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

99's on the 9th
A Newsletter of 99-Word Stories that
comes to you on the 9th of every month.

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September 2011

The Slow Learner
One sweltering summer day, I sought relief on the screened porch. An enormous housefly was bouncing against the screen trying to get out. Feeling charitable, I waited until it got to the door then swung it open. But the fly kept bashing into the screen door anyway. I pushed the door open further. Still the fly ping-ponged against the screen never knowing a right angle turn would set it free. Finally I let the door swing shut.

When we don't see progress, what makes us think doing more of the same thing will set us free?


You can become a fast learner by using some of the following discussion questions related to this 99-Word story with your team or by yourself.


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.

"I'm always forgetting my glasses."
"Every morning I have the hardest time getting out of bed."
"I've told him a dozen times to clean his room."
"I've clicked the 'Refresh' icon several times but it's still the same."

How often do you hear a comment like one of these? Perhaps you've even made similar statements yourself! We toss off these observations without giving them much thought but, whenever we say them, it is an indication that we are not learning from our experience. There is something going on that we are not paying attention to; something we could do differently that would enable us to turn the corner and begin anew.

What prevents us from making that shift? Perhaps we are paralyzed by procrastination. Other times, too many responsibilities, stress, or simply being tired can make it difficult to realize that we need to seek new options. Maybe we are a bit too comfortable where we are, humming along so smoothly that we don't realize our groove has ground into a rut.

But whatever the explanation - or excuse - we have not been paying attention to the feedback. We take an action expecting to see our desired result and when that doesn't materialize, we try again. Based on the feedback we receive, we should do something slightly different. This is often referred to as the School of Hard Knocks. The grading system in this school is based on our ability to increase our learning and reduce the knocks. And that requires being alert, noticing, focusing, attending. With a sharp observational eye, we can zero in on a possible fix. Or, when perplexed, we can call a friend, read a book, talk to an expert, see our therapist, and get help.

We shouldn't have to suffer hard knocks to do better in work, at home, or in life. If we can pay attention to the feedback we receive, perhaps we can pay our dues less painfully.


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.


Readers Respond:

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


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