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Words of Wisdom

52 cards and 15 activities to spark conversations and make sense of learning.
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What We Do

The Firefly Group helps people make sense of what they learn and experience.

Whether facilitating a group for better decision-making, keynoting a conference, leading a training, or writing an instructional design, we use novel methods that engage, spark creativity, and produce memorable results.

If this sounds like a good direction for your organization, let's talk about how we might collaborate! Please give me a call (802.257.7247) or send an . - Brian

Your ETR (Estimated Time to Read): 10 minutes
Your ETII (Estimated Time to Implement Ideas):
5 weeks

Read my book
Say It Quick!

January 2016

Say It Quick
a thoughtful message in exactly 99 words

bits of serendipity to inspire and motivate
fuel for your own continuous learning
tips and tricks you can try today
Itching to Succeed Stacking Wood

Buried in Mediocrity

Preparing for Success

Readers Respond to the December 2015 Firefly News Flash inspired by Carl Sandburg's poem Fog:

Bonjour, cher ami Thank you and a wink for including Carl Sandburg's poem, proof of your premise that sometimes fewer words are better. An underlying message, I think, in the poem, is about non-verbal communication, of which cats are such masters. Perhaps an exercise in which the participants sit and blink slowly at each other, without talking, as cats do to communicate their affection ? No words at all, why not ? Amitiés, Pierre Corbeil

Read the full article HERE.

Say It Quick

Success involves skill and hard work but we often overlook the environment. Have we prepared to succeed? Learn more beginning with this story in just 99 words.

Itching to Succeed
I've been driven mad with the prickling under my collar, like tiny, sharply clawed insects, after a haircut. Ready to scream, I immediately jump into a hot shower!

But at my last barber visit, I wore a white T-shirt. When the smock was removed, the fine dusting of dark shavings was obvious. The barber grabbed a horsehair brush and gave my clothing several extra whisks to do away with all the clippings. Immediate relief!

Make it easy for people to succeed. Set up the environment so they can take control of the outcome of their efforts.



Stacking Wood
If you live in a colder climate and heat with wood, you stacked your firewood for the winter long ago. But that's a lot of work, bending, lifting, getting splinters in your hands. So why bother stacking it?

Besides keeping your property tidy, the wood needs to dry - and be kept dry - so it will burn well. Stacked properly, air can flow between the logs providing ventilation that reduces the water content of the wood. And if the pieces are placed with the tree bark up, the pile of wood will have a natural water repellent covering as protection from snow and rain.



In addition to the heavy lifting, the challenge of stacking wood is building the pile in a way that it won't fall down. It's incredibly dangerous when a wood pile collapses. You can see the crude method I use in my shed. Though solid, it still looks rather unstable!





There are several methods for building a free standing wood pile. The next photo shows one of the simplest. It's difficult to build this sort of end bracing because you need to keep an eye out for pieces that are of similar size and shape to construct each layer.






The many hours spend stacking wood have given me an appreciation for those people who do the same thing but make it an art. Here you can see a sculpture outside the Brattleboro, Vermont Museum of Art. With vision, the artist has used skill and care to position each piece transforming what has been strictly a functional object into something that inspires.

A surprising number of people take this task of drudgery, and infuse it with beauty. Do your own internet search for images of wood stacking art. You'll be surprised at the variety and complexity of what you find.



Buried in Mediocrity
Most of us don't care about stacking wood. But faced with a big, brainless task, any of us can become overwhelmed by the ordinary. No matter your profession, you probably are faced with the challenge of work that's necessary yet uninspiring.

It doesn't have to be that way, though. As the pictures above show, there can be a lot of room for creativity, challenge, expression, beauty, and joy in necessary, unglamorous work. No matter what you are doing, there is a way to do it artfully. How do you start? Here are some suggestions:

Be playful - Imagine you are doing your task for the Queen of England. Give yourself a point for each milestone you accomplish. Invent a story about what you are doing, with whom, and why.

Add beauty - If you are making something, build it as artfully as you can. If you are speaking or writing, use your best diction and prose. Be physically graceful and strong if even for an audience of one - you.

Stay focused - Instead of becoming distracted by something else you "should" be doing, center your thoughts on one action at a time. Complete each part of the task thoroughly, mindfully, with intention.

Aim high - Give yourself a lofty goal. Stack wood to provide a warm, welcoming home for family and guests on the coldest day of winter. Review the department budget to find savings that will fund innovative projects in the future. Complete the inventory so sales associates can provide excellent service to valued customers who promote your company on social media.

Connect with others - We often have a wood stacking party. Guests pass logs along a human chain and the wood is piled up in no time. Later, everyone shares a hearty meal around a warm fire. A traditional barn raising was a community event culminating in a celebration. Food and friends beat the boring out of any dull task.

Work your craft - Whatever skills you are using, do them at your utmost best. If you can find a way to incorporate your personally unique gifts into the quotidian task, do it and do it great!

Prepare for success - Like the 99-Word Story, arrange the environment so that success becomes the natural outcome. Gather the needed tools and supplies before you begin. Modify your procedure mid-task to take advantage of what you are learning and to gain efficiencies.

If you try one of these tactics, please how it affected your ability to take control of the outcome of your efforts.



Preparing for Success
The more common a task, the simpler it looks, the less likely we are to prepare for doing it. Whether for ourselves or for another person, if the job appears easy, we may not set up the environment for success. Variations of the activity described below are often used to teach about better communication. I suggest you use it to demonstrate the assumptions we make when we assign a simple task to another person and to practice preparing the environment for the success of everyone.

Materials: An identical set (six to eight pieces) of building blocks or small objects for each person
People: Any number working in pairs
Time: 20 - 30 minutes
Preparation: Partners sit back-to-back with a table, lap board, or flat work surface of their own

Procedure Part One:
Ask partners to decide which of them will be Person A and which will be Person B.

Distribute a packet of pieces to each person. Instruct Person A to make an arrangement of their playing pieces on the work surface in front of them. Pause a few seconds for them to do this.

Now, the task for Person A is to describe the position of each of their pieces to their partner. Person B then arranges their identical pieces in the same pattern according to the information they hear. Neither person is allowed to look at their partner's pieces until they agree that all the pieces are in their proper place.

When the pairs have finished describing and arranging pieces, ask them to compare their arrangement of the objects. Lead the whole group in a short discussion before moving on to Part Two.


Procedure Part Two:
Tell people that you'd like them to do the activity again playing their same roles A and B. But this time, give them a few minutes to think about what they can do to set up the environment for their success. What can be done before Person B hears any instructions, before Person A arranges their pieces, and before partners turn back-to-back?

Ask everyone to put their plan into action. When the partners are ready, have them compare their arrangements and follow up with another discussion using some of these questions:


Some of the ways partner teams have prepared for success include:

When you lead this activity, please some of the methods of preparing for success that your group invented. Good luck!


If you like what you have read in this issue, I would like to bring the same innovation, creativity, and playfulness to your next meeting or learning event.

Whether you need a keynote speaker, or help with strategic planning, performance improvement, or training facilitators and trainers in your organization, I look forward to your call (802.257.7247) or .

-- Brian

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