Words of Wisdom for
Leadership, Learning, and Life in
Exactly 99 Words
99's On the Go

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99-Word Stories by ,
Creative Learning Director of
The Flirefly Group.
© 2011 Brian Remer
Updated Dec. 2011

Read my new book
Say It Quick!

99's on the 9th

Ideas based on 99-Word Stories that
come to you on the 9th of every month.

What Readers are Learning from the September Issue

October 2011

Whose Fault?
My friend Jean informed me that 25% of the pollution in California actually comes from China. The culprit? Coal-fired power plants. The Chinese plan to build more than 500 new coal power plants in the next 10 years!

It's something of a relief to discover that we aren't responsible for all the pollution in California, that it isn't our entire fault. In New England we often have to contend with the pollution from power plants in the Midwest. And I imagine that the pollution in Eastern Europe goes to… Asia?

Wow! What goes around keeps blowing around!

You can derive multiple interpretations related to the theme of this 99-Word story by using some of the following questions for your own reflection or to spark a discussion within your team or organization.


One Interpretation
There are many ways to understand this story as the discussion questions suggest. If you or your group would like to compare or contrast your interpretation with an outside viewpoint, consider this analysis.

We often say that one man's trash is another man's treasure. But in our global village, one man's trash can also be another man's trash, and another man's - and eventually, my own again! It doesn't take long to see that we are all connected in one way or another. When pressure is applied to one region of the web, the stress is felt throughout.

Of course, this situation is not unique to garbage. You can apply the same thinking to rumors in the office, poor quality control on the factory floor, trash talk on TV, or congressional gridlock. Whatever is left unfinished, poorly crafted, sloppily shared, or tinged with malice has negative consequences that spill over and influence the next iteration of the system. Since it's so difficult to see the whole all at once, we are unpleasantly surprised when last year's brilliant decisions have morphed into this year's dark monsters.

When the present begins to smell sour we look for a cause, either to assign blame or find a solution. Blaming someone else feels good but it doesn't resolve the issue. Instead, it merely assigns more responsibility to one party than all the others. I may decide you are at fault but we all still have a mess to clean up!

On the other hand, when we realize the circular nature of the systems in which we operate, it becomes clear: there is nothing for which each of us is not both part of the problem and part of the solution. You and I have the ability to determine how much responsibility we will accept for both the creation of a problem and for its resolution.

Now, my intention is not to dump more trash in your yard by spreading a load of guilt. But it is important to become sensitive to the many opportunities we have to reduce the circular garbage flow. What if the next time we heard of a negative consequence or a project that turned bad, we did not look for someone to blame. What would happen instead, if we looked for our own contribution to that problem - no matter how small - and disposed properly of at least that much of the trash?

Perhaps then we will all begin to breathe a bit easier.


What Readers are Learning
from 99s on the 9th for September 2011

Hi Brian, I really enjoyed this particular entry. I get myself all stressed out about work, taking on a greater share of the responsibility and getting frustrated (and insulted frankly) when clients don't do what they said they would do. I stay awake at night fretting while my clients, I'm sure, sleep soundly knowing that I'll take care of everything. I always make that mistake. I take on too much and then I feel resentful that I'm not getting the support. I never learn. I'm like that fly. I'm a slow learner. --Anonymous

Did you use this 99-Word Story and the discussion questions or interpretation in your work or personal life? If so, about your experience! If you would like help using 99-Word Stories in your organization, please me.

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