekly and more.
How Tania gets inspired to conquer the day:
From her career in surprisology, Tania has learned that people are most comfortable when things are certain but most alive when they are not. When Tania wakes up in the morning and during those moments of uncertainty or the “knots in my stomach,” she takes a moment to remind herself that “this is what alive feels like.” For Tania, living each day is about having an adventurous life, full of experiences and growth, not a predictable or routine one. This framework has allowed Tania to embrace and appreciate those “moments of fear” and challenge, instead of treating them as obstacles. Tania reminds us that surprise is neutral and that the labels: “good” and “bad,” stem solely from our own internal evaluation. Similarly, uncertainty carries the same objectivity and any labels come solely from the end-user. Through Tania’s mindset hack, you can become more comfortable with uncertainty and move forward.
Setback or failure “knot” that led to pivot and shift:
For Tania, Surprise Industries was “full of these pivots.” As Tania describes, Surprise went through many “micro-pivots,” starting as a B-to-C company, then becoming a B-to-B company. Eventually, the “big realization” came out of project called, “The Surprise House.” The project was a “delightful” (flipping the script on the traditional haunted house) house that Tania and her team created in a mansion that was provided by Governor’s Island in New York. The idea was that people would visit the mansion and be surprised by its unusual offerings such as a secret candy garden, a disco in a closet and many secret entrances and exits to explore. While the experience of creating “The Surprise House” gave Tania the exhilaration of adventure and surprise, somewhat ironically, Tania started to lose hallmark feelings in running the business itself. Tania found herself at a painful crossroads, where the heart and magic of surprise clashed with the systemization of creating a scalable business. After a lot of soul searching and sleepless nights, Tania decided to take a break from growing the business. Meanwhile, Tania found an opportunity to do amazing work in leadership training and surprise with LifeLabs New York, leading to Tania co-write the definitive book on surprise (see above). Today, Surprise Industries continues to be an important “laboratory” for surprise research and experiences. Tania embodies a life that is full of adventure, uncertainty and a framework that allows her to always be moving forward.
Resource or cultural experience that inspired Tania to move forward:
A book that comes back to Tania time and again is Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tolbooth (paperback) | Kindle. For Tania, this book has “all the life wisdoms” that she needs plus fantastic illustrations by Jules Feiffer. The big takeaway from the book is that if you don’t know something is “impossible,” you won’t be held back from accomplishing it.
How Tania stays organized and manages her time:
As a self-proclaimed “productivity junkie,” Tania uses Trello. Tania’s hack for using Trello is as follows: at the beginning of the week, set up everything you want to accomplish for both the week and the day. Then, everyday, ask yourself what is your “MIT,” most-important-thing to be successful for that day.
Favorite app / website / resource or productivity hack:
As mentioned above, Trello, is a big game changer for Tania. Trello has a visual workflow that replaces the traditional “to do” list. This framework provides a clean and clear map of current projects, tasks and priorities. As a psychologist, Tania loves that Trello provides a “dopamine factory” of visual progress. A second favorite website is followupthen, which allows the user to forward emails for follow-up after a certain number of days have passed (e.g. forward an email you receive for follow-up three days from today and receive it back on that scheduled date). This allows you to clear out your inbox while simultaneously prioritizing your tasks and messages.
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Tania’s Advice for you to Move Forward:
Nudge yourself (“forcefully”) to work on the things that you know you want to work on but that life gets in the way of. To move forward and make sure you are doing this, Tania shares a hack from her husband, called “The Power Hour.” Schedule a “power hour” or “power half-hour” every single day and devote it to the project, task or aspiration that “feeds your soul,” that you’ve been putting off. Do this even if you don’t know what the outcome will be yet. Give yourself permission to experiment so you can move forward.