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.
© 2014 Brian Remer
Updated Feb. 2014

99's on the 9th

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

Look Ahead...
Plan to attend Brian's popular public workshop, Boredom Busters

 

February 2014

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

Tired of Retirement
For years, Mitchell had a successful business selling shoes in our small town. He had a reputation for personable service and quality products. He thrived on the regular contact with all types of customers as well as business and community leaders.

At retirement, he moved with his wife to their northern Minnesota lake home where Mitchell spent his days fishing and, literally, losing his mind. He became listless, irritable, forgetful. Dementia set in. When he took a part-time job selling cars, his usual alert, vibrant self returned immediately.

If you've got a purpose, you've got life.

 

Discussion
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.

 

Interpretation
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.

"Who am I? Why am I here?"

That was Admiral James Stockdale's "moment," his infamous opening statement as Ross Perot's running mate in the 1992 Vice-Presidential debate. It was probably meant rhetorically but because Stockdale was unknown and because he had little experience in politics the remark was a credibility crusher. Even though he was a decorated war veteran, a POW in Vietnam, and president of the Naval War College, Stockdale never recovered during the nationally televised debate. He and Perot eventually lost the election gaining only 19% of the popular vote and no Electoral College votes.

James Stockdale's unfortunate choice of words illustrates the importance of knowing who you are and your purpose, your unique reason for being. Stockdale's quip articulates critical questions that each of us have probably asked at some point in our lives.

Teenagers and young adults suffer adolescent angst until they can define who they are. A midlife crisis involves a re-examination of life's purpose and one's role in it. Retirement and old age present the challenge of staying relevant and purpose-filled as one's physical abilities decline. People who suffer from depression and other mental health conditions often question whether they have a purpose in life. In extreme cases, a lack of purpose and meaning can be deadly leading to suicide.

Conversely, a sense of purpose can be a source of strength and hope. In his book, Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl describes his experience while a prisoner in a Nazi death camp. He acknowledges that many people had no choice and were simply slaughtered. But of those who were assigned to forced labor, starvation, brutality, and illness, each person who survived had something to look forward to, some purpose yet to fulfill in their life. For some it was a loved one waiting for them in another country. Others had important work in their profession that no one else could complete. Frankl, himself, lived through unspeakable conditions because he was able to stay focused on learning about and eventually writing about the psychology of the death camps.

How important is a sense of purpose in the workplace? Does work need to be meaningful? Perhaps in the context of our jobs, a discussion of the meaning of life feels uncomfortable. One's life purpose does not have to be associated with one's work but when it is, an incredible amount of energy is available. Imagine the results when people have that level of commitment on the job.

Frankl wrote, "The meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day, and from hour to hourů Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone's task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it."

Take time to learn your purpose and help others discover theirs. In the process, we'll have better homes, teams, and organizations. And we'll save ourselves the embarrassment of living a "Stockdale moment" of our own.

 

For further reading: Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1984, ISBN: 0-671-02337-3.

 

 

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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