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99's On the Go
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Creative Learning Director of
The Flirefly Group.
© 2014 Brian Remer
Updated June 2014
99's on the 9th
based on 99-Word Stories that
come to you on the 9th of every month.
Plan to attend Blended Learning: Finding the Right Mix the New England ASTD conference in Chelmsford, MA, June 12 & 13 where Brian will be presenting "Stone Soup: A Recipe for Blended Learning."
Read this story aloud or make copies for your group or team members.
All Dressed Up
My daughter, Tilden, had a terrific time at the sixth grade semi-formal dance - her first. And she learned a valuable lesson too.
"I spent 3 months finding the right dress and all day getting ready. I didn't have to do that," she explained. "I thought people would stand around and talk about who had the best dress but we were too busy dancing. It was still fun to get dressed up, but I would have had just as much fun in jeans."
Too much focus on the outer trappings and we might miss what's really important.
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.
"Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society."
This observation by the American humorist Mark Twain expresses the bald truth that appearance does make a difference. What we wear and how we adorn ourselves can send strong unspoken messages about our economic standing, profession, age, politics, religion, cultural affiliation, sexual orientation, marital status, level of education, and so much more. Looking for, reading, and interpreting these messages is a skill that humans have refined across generations. Shakespeare wrote "Clothes make the man" in Hamlet but the ancient Greeks had a similar phrase. And I can imagine that a smudge of mud across the chest of a cave-dwelling homo sapiens after a fight with a saber tooth tiger garnered increased esteem among the clan.
Throughout history and across cultures, we have learned to judge character and credibility by outward appearances. Folktales from India, Turkey, Iceland, and Italy tell a remarkably similar story about how differently the same person is treated depending on whether they dress as a beggar or a prince.
Modern researchers have confirmed these truths that we all know intuitively. Psychology Today published an article, "Clothes Make the Man - Literally," (Published on August 24, 2012 by Jordan Gaines Lewis in Brain Babble) which described several experiments about appearance. Volunteer subjects were asked to wear a white lab coat that they were told was owned by a doctor. Others wore the same coat but were told that a painter owned it. Of the two groups, which performed better on a series of sustained attention tasks? If you guessed the group wearing the "doctor's" coat, you win! When people wore clothes that typically denoted a higher status, they actually acted consistently with that status.
But for all the shared wisdom about the power of appropriate appearances, there's another reality we know which is also expressed in the 99-Word Story: genuine beauty, meaning, and truth reside beneath and beyond the superficial. There is more to each of us than meets the eye. And we need constant reminders to develop our inner qualities; the attitudes and abilities that make us unique and make our presence powerful. After all, it's no use focusing on appearances if there's nothing for people to see once you have their attention. As much as we want to be fascinating, our true value is generated from within.
The challenge is remembering to ask ourselves the questions that reveal our subsurface value. Here are a few examples that can be used anytime in your organization:
- What contribution do we want to make to our organization, community, and society?
- How will our present actions impact our team in two months or two years?
- How will our employees, stakeholders, or clients interpret our decision-making process?
- What are the intangible benefits of the products and services we provide that distinguish us from other organizations?
Whether you decide to focus on individuals, teams, or a whole organization, go ahead and "get dressed up." Put your best foot forward. Grab attention and make a positive impression but also make sure people find the deeper value you have to offer.
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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