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.
© 2017 Brian Remer
Updated Mar. 2017

99's on the 9th

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

March 2017 - Wants and Needs: What influences your choices?

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

At the annual St. Patrick's Day breakfast of the Holyoke Chamber of Commerce, the tables were decorated in green and silver. Each place had a candle gift wrapped for the guest. After the mayor's speech and announcement of the parade queen, it came time to leave. On the way out, I snatched an extra gift candle "for a friend."

Wait. Why was I doing this? I don't need candles. I'm not even Irish!

Why, in a land of plenty, do we feel such scarcity? Even if something is free, should we have it - or hoard it?


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.

Wants and Needs: What influences your choices?

Researchers wanted to know to what degree portion size influences how much people eat. So they went to the movies - not to watch the show but to give away buckets of popcorn.

Moviegoers were given free popcorn. Some received a jumbo bucket while others got a super-size jumbo bucket. For everyone, the amount they received was far more than anyone could reasonably eat no matter how hungry they might be. Regardless of portion size, people randomly received fresh popcorn or fourteen-day-old popcorn that was stale, hard, and squeaky when chewed.

To gauge whether portion size influenced consumption, the researchers weighed all the popcorn buckets before and after the show. They found that snackers who had fresh popcorn ate 45.3% more when they had been given a super-size jumbo bucket. Surprisingly, there were similar results for people who had been given stale popcorn. They ate 33.6% more when they had been given the largest container even though the popcorn tasted bad and stuck to their teeth. Portion size had a definite influence on consumption. Imagine eating a third more popcorn that you don't like just because the container is bigger.

Imagine taking extra gift candles just because they are there. The environment seems to have an outsized influence on our behavior.

But perhaps having the right environmental conditions simply means it's easier to make the choices that we later regret. I can imagine several ways we might explain or justify hoarding unwanted candles or munching on stale popcorn.

  • Inattention, "I must not have eaten very much yet because there's still so much in the bucket."
  • Frugality, "I hate to let all this food go to waste."
  • Scarcity, "I should eat it now because who knows when I'll have food again."
  • Fortune, "I'm so lucky. It's not every day you get free food."
  • Conditioning, "I eat all my food. I'm a member of the Clean Plate Club."
  • Guilt, "Don't waste food because there are starving children in Africa."
  • Pride, "Nobody else eats popcorn like I eat popcorn."
  • Possessiveness, "It's mine. I can do what I want with it."
  • Entitlement, "I deserve this popcorn - all of it."

Perhaps you can think of additional reasons someone might binge on stale popcorn. But whether popcorn, candles, or something else, we have a metaphor to help us talk about workplace interactions and team dynamics. Think about how distraction, unnecessary penny pinching, fear of not having enough, a reliance on luck, years of conditioning, guilty feelings, arrogance, selfishness, and privilege keep us in a rut. They taint our relationships with the people who can help us, they hobble our creativity, and they prevent us from living as our best selves.

The action-related question that arises from all this is what sort of environment does our organization or team have? Does the culture promote sharing, growth, and collaboration? Or do we favor hoarding, secrecy, and unnecessary competition?

We don't always make a distinction between what we want and what we really need. Instead, we tend to let the surrounding situation decide for us. That's all the more reason to be intentional about creating positive environmental cues. After all, if you can hoard it, you can also share it.

For More Information:
"Bad popcorn in big buckets: portion size can influence intake as much as taste." Wansink B., Kim J., Journal of Nutrition, Education, and Behavior, 2005 Sep-Oct; 37(5):242-5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16053812

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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