Quotations and stories

Sometimes all we need is a little bit of inspiration. Enjoy these – use them when you need to inspire someone (or yourself) to achieve what seems difficult at the time. If they work for you share them with others.

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent
people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of
honest critics and endure the
betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better,
whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch or
a redeemed social condition;

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived;
This is to have succeeded.
-‘What Is Success?’ by Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.”
Dalai Lama

“What you see depends on what you’re looking for.”
Source Unknown

“Life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.”
John Maxwell

“Children will not remember you for the material things you provided but for the feeling that you cherished them.”
Richard L. Evans

“You may only be someone in the world, but to someone else, you may be the world.”
Source Unknown

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“May the sun always shine on your windowpane; May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain; May the hand of a friend always be near you; May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.”
Irish Blessing

“Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of your arm … As you grow older you will discover that you have two hands. One for helping yourself, the other for helping others. ”
Audrey Hepburn

“Without hard work, nothing grows but weeds.”
Gordon B. Hinckley

“There isn’t a person anywhere who isn’t capable of doing more than he thinks he can.”
Henry Ford

“Be a good listener. Your ears will never get you in trouble.”
Frank Tyger

“We must become the change we want to see.”
Mahatma Gandhi

“And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
Nelson Mandela

“Let your life mean something. Become an inspiration to others so that they may try to do more and to become more than they are today.”
Thomas D. Willhite

“Never forget that only dead fish swim with the stream.”
Malcolm Muggeridge

“A smile while giving honest criticism can make the difference between resentment and reform.”
Philip Steinmetz

“Tell me, I will forget. Show me, I may remember. Involve me, I will understand.”
Chinese Proverb

“A man who wishes to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.”
Jack Lee

“To use power wisely is the final test of leadership. Thus, the first rule in the game of power (or life) and, in fact, the only hard and fast rule in the entire game is: POWER MUST BE THE SERVANT; IT MUST NOT BE THE MASTER!”
Thomas D. Willhite

“Leadership is not so much about technique and methods as it is about opening the heart. Leadership is about inspiration — of oneself and of others. Great leadership is about human experiences, not processes. Leadership is not a formula or a program, it is a human activity that comes from the heart and considers the hearts of others. It is an attitude, not a routine.”
Lance Secretan

“They may forget what you said, they may forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
Carl W. Buecher

“If you want happiness, create it now. Find the joy and beauty of this moment. Give yourself permission to be happy now. Give yourself permission to be beautiful now. Decide at this moment to be a leader, and you have become one. It can be that fast. “Taking responsibility” is not difficult. It is the “deciding to take responsibility” that is hard.”
Thomas D. Willhite

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle, or to be the mirror that reflects it.”
Edith Wharton

“We should seize every opportunity to give encouragement. Encouragement is oxygen to the soul. The days are always dark enough. There is no need for us to emphasise the fact by spreading further gloom.”
George M. Adams

“The key that unlocks energy is desire. It’s also the key to a long and interesting life. If we expect to create any drive, any real force within ourselves, we have to get excited.”
Earl Nightingale

“Knowledge is power, but enthusiasm pulls the switch.”
Ivern Ball

“Enthusiasm is that special quality that makes things happen. I think of it as the wind that whips the flames of desire into a burning inferno. In reality, enthusiasm is just a state of mind…an emotion…which you control.”
Thomas D. Willhite

“Success isn’t a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire.”
Arnold H. Glasow

“If you want to be enthusiastic, act enthusiastic.”
Dale Carnegie

“It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows great enthusiasms, great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
Theodore Roosevelt

“There is a real magic in enthusiasm. It spells the difference between mediocrity and accomplishment…. It gives warmth and good feeling to all your personal relationships.”
Norman Vincent Peale


