Issue 92

“Achievement is an act of the will.”
Gene Griessman, Ph.D. Editor


Creativity’s Worst Enemy
“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
–Sylvia Plath (American poet and novelist; 1932-1963)

Watch What You Say
“The words ‘I am’ are powerful words. Be careful what you hitch them to. The thing that you are claiming has a way of reaching back and claiming you.”
–A. L. Kittlesman

Aim Straight
“When you frame a sentence, shoot with a single bullet, and hit that one thing alone.”
–Woodrow Wilson’s father’s advice to his son.

Power Phrases
“If words are to enter men’s minds and bear fruit, they must be the right words shaped cunningly to pass men’s defenses and explode silently and effectually within their minds.”
–J.B. Phillips (American writer and clergyman;1906-1982)

Play To Your Strengths
“If you’re not good at something, be sure not to do it.”
–Gene Griessman (Lincoln’s advice to Obama in the play “Lincoln’s Last Debate” See below.)

What People Will Pay For
“If you can help them get something they want, they will find a way to get the money to buy from you.”
–Bill Bachrach (American professional speaker and author)

If At First You Don’t Succeed
“One of the most powerful four-letter words you can ever use is ‘Next.’”
–Gene Griessman

“Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”
–Will Rogers (American actor, columnist, humorist;1879-1935)

It’s better to get ten people to work than to do the work of ten.”
–traditional saying   (See below.)

Quote But Verify
“The problem with many quotes on the Internet is they’re not authentic.”
–Abraham Lincoln

Word Power In Action: What You Say When You Delegate Authority
Two partners at a big law firm are on the phone in an episode of the CBS hit show “The Good Wife.” One partner is tied up in arbitration and can’t get free to hear all that’s involved in discussions his partner is having with a prospect.

“I might be able to sign them,” one partner offers.  “Can I decide for both of us?”

“Yes. Just keep me in the loop.”

That quick conversation between two partners leads to a favorable outcome.  And it illustrates an important principle of delegation.

Busy people can’t do everything, so they need to delegate.  The old adage–It’s better to get ten people to work than to do the work of ten—is really true.  But effective delegation does not mean hands-off detachment. That can lead to disaster.  You must make it your business to be kept informed.

“Keep me in the loop” is an excellent power phrase to help make that happen.
(Look at the section on delegation in my book “Time Tactics of Very Successful People” for further discussion of this topic. Also, there’s a select collection of power phrases at


When I was a teenager, I was shy and desperately afraid of being embarrassed. Little did I know how much company I had. Gradually I was able to confront that fear through self-talk.  I would ask myself, “If I do it, what’s the worst thing that could possibly happen?”

I was afraid to give a speech, start a conversation with a pretty girl I wanted to date, or tell my friends that I didn’t want to do something with them. Just asking and answering that simple question often helped me move from fear to action.  And sometimes that question and answer prevented my doing something I would later regret. It brought both courage and caution, and became a liberating habit.

That question is still at the heart of the process that I go through when I make a hard decision. In fact I recommend it in my seminars on executive leadership.  You see, leaders ultimately are judged by how good their decisions are.  No matter how intelligent you may be, or how socially skilful you are, if you make bad decisions, you will fail.

The next time you are facing a tough decision, envision what could happen if you do something, or if you don’t do something. Then ask, “What is the worst thing that could possibly happen if you do or don’t do it?” The answer you arrive at could give you the needed courage to act.  Or keep you from doing something reckless and career-damaging.

“When I have a particular case in hand, I…love to dig up the question by the roots and hold it up and dry it before the fires of the mind.”—Abraham Lincoln

Nat Grigsby, one of Lincoln’s boyhood friends, remembered that Lincoln “thoroughly read his books whilst we played.”  He recalls that whenever Lincoln joined his companions, they would cluster around him to hear him talk.  Perhaps those childhood experiences taught Lincoln that having superior information gives one an advantage over his peers.

This lesson was reinforced early on when he worked as the junior partner of Stephen T. Logan. Logan urged Lincoln not to rely on his wits alone, but to prepare each case carefully, anticipating his opponent’s arguments.  He urged Lincoln to study a case from the viewpoint of his opponent.  Lincoln accepted the lesson and later said that he was never again surprised by an adversary’s contentions.

This habit stood him well in his famous debates with U.S. Senator Stephen A. Douglas, who at the time had become known as the most formidable orator in the nation.  Lincoln had so mastered Douglas’s arguments that he often turned them to his own advantage.

What Logan urged him to do in the courtroom became a lifelong habit.  According to Robert Rantoul, a lawyer and Lincoln’s contemporary, Lincoln wanted to know “every seam and joint in the armor of any public man with whom he might possibly be called upon to break a lance.”

