One Hundred Broken Arrows

Published on 23 March 2024 at 11:23

I don't remember much about the gig, except it was great, on a Sunday in a basement just off Marble Arch, a new venture run by a friend, who's awesome, and it was full of talent and love, the wackiest, most wonderful speakers, and I missed a lot of it, sitting on the outside steps, drinking coffee and smoking and thinking about a woman in a green dress who was dating someone else.

I just remember a guy in jeans and a T-shirt walking up to the microphone, centre stage, holding an arrow.

'Centuries ago, according to legend, when young braves of a certain tribe were ready for adulthood, they would be taken to meet their revered Chief', he said quietly, but we all heard every word, hooked.

'The Chief would talk with them, and if he thought them ready, he would give them a single arrow, and a few words of advice, and send them to a sacred forest. Once there, the braves would find their spirit tree, and place the blunt end of the arrow against its trunk, then walk onto the arrow, the sharp tip against their neck, protected by a single leaf, knowing if they hesitated for a moment, they would be injured, or worse', as he spoke, he held the tip of the arrow lightly to his throat.

'At best' he continued, 'the arrow would bend, and break, leaving them unscathed, and they would return to be feted by their tribe, keeping the broken arrow as a reminder of their moment, and the Chief's advice.'

Later, the speaker demo-ed breaking an arrow, think the flipchart took the place of a tree, but I missed it, back on the outside steps, writing up the story, turning it into a showpiece ending, the woman in the green dress forgotten for another day, or year.

The next day I ordered 100 long, wooden arrows, a surprisingly large investment, and when they arrived, selected one, the bendiest, and took it to the large cherry tree at the bottom of my garden. The ground was covered with bright pink blossom, and I sat, obviously there was coffee and cigarettes involved, and when I was ready, about two hours later, I broke my first arrow.

I only used the 'arrow stunt' for a special event, mostly conferences, where the message was on point, and there was something about the story, and the potential for disaster, and there really was, for all my show-boating, that drew audiences in, and they remembered the stunt for a long time, and its message, and I still get emails about it, years later.

Now, writing more than I talk, I'm left with four arrows, the sturdiest, least bendy, hardest to break, arrows, of the original hundred, but I'm sure as eggs that I have four big gigs left in me.

But a stunt, however compelling, without the pay-off of a powerful message, is just a pleasant waste of time, so dear reader, here it is, the Chief's advice to his young braves, for when you might need it, for when you need to step up, three simple words.

One Bold Step.


Until next Saturday, love and good fortune, dear reader, and, of course, be bold.



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