Sometimes you just need to laugh at something stupid

  • Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
  • What is a “free gift”? Aren’t all gifts free?
  • I don’t suffer from insanity. I enjoy every minute of it.
  • Everyone has a photographic memory. Some don’t have film.
  • Diplomacy is saying “nice doggy” until you find a rock.
  • You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say will be misquoted, then used against you.
  • Have you ever wondered how much deeper the ocean would be without sponges?
  • Despite the cost of living, do you notice how it remains so popular?
  • He who laughs last, thinks slowest.
  • Support bacteria – there’re the only culture some people have.
  • Always remember you’re unique, just like everybody else.
  • Friends help you move. REAL friends help you move BODIES.
  • When there’s a will, I want to be in it.
  • I’ve used up all my sick days, so I’m calling in DEAD
  • Few women admit their age. Few men act theirs.
  • It is hard to understand how a cemetery raised its burial costs and blamed it on the cost of living.
  • It is said that if you line up all the cars in the world end to end, someone would be stupid enough to try and pass them.
  • You can’t have everything, where would you put it?
  • I started out with nothing, and I still have most of it.
  • When you go into court you are putting yourself in the hands of 12 people that weren’t smart enough to get out of jury duty

The power of a good story

Great presenters have always relied on the use of stories to highlight a point; make the presentation more interesting; or just to get a difficult audience’s attention. We all have stories that we use from our own personal experiences and these mixed with analogies and case-studies are great ways to make a point or illustrate business lessons. Stories, examples, fables and research references add colour and substance to presentations and reports, and reinforce learning of all types.

All of the stories we have used make specific points and can be used in many business settings; to emphasise an important issue during a team meeting or to allow colleagues in conflict to gain a better perspective of a situation. Some of these stories are ironic and so can best be used to illustrate pitfalls and vulnerabilities rather than best practice.

We hope you enjoy them, but more importantly we hope you have the chance to use some of them to add value to your own communication.

“We’ve always done it that way..”

A quality management consultant was visiting a small and somewhat antiquated UK manufacturing company, to advise on improving general operating efficiency. The advisor was reviewing a particular daily report which dealt with aspects of productivity, absentee rates, machine failure, down-time, etc. The report was completed manually onto a photocopied pro forma that was several generations away from the original master-copy, so its headings and descriptions were quite difficult to understand.

The photocopied forms were particularly fuzzy at the top-right corner, where a small box had a heading that was not clear at all. The advisor was interested to note that the figure ‘0’ had been written in every daily report for the past year. On questioning the members of staff who completed the report, they told him that they always put a zero in that box, and when he asked them why they looked at each other blankly. “Hmmm.., I’m not sure about that,” they each said, “I guess we’ve just always done it that way.”

Intrigued, the consultant visited the archives to see if he could find a clearer form, to discover what was originally being reported and whether it actually held any significance. When he found the old reports, he saw that the zero return had continued uninterrupted for as far back as the records extended – at least the past thirty years – but none of the forms was any clearer than those presently in use. A little frustrated, he packed away the old papers and turned to leave the room, but something caught his eye. In another box he noticed a folder, promisingly titled ‘master forms’. Sure enough inside it he found the original daily report pro-forma master-copy, in pristine condition. In the top right corner was the mysterious box, with the heading clearly shown ……….

‘Number of Air Raids Today’.

Spellchecker Poem  (copy this onto your computer and see what it throws up as a mistake)

I halve a spelling checker,
It came with my pea see.
It plainly marks four my revue
mistakes I dew Knot Sea.

Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait aweigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid
it nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the era rite
it’s rarely ever wrong.

I’ve scent this massage threw it,
And I’m shore your pleased too no
Its letter prefect in every weigh;
My checker tolled me sew.

The Rocks In Bucket Time Management Story

Use this time management story to show how planning is the key to time management.

Start with a bucket, some big rocks enough to fill it, some small stones, some sand and water.

Put the big rocks in the bucket – is it full?

Put the small stones in around the big rocks – is it full?

Put the sand in and give it a shake – is it full?

Put the water in. Now it’s full.

The point is: unless you put the big rocks in first, you won’t get them in at all.

