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

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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.
© 2015 Brian Remer
Updated Sept. 2015

99's on the 9th

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

September 2015 -Reboot: Don't be a hero, just walk away.

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

At five on Friday, Joan's computer went on the fritz. The spreadsheet she was working on froze. The e-mail browser crashed. Her hand-held device wouldn't sync. The technical support team had already gone home. There was nothing else to do so she pulled the plug and left for the weekend.

She returned on Monday anxious about re-entering a feedback loop of computer repair. But when the machine booted up, everything worked fine!

When you've tried everything else, the best solution may be to leave things alone. The trick: knowing when to act quickly and when to walk away.

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.

The cavalry arrives at the most desperate moment of the Hollywood western.

Popeye gulps down a can of spinach the instant before Olive Oyl is terrorized by Brutus.

"Here I come to save the day!"

Heroes and their actions have been venerated throughout time in all cultures. Who wouldn't want to be a hero at least once?

In a recent New York Times article, "The Trick to Acting Heroically", Erez Yoeli and David Rand describe the conditions in which people are most likely to act with valor. Pointing both to current events such as the three Americans and a Brit who subdued a gunman on a train in France and to studies of people who received the Carnegie Medal for heroism, the authors argue that we perform heroic acts instinctively.

Interviews with people who acted heroically revealed over and over that they didn't think about their actions. And if they had, they probably would not have acted. The urge to help another person appears to be a hardwired feature of humanity designed to keep our social wheels aligned.

Using a game theory model, Yoeli and Rand found that people were more likely to help another when a) the cost of helping is small, b) the absence of helping will be very harmful to the other person, or c) maintaining the long-term relationship is important. Instinctive reactions are more likely to take over when these conditions are present.

Yet sometimes we are too quick to react and, as a result, our response is inappropriate, awkward, ineffectual, or unwanted. This is especially true in non-critical situations. Most of us have probably experienced a well-meaning friend or colleague who dealt advice like playing cards when we weren't even looking for a solution. Or perhaps as a manager, trainer, or parent, you have found yourself picking up and dusting off a protégé, student, or child only to discover they could have taken care of themselves. As the person who rushes in, we may not know enough about the situation to provide the right assistance.

Waiting before dashing to solve a crisis gives us a chance to consider…

If the building is on fire, get out! When there's a crisis, you want someone to jump in instinctively but if there isn't, you don't. As the 99-Word Story suggests, knowing when to walk away may take as much awareness as it takes to be a hero.


More Information:
"The Trick to Acting Heroically" by Erez Yoeli and David Rand, New York Times, Sunday, August 30, 2015.


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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