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)

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99's On the Go

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99-Word Stories by ,
Creative Learning Director of
The Flirefly Group.
© 2017 Brian Remer
Updated Feb. 2017

99's on the 9th

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

February 2017 - Personal Issues: Bad Habits and Fitting In

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

Personal Issues
"Hi," I said to Molly as I rounded the corner of the building. Startled, she answered sheepishly, "Guess you caught me! I was trying to keep it a secret." I didn't know what she meant until I noticed the burning cigarette in her hand.

Newly hired, Molly was evidently trying to maintain appearances. She continued apologizing in spite of my reassurances. I suspect she wasn't as concerned that I knew about her habit as she was chagrined to be reminded of it.

What we are least proud of may be what we find most difficult to change.


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.

Bad Habits and Fitting In
This 99-Word Story is about habits but it is equally about motivation.

Though we respond positively to rewards and we avoid punishments, we are also motivated by subtle but strong forces that affect us internally. One of those is our need for connection with others; our need to belong.

At some point you were the new kid on the block, the first year student, the junior employee, the foreigner trying to learn the local culture, longing to fit in. If you found a friend early who could aid your transition, you'll recall what a difference that made. Not only did you become privy to the inside jokes but you gained someone you could trust - a friend.

Everyone needs companionship and at least a basic level of acceptance by a larger group. Even quiet, introverted people do not like to be alone all the time.

This desire for belonging can motivate us to vote for an issue, join a demonstration, or buy blue jeans. The need to belong can drive us to cheer our favorite team, gossip at the coffee shop, and re-tweet both truth and alternative fact. And belonging to a group can lead us to change our appearance to conceal our aging, to hide our deficiencies of vision or hearing, and, like Molly, to be ashamed of habits that are entrenched and difficult to alter.

What if our own desire to belong made it easier for someone else to fit in? Recalling the times that we so desperately wanted to be part of the group could motivate us to include the new kid on the block. We might look for common interests in spite of differences in political views. We could think more creatively about how to use the talents of someone who's a bit out of the mainstream. And perhaps we could even invite someone inside even though we don't approve of all of their personal off-putting habits.

Our own success in entering and belonging could be a reminder that we are all stronger in a group. Individual shortcomings become insignificant when each person is able to contribute from their strengths. Teams excel when everyone has a valued role. And bad habits are ignored as we achieve common goals.

For More Information:
If you are interested in using this 99-Word Story to explore the topic of habits in more detail, see the Firefly News Flash for April 2015.

You will find a review of a book by Charles Duhigg. The Power of Habit describes the many ways we are influenced by our habits and offers suggestions for changing the habits we wish we did not have. The April 2015 issue offers additional insights about our motivation to maintain a habit with links to seven other books reviewed in the Firefly News Flash that provide information about why we stick with particular behaviors.

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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