Jay and I paused at the crest of a foothill overlooking Boulder to the east and the Rocky Mountains to the west. According to my iPhone Activity App, we had climbed 71 floors. We decided to rest on a fallen log. While we soaked in the vista, Jay recounted a memory about hiking in the woods of Northern Wisconsin with our son, Jackson, when he was three- to four-years old. They would stop occasionally to sit on fallen tree trunks. Every time Jackson became fatigued, he would query, “Where is the next resting log?” Jay would reply, “There must be one just ahead.” Jackson would eagerly scout for the next fallen log. He’d walk three miles in 10-minute increments with “resting logs” marking each leg of the journey.
Jay and I hiked a lot while we were in Colorado visiting Jackson (who now goes to college in Denver) and various friends last week. We looked for logs, boulders, and vistas to rest and reflect. Each resting spot was an opportunity to celebrate how far we’d come, soak in our surroundings, restore our energy, and decide where to go next.
Sticky Stories Bring Ideas to Life
“Resting Logs” became a sticky metaphor on our trip to Colorado—some of our hiking companions also started using the phrase after we told them the story. It illustrates the value of breaking down a big task into incremental steps and marking progress with milestones that helped us navigate our treks. In Made to Stick, the Heath brothers describe six qualities of “sticky” ideas. The “Resting Logs” story exemplifies four of these qualities:
Simplicity—This fundamental leadership concept is so broadly applicable that it’s almost trite. Stripped to its essence through a tale of a young child, the concept becomes clear and meaningful without requiring a detailed explanation.
Concreteness—It’s easy to picture a little boy persevering to the next resting log, restoring his energy, and getting excited to move on. Stimulating imagination, the concept becomes concrete and believable through the story.
Emotional—This tale strikes an emotional chord and taps into a universal truth. Admittedly, I’m biased. Naturally, I feel proud of Jackson and Jay, but people worldwide and throughout time find inspiration in stories of children accomplishing big feats. Like watching puppies and rainbows, our hearts warm when we see the world through the eyes of a child.
Stories—More anecdote than full-blown narrative, stories like “Resting Logs” can be told quickly during leadership moments to convey a value or desired action. Enrich your employee coaching, team meetings or events, business conversations, and formal presentations with meaningful anecdotes and personal stories.
Sticky phrases that evoke a story or idea might even become rally calls or guideposts for teams. What sticky stories or anecdotes might you use to telegraph your leadership values?