I’ve written often here that high school students don’t have to be the valedictorian, MVP, first chair, etc. to stand out, that your impact isn’t limited to your accolades, and that even role players can make vital contributions. But I can imagine some students’ and parents’ skepticism, wondering how riding the basketball bench or scooping popcorn at the movie theater could possibly be valuable enough to impact others and to impress colleges. If you want some proof that bringing a little more energy, enthusiasm, or creativity can make a remarkable impact in an otherwise unremarkable role, look no further than Southwest Airlines.
If you’ve flown Southwest, you may have experienced a flight safety announcement unlike any you’ve heard before. Where every other airline seems to phone it in and read the same mundane announcement you’ve heard before about seat belts and oxygen and life rafts, Southwest encourages their flight attendants to be creative with zingers like:
If you wish to smoke, the smoking section on this airplane is on the wing. If you can light ’em, you can smoke ’em.
Put the oxygen mask on yourself first, then on your child. If you’re traveling with more than one child, start with the one who has more potential or who is less likely to put you in the home.
If you should get to use the life vest in a real-life situation, the vest is yours to keep.
Southwest is the only airline I know of that has fliers who answer the question “How was your flight?” by reciting their favorite portion of the in-flight announcements.
But what is all that laughter and fun worth to the bottom line for Southwest Airlines?
In their new book, The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact, authors Chip and Dan Heath spoke with the Southwest Airlines analytics team to find the answer to that question. The team learned that when travelers who flew more than once a year on Southwest heard one of these creative announcements, they would fly an average of an extra half flight over the next year. That might not sound like much, but the team calculated that if they could double the number of flights where the announcement was creative (not all of Southwest’s flight attendants elect to put their own spin on the presentation), the impact would be worth an additional $140 million in revenue. That’s the cost of two planes for Southwest. All from just letting flight attendants bring some personality and vigor to something otherwise ordinary.
Your energy, verve, or other impact may not be worth millions of dollars to the bottom line for the Latin Club, hockey team, or non-profit where you volunteer. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth something—to you, to the organization, and to colleges.