Tuesday, 30 September 2014

50 Stories & Snippets Extract 6

Here's the latest extract from my new ebook publication for speakers and trainers in the Almost Free series, available on Kindle and Nook:50 Stories & Snippets for Conference & Workshop Presentations. 

Eight Proverbs

Four things come not back: the spoken word, the sped arrow, the past life, the neglected opportunity.
Saudi Arabian proverb
Seize opportunity by the beard, for it is bald behind.
Bulgarian proverb
Between saying and doing many a pair of shoes is worn out.
Italian proverb
If you want a thing done, go. If not, send. The shortest answer is doing.
English proverb
Thinking well is wise; planning well, wiser; but doing well is wisest and best of all.
Persian proverb
A journey of a thousand miles starts in front of your feet.
Chinese proverb
The beginning is the half of every action.
Greek proverb
Abundance is from activity.
Turkish proverb

Using the proverbs

The old management truism has it that you must 'walk the walk' not just 'talk the talk'. A cliché, but it's true. An individual or an organization may be brimming with ideas, may be ambitious for success, but will never become truly effective unless properly organised for action. The world (as demonstrated by the international breadth of the sources above) is full of 'would haves', 'could haves' that go no further because of a failure to act, to act first, or to be organized for the opportunities that emerge from the creative process.
Use these eight proverbs from around the world to underline memorably how important it is to act as well as talk about what you are going to do.

Famous Failures

From artists to sports stars to world leaders some of the most successful people in history have been labelled at an early stage as failures or no-hopers; here are just a few of them.

Fred Astaire made a screen test for MGM in 1933. The memo from the testing director to the studio read: 'Can’t act. Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.' After he made it in movies the Hollywood star kept that memo over the fireplace in his plush Beverly Hills home.

Lucille Ball was told by the head tutor of the John Murray Anderson Drama School, where she started studying in 1927: 'Try any other profession.'

The Beatles were turned down for a recording contract by Decca Records in 1962, weeks before their first hit with EMI's Parlophone. Decca's evaluation: 'We don’t like their sound. Groups of guitars are on their way out... The Beatles have no future in show business.'

Michael Caine heard his headmaster confidently predict: 'You will be a labourer all your life.'

Winston Churchill was rebellious by nature and had a poor academic record, attracting censure and punishment at three different independent schools that he attended. He also had to overcome a speech impediment. Nevertheless he became Britain's most celebrated Prime Minister whose stirring public speeches galvanised the war effort. One of his most famous included the words: 'Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never - in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.'

Charles Darwin earned the disapproval of his father when he gave up his medical career. He told his son: 'You care for nothing but shooting, dogs and rat catching.' In his autobiography, Darwin wrote: 'I was considered by all my masters, and my father, a very ordinary boy, rather below the common standard of intellect.'

Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because he 'lacked imagination and had no good ideas.' Many of his early business ventures failed and he was bankrupted more than once. His proposal for a theme park (Disneyland) was rejected by the city of Anaheim on the grounds that it would only attract riffraff.

Albert Einstein did not talk until the age of four and could not read until he was seven. His parents considered him 'sub-normal' and he was described by a teacher as 'mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in foolish dreams.' He was expelled from school and refused admittance to the Zurich Polytechnic School. He made up later for his slow start.

Vincent Van Gogh sold only one painting during his life - this was to the sister of one of his friends, for which she paid only 400 francs. Despite his commercial failure he completed over 800 paintings, many of which are now regarded as the most valuable in the world of art, worth many millions.

Abraham Lincoln was several times unemployed in his early working life and failed as both a businessman and a lawyer before he turned to politics. He was defeated in his first attempt for the legislature, defeated in his first attempt to be nominated for Congress, defeated in his application to be Commissioner of the General Land Office, defeated in the senatorial election of 1854, defeated in his efforts for the vice-presidency in 1856, and defeated in the senatorial election of 1858. He did, however, become the sixteenth President of the USA and is one of the four great statesmen commemorated by having their faces carved from rock at Mount Rushmore.

Louis Pasteur as an undergraduate student was regarded as mediocre at best, ranking fifteenth out of twenty-two students in chemistry.

Elvis Presley was fired after only one performance at the Grand Old Opry. The venue manager Jim Denny told Elvis: 'You ain’t going nowhere, son. You ought to go back to driving a truck.'

Babe Ruth became baseball's most famous player for his home run record, but for years he also held the record for strikeouts. He hit 714 home runs and struck out 1,330 times in his career. Babe was philosophical about this: 'Every strikeout brings me closer to the next home run,' he said.

Stan Smith was rejected as a ball boy for a Davis Cup tennis match because he was 'too awkward and clumsy'. He went on to win Wimbledon and the US Open as well as eight Davis Cup Finals.

Frank Winfield Woolworth was not permitted to serve customers when he worked in a dry goods store because, his boss said: 'he didn’t have enough sense.'


Using the stories

Advice from others can be crucial in forging a career, but negative opinion can be destructive. Fortunately what all of the people above demonstrated in abundance was a self-belief together with a determination to progress along their chosen path.

