Anne Miller — Words Matter Make What You Say Pay!
Presentation & Sales Specialist
Author | Speaker | Coach
Words Matter – Make What You Say Pay!


Metaphor Minute: The Ribbon Of Life




November 30, 2007

The Ribbon Of Life

"Eat your vegetables." "Save your money for a rainy day." "Exercise at least three times a week for thirty minutes." How many times have you heard good advice, nodded your head in agreement, and then, good intentions aside, nevertheless went on to ignore what you heard? Danny Easton of Lifegym Ltd, a UK based company specializing in leadership performance and career development didn't want the lessons of his seminars brushed aside like that. Many years ago, he discovered a brilliant (metaphoric) way to drive home his point and ensure that participants would take real action after his programs.


One seminar Danny teaches focuses on life management during which participants examine what they want in life in a number of areas from family relationships and careers to personal fulfillment. They look at the gap between those goals and where they are now, and then lay out specific action steps to help them reach those objectives. It's a pretty intense exercise as people realize they are no closer to getting what they want now than they were years ago. At the end of the program, Danny as seminar leader reminds them of what they said they wanted, of what it would feel like to achieve what they wanted, and encourages them to implement their action steps immediately.

But he does this with a twist. (Feel free to play along.)

"Sometimes I end this program with a 'life ribbon'. This is simply a strip of flip chart paper with 0, 20, 40, 60, 80 written in even spaces along the horizontal tape.

I ask the group what age they think they'll live to on average (usually people say about 80). I show them the ribbon and ask them to imagine this represents the time span of their life. I ask them what the average age of the group is now. Usually this is about 35-40, so I immediately tear off the first section of the ribbon, up to the 40 mark.

Then I show them the strip remaining, saying, 'OK - so this is the time we have left to do all the stuff we've dreamed of in the last 84 minutes. Of this time, how long will we spend sleeping?' and mostly people reckon a third, so I tear off another chunk. 'How much time will we spend in traffic jams, or queueing or waiting for people?' and tear off a bit more... 'How much time will we spend making love? If you're married like me this will probably be a tiny corner (ha ha!) and I tear off a tiny bit more.

By this stage I only have a small chunk of the ribbon in my hand. I then say, ' So actually this is all the time we have left to do all the things we've promised - so what's the solution? ' To which the answer is always, 'Get going now .' " Often, people ask for a clip of the ribbon to carry to remind them to go for it every day."

Says Danny. "This little demonstration helps raise the energy at the end of the session and , most important, means the participants leave with a very pro-active focus. (Did it work for you?)

A piece of ribbon, a metaphor and a message dramatically illustrated. What simple prop can you use with your target audiences to make your points memorable and meaningful?

From "The Metaphor Minute," enjoy the pre-holiday season.
See you in December .
Anne Miller, Metaphorian

Contact Danny Easton at or visit

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The Metaphor Minute" is a brief monthly note with examples from business, media, or politics that illustrate the power of metaphors and analogies to make a point, solve a problem, and get results. Use these stories to stimulate high pay-off metaphoric thinking in your business. 2007. Anne Miller. -- PERMISSION TO REPRINT -- Feel free to reprint in company newsletters or articles. Just include 2007, Anne Miller, author, "Metaphorically Selling,"

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