Why your plans for success explode

We are the Mentos in our own Diet Coke

Who knew Steve Spangler, our locally based and internationally recognized hands-on science educator, could also teach us about success?

We all owe Steve tremendous gratitude for giving us a front row seat to the spectacular Mentos and Diet Coke geyser experiment. This fantastic display of the volatility of gas is not only instructive of scientific concepts, it actually brilliantly illustrates a common professional success trap and the messy results of falling into it.

One of the first things we learn in this experiment is that it is not the Diet Coke that causes this massive eruption. There is no explosion without the Mentos. These candies—sweet, minty and delightful on their own—when dropped into the active, high pressure environment of the soda bottle, create a stellar blow up. The whole thing creates a huge mess of brown soda.

Observing the aftermath of the eruption, one might assume that the soda itself was the issue. But remembering the role of the Mentos, it becomes clear that these delectable sugary nuggets clearly have some significant accountability in that mess.

This is a powerful metaphor for what can happen for so many of us in our pursuit of happiness and success. Just like inside the soda bottle, the environments in which we endeavor to create success are high pressure, dynamic and volatile. Then we, with our own characteristics and properties, act within and upon that environment.

That’s when stuff blows up.

When it does, our tendency is to look at the environment or things around us to find the reasons for what happened. We are naturally prone to take the point of view that blow ups happen to or around us. We aren't typically inclined to consider our role in creating the circumstances that allowed things to bubble and build to the point of eruption. And that's the trap that trips us up on our path to success.

The Diet Coke geyser is a powerful visual representation of our active role in making our situations erupt. We are the Mentos. We also have accountability for part of the mess.

It is time that we become accountable for what we introduce into our own atmosphere that causes intense reactions. In the same way the Mentos causes the carbon dioxide in the soda bottle to react, things like how we show up, how we face challenge, and how we respond to other people in our midst cause elements in our environment to react.

It doesn’t matter if the growing volatility in our surroundings is due to not seeing the growth we expected on the bottom line, if it's from our perception of not being respected for our contribution, or if it’s from our team not functioning effectively. No matter the specific situations, a reaction will occur in your surroundings to what you are doing, thinking, or saying, or fundamentally to how you are being in the environment.

Thankfully, we have a distinct advantage over the Mentos of being able to change our characteristics to elicit an alternate reaction. With deliberate attention to and awareness of what we are doing to contribute to blow ups we have the opportunity to modify that. We can diffuse the pressure of the environment rather than intensify it.

A less intense environment will respond differently and so will your successful results. Save the Mentos geysers for your Memorial Day backyard party tricks.

Categories: Business Insights, Human Resources