Stories Tell The Story

Stories are valuable. They can make a point when admonitions alone are not as powerful – or as colorful.      
   Mark Twain told about a peddler who came by his house each morning and afternoon for three days trying to sell fish. Each time, Twain said, “No thank you.” When the man showed up on the fourth day, Twain felt that the peddler’s sheer persistence ought to be rewarded, so he bought the fish. Twain’s wife prepared the purchase for lunch, but it was found to be highly unsatisfactory. When the salesman came walking down the street that afternoon, Twain went out, called him over, and told him that the fish wasn’t edible, that it was too old. The peddler calmly replied to the famed author, “Well, sir, I gave you two chances a day for the past three days to buy that fish. If you were foolish enough to wait until it was spoiled, don’t blame me.” The story is a great example of how procrastination can mess you up.
   Yogi Berra (the great baseball player of whom I have written often) was handed a check from sportscaster Jack Buck for a radio interview. Yogi glanced at the check that was made out to “Bearer.” With an astonished look, he complained to Buck, “How long have you known me, Jack? How in the world could you spell my name like that?” The story is a great example of how we might take things for granted and think we are communicating with someone, when in reality we are on different pages entirely.
   A promising junior executive at IBM was involved in a risky business adventure that managed to lose the company over $10 million. When IBM founder Tom Watson, Sr. called him in, the young man blurted, “I guess you want my resignation.” Watson replied, “You can’t be serious! We just spent $10 million educating you!” The fact is, sometimes we learn our lessons the hard way. But if we do truly learn from the experience and bounce back armed with new knowledge as to how to do the job better, we have defeated a major obstacle on our way to reaching goals.
   There is a story that illustrates the importance of positioning yourself or your business and creating an opportunity when it appears that you might be in dire circumstances. Three men had adjacent businesses in the same Chicago building. The storeowner at one end of the building put up a sign that read, “Year-End Clearance.” The owner at the other end followed with a sign saying, “Close-Out Sale.” The owner in the middle saw that he could be in serious trouble, so he put up a sign with two large words: “Main Entrance.”  
   Speaking of Chicago, I clipped from the Chicago Tribune some years ago a column by Bob Greene. The column dealt with the real meaning of family. Here is a portion of it…
   “My parents have remained married for 35 years. While their children have been free to roam and explore every possibility of life, they have lived in the same town this whole time. We kids assumed that we would always have a hometown and our parents would always be there. They weren’t allowed to leave. That was how the rules were. Meanwhile, we went out to get lost or get away or get famous – whatever we wanted – and they stayed, having given us that freedom. 
   “I don’t know what it is that we were trying to accomplish in our disordered lives, but they certainly accomplished what they set out to do. They raised a family. The three of us children never once doubted that they were there to turn to if we needed help. I live with the knowledge that of all things we may accomplish, nothing can possibly be as impressive as the memory of the house we grew up in and what it represented. That is what my parents have accomplished in this life. They have given us a hometown and a house and the memories of the years we were a family in it.”
Interested in Carl Mays speaking to your group? Author of over a dozen books and speaker at over 2500 events, he can be contacted at or 865-436-7478. For more info on Carl, visit Order his books at
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