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.
© 2016 Brian Remer
Updated May 2016

99's on the 9th

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

May 2016 -
Surprise Potential: Discover your special knack

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

Surprise Potential
Bob was a writer who wanted to quit journalism. He applied to many organizations as a grant writer. Though he had several interviews, an offer never materialized. One day, a would-be employer called, not with a job but with a suggestion: "You've got too much talent to be a grant writer," she said. "You're executive director material."

Since then, Bob has successfully led several organizations because a stranger's comment changed his self-concept.

The key to unlock our greatness is held by people who take the trouble to share their insights about us. What possibilities have you unleashed?


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.

In the science fiction fantasy series The Tales of Alvin Maker by Orson Scott Card, the author has created an alternate pre-industrial America in which many characters are known by their special talents. One might be a weaver, a carpenter, a miller, or a teacher but that person's ability to spin cloth, fashion wood, grind flour, or educate children is enhanced beyond the ordinary. It's a gift that enables the characters to perform their special "knack" with extraordinary perfection.

Alvin's knack is special beyond all others because he is able to make anything by rearranging matter into whatever he wishes. But because Alvin's knack is so powerful, he struggles with two fundamental questions:

  1. What is my special knack, exactly?
  2. How should I use my knack?

Many of us tussle with those same questions. Children and teens wonder what they will be when they grow up. Young adults develop skills and search for the right jobs. Middle aged adults might find new energy in exploring alternate talents. Seniors find relevance in unexpected ways as their abilities change with age.

Discovering your special knack is not easy especially when so much of our culture emphasizes only the highlights of extremely gifted people. Whether business, sports, politics, science, the arts, or a hundred other fields, we have developed strict ways to measure aptitude. Those measures define what is valued and, at the same time, exclude many talents that do have worth. What is the value of being able to see a common theme across many different problems? How much is it worth to be able to leverage personal relationships to complete a task? What would you give to be able to sense when to listen with just the right amount of empathy? Of how much benefit is a well-timed sense of humor? How much should we pay a mother who has a creative distraction ready for any fussy child? Many talents go unrecognized and undervalued because they simply are not included in the economy.

Compounding the ability to know our own gifts is our own shortsightedness. In most situations, we follow our first inclination and we do what comes naturally. When we are successful, others may be pleased or even amazed. We may receive praise or thanks. But usually we shrug our accomplishment off as "just doing what I always do." After all, how could something that I did so easily be anything extraordinary? Couldn't anyone do just as well? Obviously not, or they would have!

Think about it, did Superman know he had x-ray vision before someone asked him what he was staring at? Perhaps we all have a special knack or even a superpower. What's yours? Consider these questions:

Once you learn about your knack, you must decide how to use it. Whatever the state of your family, team, organization, or personal life, you played a part in creating the situation that you are now living. Which of your superpowers can you engage to improve a negative situation or to enhance one that's already positive?

Our interconnected systems require the talents of every individual to make the world a better place. Learn to recognize, build, and employ your unique knack. What comes naturally to you may be just the superpower someone else needs.

For More Information:
Learn more about this topic from the perspective of a different 99-Word Story, Confidence, first published in August of 2014.

The Johari Window: Using self-Discovery and Communication to Build Trust The word "Johari" is taken from the names of Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham, psychologists who developed the model in 1955. By choosing a list of adjectives to describe oneself and comparing it with a similar list made by others, an individual can identify commonly known traits as well as hidden traits. Luft and Ingham contend that by revealing more of the hidden areas, one can build trust and improved working relationships.


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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