Drive Your Point Home With Metaphor


After all those painstaking semesters of high school Spanish, I’m delighted to announce I’m officially bi-lingual. It was hard work, with lots of practice finetuning my craft, building my vocabulary, and falling totally fall flat in high-stakes conversations. But it paid off!

I can confidently say I now speak fluently in both English and Metaphors.

Metaphors? What happened to Spanish? I never made it past a conversational level, but my mastery of speaking in metaphors has served me especially well.

I’ve found metaphors to be one of the most effective communication tools I use in verbally illustrating my vision to others. I like to think big (not always an asset), and getting people on the same page is no easy task. That’s when a metaphor is best employed. Painting a picture that can be indelibly imprinted into someone’s memory is a leadership competency on no organization’s list (mainly because they’re all so sterile, but that’s a different blog).

In the recent On Leadership interview with Leena Rinne, the two-time Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The 5 Choices to Extraordinary Productivity and Leading Loyalty, she brilliantly used a metaphor to change my mindset about goal setting and achievement.

Leena spoke about the endless choices and distractions we all face, and during this chaos, we often lose focus and our ability to prioritize and execute on our goals.

Leena’s advice was to install in our minds a “night club bouncer” that manages our “VIP list.” Watch the interview here for her exact wording, but here was the gist of her brilliant suggestion:

In your mind, envision installing the equivalent of a muscled bouncer outside a bar or night club. Give this metaphorical bouncer a VIP list of who can cross the red velvet rope and who can’t. Make sure your goals are the only ones on the “approved guests” list, and you’ll increase your ability to accomplish them.

Now envision you’ve just rented out this space for your birthday, and you’ve paid substantially for the food, drinks, and entertainment. You’ve invited your best friends to join you for an evening of decadence. There’s only one problem: the facility has multiple entrances, and the fire marshal won’t let you lock any of them. So uninvited guests can, and will, pour in.

Your “bouncer’s” job is to ensure your invited friends get the freshest champagne, firmest shrimp, and warmest wontons. Okay, that was an odd collection of food, but you get the point: the bouncer holds the interlopers at bay, and his key role is to guarantee your focus on your top goals. In this role, he minimizes the distractions. If it’s not on your VIP list, it gets tossed aside.

I love this metaphor as it does exactly what it’s supposed to: create a mental image that communicates the point even better than normal words or direct descriptions could.

My bouncer is wearing a purple, crushed velvet coat, and his VIP list is short and hyper-focused on my top three guests.

What’s yours wearing and who’s invited?

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About the Author

Scott Miller

Scott Miller is a 25-year associate of FranklinCovey and serves as Senior Advisor, Thought Leadership. Scott hosts the world’s largest and fastest-growing podcast/newsletter devoted to leadership development, On Leadership. Additionally, Scott is the author of the multi-week Amazon #1 New Releases, Master Mentors: 30 Transformative Insights From Our Greatest Minds, Management Mess to Leadership Success: 30 Challenges to Become the Leader You Would Follow, and the Wall Street Journal bestseller, Everyone Deserves a Great Manager: The 6 Critical Practices for Leading a Team. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife and three sons.

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