Last season, my 13-year-old grandson Dylan and I attended a Georgia Tech basketball game.  That night Bobby Cremins, Tech’s famed former coach attended.  I had interviewed Cremins early in his career, and had written about him in a couple of my books.  I asked Dylan if he would like to meet Coach Cremins after the game.

“Do you know Bobby Cremins?” Dylan asked.

Yep,”  I replied, thinking that was the end of it.

Then Dylan asked, “Does Bobby Cremins know you?”  Happily, I was able to assure him that he did, and we had a pleasant conversation with Cremins after the game.

It’s a great question that you can use around name droppers.  You may not want to ask it as directly as Dylan did, but if someone leads you to think he can help you because he knows somebody, before building your hopes up, you might want to figure out if the famous person knows him.

There’s no shortage of people out there who will tell you they know famous people.  But the relevant question is, “Do the famous people know them?”

“Lincoln’s Last Debate”
The  script is written, and staged readings were held recently at the historic Grant Cottage near Saratoga Springs, New York.
(The Grant Cottage is where Grant finished his celebrated memoirs.  He died just a few days after finishing the manuscript.  The bed where Lincoln’s favorite general died is there.  A Lincoln portrait looks down on the bed.  So, you can imagine how moving it was to perform the role of Lincoln at that site.)

Here’s the way the play has been described:

“Sparks fly when Abraham Lincoln visits the Obama White House. There’s sharp debate, a lively clash of ideas, hilarious  repartee, a-ha moments, and surprising revelations as the two presidents share experiences, hopes, and dreams.

Grounded in careful historical research, yet fresh as today’s headlines, “Lincoln’s Last Debate” is plausible and provocative.” (To read more, Google “Lincoln’s Last Debate at Grant Cottage.”)

Now for the next steps: a production of the play and its publication, possibly for schools and universities.  The artistic directors of two theaters have asked to read the script, and a teacher of a middle school has offered to use it in her class.

The Best Letter Of Praise I’ve Ever Read
Dear Mister Cranston.

I wanted to write you this email – so I am contacting you through Jeremy Barber – I take it we are both represented by UTA. Great agency.

I’ve just finished a marathon of watching “BREAKING BAD” – from episode one of the First Season – to the last eight episodes….A total of two weeks (addictive) viewing.

I have never watched anything like it. Brilliant!

Your performance as Walter White was the best acting I have seen – ever.

I know there is so much smoke blowing and sickening bullshit in this business, and I’ve sort of lost belief in anything really.

But this work of yours is spectacular – absolutely stunning. What is extraordinary, is the sheer power of everyone in the entire production. What was it? Five or six years in the making? How the producers (yourself being one of them), the writers, directors, cinematographers…. every department – casting etc. managed to keep the discipline and control from beginning to the end is (that over used word) awesome.

From what started as a black comedy, descended into a labyrinth of blood, destruction and hell. It was like a great Jacobean, Shakespearian or Greek Tragedy.

If you ever get a chance to – would you pass on my admiration to everyone – Anna Gunn, Dean Norris, Aaron Paul, Betsy Brandt, R.J. Mitte, Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Steven Michael Quezada – everyone – everyone gave master classes of performance … The list is endless.

Thank you. That kind of work/artistry is rare, and when, once in a while, it occurs, as in this epic work, it restores confidence.

You and all the cast are the best actors I’ve ever seen.

That may sound like a good lung full of smoke blowing. But it is not. It’s almost midnight out here in Malibu, and I felt compelled to write this email.

Congratulations and my deepest respect. You are truly a great, great actor.

Best regards,
Tony Hopkins.


“Great job! We couldn’t have asked for more, and received nothing but great compliments on both sessions.  And since I am the one who suggested we bring you in, guess who is getting a ton of compliments?!
I hope you enjoyed your stay in Taos. We will be in touch with you in the future I am sure.”
— Colette Schobbens, CMP,  CMM,  Meetings Coordinator, New Mexico Municipal League

Thank you, Gene. Good stuff always.  You’re a master,”  –Kurt Kilpatrick, JD, CSP, CPAE (Kurt Kilpatrick is a professional speaker and humorist.)

“Gene.  Fantastic! Just watched your demo video.  I’m inspired!”  –Pete Weissman (Pete Weissman is a communication strategist and speechwriter who’s worked in the White House and the Senate.)

“Great wisdom, Gene, especially love the piece on Nick Saban.”  Chip Eichelberger (Chip Eichelberger is a professional speaker.)

“I learned much from your frank, humorous, and engaging presentation, Debbie Franklin, Richards Industries