What is a lollipop moment? The best way to describe it is by sharing a story. In 2010 Drew Dudley told a story that defines the lollipop moment. A young girl about to start college was terrified and convinced she was not ready to leave home. At the urging of her parents she stood in line to register for classes and overcome by anxiety she turned to express to her parents that she simply could not do this. At that very moment she turned and saw walking out of the student building and down the steps Drew Dudley. Drew was wearing the most ridiculous hat and carrying a bucket of lollipops. Drew was going around talking to new students about a cause he was involved in (students against multiple sclerosis) and as he talked to folks he handed them lollipops. Drew walked right up to her and stared, a stare she described as “creepy.” Then he turned to the young man in line in front of her and handed him a lollipop. Drew said, “You have to give this lollipop to the beautiful woman standing behind you.” The young man turned to give the lollipop to the young woman and as soon as she took it Drew said to the girls parents who were standing with her in line. “See only a few hours from leaving home and already she is taking candy from strangers.” The whole crowd erupted in laughter. It was at that moment she knew she could do this and that she was ready to start college. Drew had put her at ease without even trying.

Drew recites this story in his 2010 TED talk entitled “Everyday Leadership.” He goes on to say that he does not even recall this event and was reminded of it four years after the fact. As he was getting ready to graduate the young woman looked him up. They had not spoken since the event four years prior but she did not want him to leave without knowing what an impact he made on her life. It turns out that not only did that interaction impact her registering for college, she was still dating that young man in line who gave her the lollipop and within one year of graduation the two would be married. Drew Dudley had played a part in a bigger plan. The lollipop moment had come full circle starting with Drew’s actions and ending when the young woman came back to let him know how he had influenced her life.

We all have these type of lollipop moments in our lives. For some reason though we are not really good at completing that full circle and telling those who have created these profound moments in our lives about the part they played. Think for a minute about the lollipop moments you created for others. If you cannot think of a lollipop moment you created do not despair, be confident that your have created these moments in others lives they have just not completed the circle. What if we all became better at acknowledging those who have had a profound impact on our lives. Not just those who sow in to our lives daily, but more those random impacts that like the one Drew describes. What kind of effect do you think that would have on our world view?

I have had several lollipop moments both professionally and personally. Professionally I had a leader share with me in an innocent conversation years ago how he lost his fear of being fired. He went on to share that value is what he focused on, did he add value to an organization and did it add value to him. Simply put if it was not a good fit then he did not want to be there anyways. It was freeing to him to live life with a focus of being meaningful and not just about being employed. That was a lollipop moment for me because it set me off on a professional journey that has allowed me to use the gifts God has given to me without fear. I did complete the circle with this person about 5 years after that conversation. I did not know then it was a lollipop moment but I did know that conversation had a profound impact on me and I wanted him to be aware. Personally I have had many lollipop moments. One in particular was when I was working as an RN in a pediatric intensive care unit. It was the night shift and I was preparing for a new admission. A 16 year old boy had hung himself and was clinging for life. I admitted him and ended up caring for him in the ICU for the next several months. The boy never regained consciousness and remained on a breathing machine until the day he was discharged to a skilled nursing facility. Caring for patients means caring for their families at the same time. Each time I worked and cared for this young man over the course of those months I had the pleasure of getting to know his family. Watching them grieve, watching them search desperately for answers that would never come. One evening while the boy’s mother was in the room I had a lollipop moment that changed the way I cared for every patient from that day forward.

The mom was struggling with what to do for her son, should she leave him on the breathing and feeding tubes or should she allow us to turn them and off and let nature takes its course. That night I made a mistake. I gave this grieving mother my opinion, my clinical non-emotional opinion. Now there is nothing wrong with that, as a medical professional stating the clinical facts is expected and permissible, where I made the mistake was I had stopped seeing the patient in the bed as her son. I had detached myself from this families reality. Without going into the details of that conversation I will tell you that what I learned during that conversation was that no matter the facts, when a parent is faced with something this horrific there is no right or wrong answer. My lollipop moment taught to me by that mother was that unless I am standing in someone’s shoes I cannot truly understand the gravity of their situation. Although, I have never been able to complete that circle and tell that mother how she impacted my life I have shared that with many others. I share this experience with my peers, those I lead, and with my own family to remind them that there is always more to the story then what we know.

I encourage you to listen to Drew’s talk and then go out and complete the circles in your life where others have given you a lollipop moment. One connection at at time we can change our perspective on the world. In closing, just this week a friend and colleague shared how this blog has impacted their lives and positioned them to be a better leader. I thanked them for sharing that with me and completing a lollipop moment in my life.

I would love to hear about some of the lollipop moments in your life. Would you comment and share those or send me an email?



  1. Lori | Reply

    As a young woman I was highly driven, arrogant and impatient. I have graciously aged beyond the need for controlling the world around me with a tight grip. Thankfully age has taught me the older I get the less I know along with the ability to accept the things I cannot change. One distinct “lollipop” moment came for me when enrolling my daughter, then in kindergarten, at her new school. As I was finishing up her paperwork the school principal exited his office. When I looked up from the paper I was signing, standing in front of me was a man who was the husband of a woman that several years prior, I had a horrible, unpleasant business transaction with, which he was a part of and ended very badly. I knew then my behavior was awful. I was arrogant, impatient and overly aggressive. It was not a shining moment in my career. I wanted to crawl in a hole! I remained calm as the woman introduced me, I smiled shaking his hand, inside my soul I was completely mortified and extremely remorseful. I left and sat in my car sick to my stomach. I now had to interact with this man often because he was the principal at my child’s school. It was the moment I realized you never want to burn a bridge you may have to cross over again one day. I will never forget what this man taught me. Of course I made an appointment with him, made amends to he and his wife expressing my deep regrets for my unacceptable behavior, asking with sincere humility for forgiveness. It forced me to really look at how my behaviors, attitudes and general disposition can have implications far beyond our immediate situation. How important it is to always be aware of how your actions especially when adversarial need to be evaluated immediately and amends made when appropriate to everyone. Last but not the least, extend grace whenever and wherever possible.

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