Words of Wisdom for
Leadership, Learning, and Life in
Exactly 99 Words

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99-Word Stories by ,
Creative Learning Director of
The Flirefly Group.
© 2013 Brian Remer
Updated June 2013

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.

June 2013

Read this story aloud or make copies for your group or team members.

Motion Sickness
During my parents' first visit to Vermont, they drove along Route 100 for a scenic tour of fall foliage through the Green Mountains. When asked how they liked it, Dad waxed poetic about the bright colors and picturesque New England villages. He loved the challenge of navigating the curved, rolling highways.

But Mom, accustomed to the flat, straight roads of South Dakota, could only remember the green tinge to her own complexion as she tried to calm her rolling stomach!

It's no fun to be along for the ride if you're just a passenger with no control.


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.

Most people don't like being told what to do.

Well, okay, let's add a few qualifiers to that statement. Many people who are reasonably competent and confident at what they are doing are not typically looking for advice about their actions. Yet they may be surrounded by other people who also feel competent at the task and have the confidence to speak up about it. These people are more than happy to share their ideas. They may even become adamant about what should be done, how it should be done, and when it should be finished. If you are the "driver," this type of assistance may be more of a distraction than a help.

As much as we might like to ignore it, advice from the passenger seat may be helpful. It is not uncommon for the person riding shotgun to notice a roadside hazard before the driver sees it. Aren't four eyes better than two? Rather than annoyance, we should be grateful for the attention of another expert, right?

But when advice comes from the back seat, it's much easier to dismiss it. The whole notion of a back seat driver is that the person is not in a position to give advice. Back seat drivers have neither the perspective nor the access to controls necessary for split-second decisions. As a result, we dismiss them as worrying fussbudgets. Their credibility is questioned; their suggestions ignored; their advice rejected.

Unfortunately, if you are the driver, you've still got a busload of passengers whether they are giving helpful advice or not. And sometimes, suggestions from the rear might make the journey more pleasant for everyone. The question then becomes, how can you maintain the complicated task of steering toward your destination while still being open to passenger input?

Being clear about your group's goal is one way to start. If everyone is in agreement with the final destination, confusion is reduced and people can move forward with confidence. In the 99-Word Story, the actual destination is not clear. Presumably the travelers are making a circular route for a day trip. But the purpose of their travel is evident: to see fall foliage. Unfortunately, there is disagreement about the process they will use to see the foliage. The passenger wants a smooth, comfortable ride while the driver wants to test his prowess on a twisted roadway.

Whenever there is dissention on a team, it is worth asking whether everyone agrees with the goal. If not, stop, check the map, repack your supplies, and, perhaps let some people get off the bus if they wish. Then, before you start the engine again, consider the group's processes. How is information shared? How will the group respond to changes in the environment? How are scarce resources allocated? How are decisions made? What can individuals do if they disagree with a decision? And when is it alright for someone else to take a turn in the driver's seat?

Answer these process questions and you'll maximize the skills and creativity of every team member. In addition, you'll achieve your goal - without losing your lunch along the way!


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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