In other words: Plan time-slots for your big issues before anything else, or the inevitable sand and water issues will fill up your days and you won’t fit the big issues in (a big issue doesn’t necessarily have to be a work task – it could be your child’s sports-day, or a holiday).

Rocks In The Bucket Story – Alternative Funny Version

A lecturer at a university is giving a pre-exam lecture on time management. On his desk is a bag of sand, a bag of pebbles, some big rocks and bucket. He asks for a volunteer to put all three grades of stone into the bucket, and a keen student duly steps up to carry out the task, starting with the sand, then the pebbles, then the rocks, which do not all fit in the bucket.

“The is an analogy of poor time management,” trills the lecturer, “If you’d have put the rocks in first, then the pebbles, then the sand, all three would have fit. This is much like time management, in that by completing your biggest tasks first, you leave room to complete your medium tasks, then your smaller ones. By completing your smallest tasks first you spend so much time on them you leave yourself unable to complete either medium of large tasks satisfactorily. Let me show you..”

And the lecturer re-fills the bucket, big rocks first, then pebbles, then sand, shaking the bucket between each so that everything fits.

“But Sir,” says one student, slouched at the back of the theatre “you’ve forgotten one thing..”

At which the student approaches the bucket, produces a can of lager, opens it and pours into the bucket. “No matter how busy you are,” quips the student with a smile, “there’s always time for a quick beer.”

A Story About Communications and assumptions; The Stranger And The Gingernuts Story

At the airport after a tiring business trip a lady’s return flight was delayed. She went to the airport shop, bought a book, a coffee and a small packet containing five gingernut biscuits. The airport was crowded and she found a seat in the lounge, next to a stranger.

After a few minutes’ reading she became absorbed in her book. She took a biscuit from the packet and began to drink her coffee. To her great surprise, the stranger in the next seat calmly took one of the biscuits and ate it. Stunned, she couldn’t bring herself to say anything, nor even to look at the stranger. Nervously she continued reading. After a few minutes she slowly picked up and ate the third biscuit.

Incredibly, the stranger took the fourth gingernut and ate it, then to the woman’s amazement; he picked up the packet and offered her the last biscuit. This being too much to tolerate, the lady angrily picked up her belongings, gave the stranger an indignant scowl and marched off to the boarding gate, where her flight was now ready. Flustered and enraged, she reached inside her bag for her boarding ticket, and found her unopened packet of gingernuts…

A Story About Communications, And Men And Women

A man and his wife had been arguing all night, and as bedtime approached neither was speaking to the other. It was not unusual for the pair to continue this war of silence for two or three days, however, on this occasion the man was concerned; he needed to be awake at 4:30am the next morning to catch an important flight, and being a very heavy sleeper he normally relied on his wife to wake him. Cleverly, so he thought, while his wife was in the bathroom, he wrote on a piece of paper: ‘Please wake me at 4:30am – I have an important flight to catch’. He put the note on his wife’s pillow, then turned over and went to sleep.

The man awoke the next morning and looked at the clock. It was 8:00am. Enraged that he’d missed his flight, he was about to go in search of his errant wife to give her a piece of his mind, when he spotted a hand-written note on his bedside cabinet.

The note said: ‘It’s 4:30am – get up.’

The Brewery Story

A very old traditional brewery decided to install a new canning line, so as to enable its beer products to be marketed through the supermarket sector. This represented a major change for the little company, and local dignitaries and past employees were invited to witness the first running of the new canning line, which was followed by an buffet and drinks.

After the new line had been switched on successfully, and the formalities completed, the guests relaxed in small groups to chat and enjoy the buffet. In a quiet corner stood three men discussing trucks and transport and distribution, since one was the present distribution manager, and the other two were past holders of the post, having retired many years ago. The three men represented three generations of company distribution management, spanning over sixty years.

The present distribution manager confessed that his job was becoming more stressful because company policy required long deliveries be made on Monday and Tuesday, short deliveries on Fridays, and all other deliveries mid-week.

