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 Jan. 2016

99's on the 9th

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

January 2016 - High Expectations: Pressured to be Perfect

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

High Expectations
Surrounded by friends and food in a small fishing village near Bilbao, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to improve my Spanish. But forget about speaking. I couldn't even decipher the topic of conversation! I was completely frustrated.

Then I realized: we were nine people at the table and eight were speaking simultaneously! Not to mention the three children and a loud TV in the next room. Even a native speaker couldn't keep up with all that talk. I began to relax.

Holding ourselves to impossible standards we miss the joy of our current successes.


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.

Nobody's perfect.

We hear that adage often enough yet it seems we don't believe it. Usually when uttered, "Nobody's perfect" has the intention of an apology or an excuse. It's as if we should not have exposed our flaw or the mistake we made was beyond our control. We are only human, after all!

But hidden in the apology is the assumption that humans should be perfect; that mistakes are not tolerated and flaws should be eliminated or polished smooth. Sure, we want to do great work and even stretch ourselves to achieve something new. But aren't there instances when the drive to perfection is unnecessary or even harmful? Trying to please when perfect is impossible creates unhealthy stress.

Some Native Americans believe only the gods are perfect. To make something perfect of your own is disrespectful. So, to acknowledge that only the gods achieve perfection, they build at least one small flaw into whatever they make. A friend of mine makes a point of including one blooper in every slide show she creates. That way her critics will have something specific to complain about that she can easily fix!

What is the balance between stretching oneself and being an overachiever? What is the demarcation between having high standards and micromanaging?

We need to work to high standards but we also need to give ourselves some wiggle room. Does everything we do always need to be perfect? Most people won't dismiss our whole effort just because of one fault. Besides, different people notice different things about what we do. It's possible that ten people could find ten different flaws, none of which ever came to our own notice. It's equally possible that there are ten different versions of perfection!

It's easy to forget how much time it takes to master a topic. Some have calculated that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. But how can one really measure the length of time for learning - let alone apply it across the board to all people and all subjects. Even after five years of constant daily practice and study, Children are not experts in their first language by the time they begin school. And even adults make grammatical errors. Learning should be continuous. There is always a deeper layer of knowing and doing.

It's pretty common to zero in on one flaw and not acknowledge the whole that is already functioning well. Sure, mistakes have consequences. But most slips are not going to sink the ship. Do your best job, be prepared to fix any imperfections if and when they surface, and in the meantime, count the successes you've already achieved.


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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