Use these examples both as a reminder that 'expert opinion' should not always be taken at face value and, more importantly, that success rarely comes easy but opportunities are available where talent and focused dedication unite.

More extracts to come, but if you can't wait or you want them all in one published collection you can download the book to your Kindle or Nook. 


Wednesday, 24 September 2014

50 Stories & Snippets Extract 5

Here's the latest extract from my new ebook publication for speakers and trainers in the Almost Free series, available on Kindle and Nook:50 Stories & Snippets for Conference & Workshop Presentations. 

Charlie's Dream


It would certainly have been no surprise if the poor English boy Charlie Chaplin, who grew up to be the great silent movie actor and producer, had instead become in real life the little tramp he portrayed many times on screen. His childhood was desperately poor. Charlie's mother was eventually committed to an asylum and Charlie himself was twice sent to the workhouse before the age of nine. Yet throughout this time of hardship he was sustained by a dream.
'You have to believe in yourself, that's the secret. Even when I was in the orphanage, when I was roaming the street trying to find enough to eat, even then I thought of myself as the greatest actor in the world. I had to feel the exuberance that comes from utter confidence in yourself. Without it, you go down to defeat.'
Charlie Chaplin, actor, filmmaker, writer (1889-1977)

Using the story

Charlie Chaplin's is the archetypal rags-to-riches story and the actor is a role model of triumph over adversity. His is an example of determination fuelled by a personal vision and the self-confidence to reach his long-term goal.
Use this story to show how a clear vision can be as important to individuals as to organizations. Dreams can be a motivational force, a springboard to successful action, even when the odds seem stacked against.

The Child Within You


50 Stories & Snippets author David Williams and his wife Paula were collecting their thoughts after a lively training workshop which involved adults making models and collages as they envisioned the future. A couple of cleaners came into the room to tidy up. Surveying the scene they innocently asked, 'Have you been running a nursery class in here today?'

'What a distressing contrast there is between the radiant intelligence of the child and the feeble mentality of the average adult.'

Sigmund Freud, Austrian founder of psychoanalysis (1856-1939)


'Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.'

Pablo Picasso, Spanish painter (1881-1973)


Using the story


A dynamic organization will be constantly searching for imaginative approaches, different encounters and new ways of thinking.
A creative environment keeps us fresh and imaginative. It encourages metaphoric thinking, stimulates all the senses, values fun and humour, tolerates (even embraces) risk-taking and avoids the stultifying influence of 'business as usual' habits and practice. Sometimes it helps to think like a child.
Use this story and accompanying quotations to show how we sometimes need to throw off the assumptions of our adulthood to find fresh ideas. You may like to precede or follow up the story with a participative exercise in creativity such as the one briefly described above.
More extracts to come, but if you can't wait or you want them all in one published collection you can download the book to your Kindle or Nook. 


Monday, 15 September 2014

50 Stories & Snippets Extract 4

Here's the latest extract from my new ebook publication for speakers and trainers in the Almost Free series, available on Kindle and Nook:50 Stories & Snippets for Conference & Workshop Presentations. 

Breaking Through

The watching crowd marvelled and clapped as the karate black belt instructor sliced through bricks with his bare right hand. At the end of the performance several people came up to ask the master how he achieved the feat. The instructor said: 'If you want to put your hand through a brick, you cannot do it by aiming at the surface of the brick. You have to aim at a point well beyond the brick. That way you ensure that you strike through a surface that your body would naturally flinch from. Reach beyond your target and you will make that target.'
'It is a paradoxical but profoundly true and important principle of life that the most likely way to reach a goal is to be aiming not at the goal itself but at some more ambitious goal beyond it.'
Arnold Toynbee British economist, reformer (1852-1883)

Using the story

Though much maligned, targets provide the impetus for improvement and an object of focus for action. Problems occur when targets are either too easy to achieve, thus representing no challenge, or are impossibly difficult, leading to frustration and a feeling of failure. The story of the karate instructor provides an interesting angle on the notion of a target that is more like a vision, an imagined picture of the ideal that inspires an effort to reach just beyond what is actually needed to ensure the effort is fully made.
Use this story and quotation to reinforce the importance of creating challenging targets, beyond what you may need to achieve in practice but not plainly out of reach.

Changing Times

Soon after taking over the role of Chief Executive at IBM in 1993 Lou Gerstner made a company address and said: 'The last thing IBM needs is a vision.'
Two years later, as the computer manufacturer was trying to survive turbulent times, Lou Gerstner declared: 'What IBM needs right now is a vision.'

Using the story

An organization without a clear vision in times of turbulence and change is like a boat without a rudder. Lou Gerstner's first statement may have been a pot-shot at the 1990s fashion for management consultancy and the often hollow management-speak that emerged from it, but he eventually realized that, stripped of verbiage, a well-articulated vision can indeed be a driver of progress.
Use this story to show how good leaders come to recognize the importance of vision, even if it sometimes takes them a little while to get there.
More extracts to come, but if you can't wait or you want them all in one published collection you can download the book to your Kindle or Nook.