“It’s so difficult to schedule things efficiently – heaven knows what we’ll do with these new cans and the tight demands of the supermarkets…”

The other two men nodded in agreement.

“It was the same in my day,” sympathised the present manager’s predecessor, “It always seemed strange to me that trucks returning early on Mondays and Tuesdays couldn’t be used for little local runs, because the local deliveries had to be left until Friday..”

The third man nodded, and was thinking hard, struggling to recall the policy’s roots many years ago when he’d have been a junior in the despatch department. After a pause, the third man smiled and then ventured a suggestion.

“I think I remember now,” he said, “It was the horses….. During the Second World War fuel rationing was introduced. So we mothballed the trucks and went back to using the horses. On Mondays the horses were well-rested after the weekend – hence the long deliveries. By Friday the horses so tired they could only handle the short local drops…”

Soon after the opening of the new canning line the company changed its delivery policy.

Two Brothers And The Geese Story; A Story Of Initiative

Two sons work for their father on the family’s farm. The younger brother had for some years been given more responsibility and reward, and one day the older brother asks his father to explain why.

The father says, “First, go to the Kelly’s farm and see if they have any geese for sale – we need to add to our stock.”

The brother soon returns with the answer, “Yes they have five geese they can sell to us.” That father then says, “Good, please ask them the price.” The son returns with the answer, “The geese are £10 each.” The father says, “Good, now ask if they can deliver the geese tomorrow.” And duly the sone returns with the answer, “Yes, they can deliver the geese them tomorrow.”

The father asks the older brother to wait and listen, and then calls to the younger brother in a nearby field, “Go to the Davidson’s Farm and see if they have any geese for sale – we need to add to our stock.”

The younger brother soon returns with the answer, “Yes, they have five geese for £10 each, or ten geese for £8 each; and they can deliver them tomorrow – I asked them to deliver the five unless they heard otherwise from us in the next hour. And I agreed that if we want the extra five geese we could buy them at £6 each.”

The father turned to the older son, who nodded his head in appreciation – he now realised why his brother was given more responsibility and reward.

Tickle Me Elmo: A Story About Training And Communications

This allegedly took place in a factory in the USA which makes the ‘Tickle Me Elmo’ toys, (a children’s plush cuddly toy which laughs when tickled under the arm). The legend has is it that a new employee is hired at the Tickle Me Elmo factory and she duly reports for her first day’s induction training, prior to being allocated a job on the production line.

At 08:45 the next day the personnel manager receives a visit from an excited assembly line foreman who is not best pleased about the performance of the new recruit. The foreman explains that she is far too slow, and that she is causing the entire line to back-up, delaying the whole production schedule. The personnel manager asks to see what’s happening, so both men proceed to the factory floor.

On arrival they see that the line is indeed badly backed-up – there are hundreds of Tickle Me Elmos strewn all over the factory floor, and they are still piling up. Virtually buried in a mountain of toys sits the new employee earnestly focused on her work. She has a roll of red plush fabric and a bag of marbles. The two men watch amazed as she cuts a little piece of fabric, wraps it around a pair of marbles and carefully begins sew the little package between Elmo’s legs.

The personnel manager begins to laugh, and it is some while before he can compose himself, at which he approaches the trainee. “I’m sorry,” he says to her, not able to disguise his amusement, “but I think you misunderstood the instructions I gave you yesterday…. Your job is to give Elmo two test tickles.”

Get In The Wheelbarrow

The story goes: upon completing a highly dangerous tightrope walk over Niagara Falls in appalling wind and rain, ‘The Great Zumbrati’ was met by an enthusiastic supporter, who urged him to make a return trip, this time pushing a wheelbarrow, which the spectactor had thoughtfully brought along.

The Great Zumbrati was reluctant, given the terrible conditions, but the supporter pressed him, “You can do it – I know you can,” he urged.

“You really believe I can do it?” asked Zumbrati.

“Yes – definitely – you can do it.” the supporter gushed.

“Okay,” said Zumbrati, “Get in the wheelbarrow…..”