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


Metaphor Minute: Make Hot 'Cool'


June 09, 2016

Make Hot "Cool"

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker currently holds ten different jobs before age forty, and this number is projected to grow. (WSJ)
Oliver Rosengart, now in his seventies, was ahead of his time and has had nearly as many careers having been a lawyer, engineer, psychologist, and teacher of urban studies. Not content to retire, he now works part time as a mediator and arbitrator in construction disputes and coop-condominium disputes, and, as if that were not enough, he volunteers and teaches global warming to kids in New York high schools..

It’s that current volunteer work that interests The Metaphor Minute this month,

Keep It Cool
High school kids are a tough audience. You have to keep your material interesting, relevant, and dramatic. Metaphors and analogies solve that problem.

Before he can get the kids interested in global warming, he has to explain what the greenhouse effect is, which causes global warming. And, he has to explain that effect in terms to which they can relate. Drum roll, please, for Ollie’s clarifying analogy.

[The greenhouse effect] is exactly like the effect on a car when the windows are closed in the summer. In the car, the sun’s rays heat the seat, the seat radiates heat upward, the heat cannot escape due to the roof of the car and therefore the car gets hotter and hotter. With the earth, the sun’s rays heat up the surface of the earth, the earth radiates some of that heat outward toward space, some of that heat is absorbed by the greenhouse gases which radiate some of that heat back to earth, and so the earth gets hotter. The greenhouse effect on earth is necessary for life since without it the temperature of the earth would be about 0 degrees Fahrenheit, which is too cold for liquid water and therefore too cold for life.

However, when there is too much heat being produced and then radiated back to the earth, we get global warming, which could be catastrophic for life on the planet.

On his supporting slide for this explanation, he presents his point of view by showing a spaceship next to the sun. Then he says,

Its occupants are wondering whether there is intelligent life on earth. If we continue to emit greenhouse gases they will conclude that there isn’t any!

Later on in his course, he notes,
One of the concepts that is difficult for people to grasp is that the various kinds of energy that have powered human society have changed drastically over the years.

  • In ancient times there was nothing but wood in addition to human power for heat and for cooking.

  • Something like 5000 years ago animals began to be used for farming. They are still used for farming in many parts of the world.

  • In ancient times, water power began to be used from flowing streams and rivers. The water powered water wheels for grinding grain.

  • Also in ancient times wind powered boats in the Mediterranean.

  • It is only in the last 250 years or so, a blink of an eye in terms of human history, that fossil fuels have been used for energy.

He drives home how really recent the use of fossil fuels is by concluding,
“If human life has existed for 200,000 years and fossil fuels have been used for 250 years, that is equivalent to fossil fuels being used for two minutes in a 24 hour day.”

Ollie’s topic is both complex and controversial. Yet, he held his audience’s attention by weaving familiar images in with his facts so that they could see what he was talking about, feel comfortable that they understood what he was saying, and be motivated to think about a topic that was not previously high up on their mental radar screens.

What complex information do you explain? What metaphors or analogies can you use to

  • simplify that complexity?
  • promote understanding? or
  • dramatize your point?

Anne Miller
Make What You Say Pay! — with Metaphors

For further reading on global warming, "This Changes Everything" by Naomi Klein; "The Sixth Extinction" by Elizabeth Kolbert; and you can see Ollie's presentation with slides on YouTube

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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. © 2016. Anne Miller. -- PERMISSION TO REPRINT -- Feel free to reprint in company newsletters or articles. Just include ©2015, Anne Miller, author, "Metaphorically Selling,"
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