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

Download a copy of this issue of 99's on the 9th as a PDF.*

View with my iPhone.*

View as a PDF and print from my computer.*

You have permission to use this material for your personal teaching, training, or coaching. You may not sell it or reprint it for other uses without permission from .
Thank you!


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

99's on the 9th

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

December 2014

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

Focus of Attention
With neon signs that take up the side of a whole building, vendors and musicians on every corner, traffic racing through the streets, and faces from seven continents, a stroll through Times Square was a night of entertainment all by itself. But trying to find the restaurant where my friend was waiting, I walked right past it - twice!

I realized it's easier to cope with the frantic details up close when you focus on the action across the street.

Seduced by bright lights in the distance, we easily overlook the people and opportunities closest to us


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.

This 99-Word Story poses a legitimate question: Are we more distracted by immediate, pressing issues or by the twinkling prize of the future? Either can become a problem. Too much attention to the short view and all we see are singular issues. We ricochet from one theme to another. But too much attention on the future and we miss what's happening now: the play of light as the sun sets, the subtle mood shift of our partner, or the body language that signals we've made our point.

Of course, the dichotomy is false. We need both the foreground and the background to frame a complete picture. But this creates a good analogy for how our brain makes sense of stimuli: by balancing the focus of our attention from the bottom up and from the top down.

In his book, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, Daniel Goleman describes the science and the practical aspects of this dual nature of our ability to stay focused. He makes it clear why staying focused can be such a challenge while also making the case for increasing one's capacity for mindfulness. Mindfulness, he advocates, enhances our ability to balance the top and bottom functioning of our brain.

Goleman points out that all our sensory input first passes through the amygdala before reaching the cortex for interpretation and transformation into actions and memories. The amygdala layers the sensory information with emotions which have a lopsided effect on the rest of our brain. Emotions can trigger signals to our heart, lungs, and endocrine system, to beat faster, pump more air, and crank out adrenalin. If we feel fearful, we can be acting in survival mode before we even consciously recognize a situation.

Here's where attention becomes critical: When we can focus on our bodies and the sensations of our internal organs, we are in a better position to interpret and react levelly to a situation. Focus allows us to balance the automatic responses of our bottom-up brain with the measured responses of our top-down brain for more effective interactions and responses.

Goleman argues that an increased capacity for mindfulness offers a greater level of choice in one's focus. Rather than be under the control of the brightest flashing lights or the most cacophonous noise, we can register these sensations then choose which deserve our focused attention.

We don't have to decide whether the foreground or the background is most important. Instead, we can experience them as a complete picture that we have brought into focus for ourselves.


Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence by Daniel Goleman, HarperCollins, 2013


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.

Read previous issues.
To add or delete your name to our mailing list, email with a short note in the subject line.

I want this newsletter to be practical, succinct, and thoughtful. If you have suggestions about how I can meet these criteria, please let me know! Send me an with your thoughts and ideas.


For more information, please contact .