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

NEW at 99-Word Stories

Talk Quick!
99-Word Stories to Spark Discussion about Common Management Issues
by Brian Remer

Talk Quick! is a collection of group discussion starters designed to inspire meaningful conversations about important management issues.
(12 Discussion Activities, 33 pages, Cross Referenced, $10)

Learn more HERE.

99's On the Go

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99-Word Stories by ,
Creative Learning Director of
The Flirefly Group.
© 2014 Brian Remer
Updated August 2014

99's on the 9th

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

Look Ahead...

Plan to attend Boredom Busters: Boosting Engagement in Meetings and Training in the greater Boston area on September 25, 2014. Managers, team leaders, presenters, and sometime-trainers can discover how to make learning more action-focused.

Learn more and register HERE

August 2014

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

With sweaty palms, I sat fretting in a side room. Interviewing for my first job after college, I had just met with a committee of twelve to answer their questions. Now I awaited the "verdict." Would they give me the job? And worse, if I got it, could I do it? I wasn't sure!

Then I relaxed: If they could determine from a resume and an interview that I was the right person, then I, who knew myself so much better, could probably pull it off.

Trust the mirror people hold up for you. I got the job!


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.

Everyone wants to know how they are different; what unique talent, skill, or gift they have; what mark they can make on the world.

At least, that seems to be the case for North Americans, especially if you read fiction, look at the popular culture of movies, music, and TV, and if you pay attention to sports, politics, and the nightly news. It's unusual to end a day without hearing about a heroic firefighter or soldier, watching a celebrity promote themselves and a cause, or simply noticing that a colleague accomplishes a task with less effort and more success than you do.

Excessive focus on the wonderful, heroic, genius-like accomplishments of others can make us feel inadequate. Of all the people who aspire to greatness, how many actually become pro basketball players, start a tech firm in their garage, or write a best seller?

Yet each of us does have something unique to offer. The mix of culture, genes, experience, interests, support, passion, and many other elements in every individual combine to present a one-of-a-kind perspective on the world. Would that perspective be available to humanity if the world didn't need it?

In J.K. Roling's Harry Potter series, the main character only begins to learn the true nature of his magical powers when he goes away to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Up until then, Harry had been told his magical abilities were odd, dangerous, and unacceptable. It is only through other characters that Harry understands how special he is even among wizards. Similarly, we have to rely on the people around us to identify our innate talents for us.

In seventh grade, I took a swimming class which, like gym and algebra, was required. One day, the teacher, Mr. Swensen, asked if I had considered joining the swim team. I was shocked. Me? I had spent nearly four summer seasons of Red Cross lessons in elementary school learning how to keep my face in the water. I'd never thought of myself as a good swimmer and yet, Mr. Swensen was recommending me for the team! Based only on his suggestion, I joined and by the end of the first season, I was good enough that the coach had me practicing with the High School team. What's more, I'm still an avid swimmer as an adult, all because someone saw a skill or talent that I never knew I had.

Turns out, we only learn about the value of our own skills, talents, and gifts from other people. That makes giving and receiving feedback critically important. Unfortunately, most feedback is short and not very descriptive. When someone says, "Good job on that report!" we should ask for some refinement of that evaluation. We can say, "Can you give me an example of what you thought made it especially effective?" If someone says, "The meeting you led went really well," we should ask what the person thought made the meeting so productive.

And when we see a person's talents and gifts shining through, we can help them refine those skills by describing what we appreciated. The more targeted our observations, the more specifically the person can hone their skills, and the more they can make their mark by being who they already are.

The value of every gift is determined by the receiver. If you give away something that's precious to you but it's not appreciated by the person receiving it, it wasn't really a gift. We can determine the value of our gifts and talents by asking people to hold up a mirror - to give us targeted feedback - then we can refine our skills and talents with confidence.


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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