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.
© 2013 Brian Remer
Updated Feb. 2013

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99's on the 9th

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

Readers Respond: Thoughts from people like you about chaos, doubt, discovery, "crazy meetings," and counting your blessings from 99s on the 9th for January 2013.

February 2013

On the Move
At a small church in rural Vermont, everything is attached to wheels. The cabinets, bookcases, tables, chairs, and room dividers that constitute the Sunday classrooms are all on rollers. When it's time for the strawberry supper or Christmas bazaar, everything but the kitchen sink is wheeled away leaving one large space for these special events. A few years ago, the whole building was lifted off its foundation and rolled 700 feet to accommodate a road expansion project.

Whatever your belief system, make it strong but not static. Mount it on wheels ready to roll into action.


You can build upon 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.


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 could be talking about personal beliefs, organizational values, professional standards, departmental protocols, or work procedures. Whatever the situation, we need a solid foundation, a strong, consistent base which supports our "house."

Obviously, a foundation must be strong in order to support the weight of a house. But, in addition, it has to resist the forces of the environment that surround the structure. This includes gravity, soil swelling, frost heaving, hydrostatic pressure, and soil collapse.

Gravity constantly pushes the surrounding dirt against a foundation. Imagine how much worse this pressure is if the foundation is built on the side of a hill! In our own lives we feel the cares of the world, the weight of time, and the pressures of work, and we find ourselves struggling against inertia. It makes sense to have a strong foundation built on solid rock as we age and endure more of life's burdens.

Soil swelling happens when a foundation is constructed on two different soil types - which is very common. One soil may expand when saturated while the other remains stable. In our lives we have to consider the environment in which we place ourselves, the people we keep around us, the food we eat, and the stuff we consume that fills our lives. Are we balanced or is one thing taking on more importance than it ought? A foundation of rock can give us the stability to counteract the conflicting demands we feel.

Frost heaving refers to the way moisture in soil expands when frozen in winter. It can cause soil to increase its volume by as much as 25 percent! In our own lives we might also become frozen: fixed in our ways, resistant to change, or confrontational. With a strong foundation, we might withstand this type of resistance within ourselves or around us.

Hydrostatic pressure simply means having too much water. It adds weight and liquefies soil. This lubrication reduces the friction holding a foundation in place. Is this the fear that turns our knees to jelly? Who has not experienced that wobbly sensation when asked to speak or perform in front of a group? In that moment, we need a rock to stand on!

And when the ground is very sandy, it can actually collapse because of large voids within the soil. In these conditions, foundations can "sink." Similarly, a lack of strong beliefs might lead to a vacuum in our lives waiting to be filled by the most fashionable leadership fad or diet plan that comes along.

Yes, having a strong foundation is certainly the best policy - except when a new situation surprises us, something changes, or the earth shakes!

We build all sorts of houses - many with foundations that are intentionally made to move because sometimes moving is important. There are prefab homes and factory built homes that have no foundation at all until after they are fully built. There are mobile homes, motor homes, camping trailers, FEMA trailers, houseboats, and tents you can carry on your back. All of them provide portable shelter ready for any need in any place.

Foundations of large buildings in an earthquake zone are better when they are not built on solid stone or bedrock! Buildings survive quakes best when set on a floating pad that allows the building to slide a bit while the ground shakes. This technique, called "isolated base technology," uses a coil placed between the structure and the foundation of the building. As the earthquake moves the foundation one way, the coil moves the other way, and the building stays nearly stationary.

Here we see the tension within the 99-Word Story. A rock solid foundation is essential but we also have to be ready to move, take action, respond to unexpected needs as they arise. We need both movement and stability; a foundation of rock that rolls. Yet how many times does our solid foundation prevent us from rolling into action?

Whatever work or life situation is pressing, start with a good strong foundation of rock - but just make sure it's the kind of rock that gathers no moss!


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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