miracle

Four monosyllabic words.

Ever ask a brilliant person for the time, and he or she essentially tells you how to build a clock?

Is it better to say, “Terminate the illumination” or “Turn out the lights?”

There may be genius or two, who is not so sure.

Guess the Heath Brothers, Chip and Dan, (authors of Made to Stick) were right when they discussed those who can never overcome, “the curse of knowledge.”

We live in a world of 140-character-or-less Tweets and 20-second bites, not 400-page dissertations (except for those defending a Ph.D)

Having said that, some are not comfortable with our reduced attention spans caused by an unprecedented and unrelenting global information overload.

Deal with it.

Three monosyllabic words

In many cases, monosyllabic statements and answers simply don’t cut it.

But there are times, particularly when it comes to persuasive communication, when less is indeed, more.

Actor Kurt Russell reenacted the late Coach Herb Brooks’ February 22, 1980 pre-game pep talk to the U.S. Olympic hockey team in Lake Placid, N.Y. before they played the mighty Soviet Union.

It was the height of the Cold War, the Soviets were running wild in Afghanistan, the U.S. was virtually helpless in its efforts to free 52 diplomats held hostage in Iran, and the country was suffering a “crisis of confidence”… at least according to the leader of the free world.

It was Evening in America.

The country needed a big time lift, and it came from a group of essentially college student-athletes. They were being asked to accomplish the impossible as depicted in the Disney movie, Miracle. 

Brooks was not Mr. Personality. He was not Mr. Congeniality. That’s not what the U.S. hockey program wanted or needed.

He was tough. He knew that his team needed to stay with the Soviet ice machine for 60 minutes, something that had not been done in two decades.

He was the coach of his players, but certainly not their friend.

He prepared them for the biggest opportunity of their lives, and then the moment came right before they took the ice against the mighty USSR.

Brooks’ two-minute speech was only 124 words, and every word counted. There is a beauty in their simplicity. They were incredibly effective. I get chills every time I watch the speech. I want to charge onto the ice as well.

 

brooks

As communicators what can we learn from Kurt Russell’s portrayal of Brooks? After all, it is only a film. Shouldn’t we dismiss any serious discussion of this speech because it was reenacted for the purpose of a movie?

We can, but we would miss the point.

If we are preparing a bumper sticker, a billboard, an infographic, an advertisement, a PowerPoint presentation, a speech and even a pep talk, the simpler can be better.

Consider the effectiveness of two monosyllabic words: “One game.”

How about: “Tonight, we are the greatest hockey team in the world?”

The theme undoubtedly is: “This is your time.”

Conversely: “Their time is done.”

And just in case one did not get the point: “It’s over.”

The imperative: “Screw em” is universal in its meaning.

And of course, repetition is the key to learning: “This is your time.”

And finally: “Now go out there and take it!”

The door was probably not big enough for the team to take the ice all at the same time.

For many, and count me in this crowd, Herb Brooks is an American hero.

He was the last man cut from the 1960 Olympic Team that beat the Russians and won the Gold Medal in Squaw Valley, California.

He was severely criticized for his coaching techniques, but stuck to his convictions. The rest is history.

Brooks died way-too-young at 66 years old in a one-car crash in 2003. Thankfully, drugs and/or alcohol were not the culprit. He should have worn his seat belt.

May he rest in peace. Thank you Disney and Kurt Russell for such a fitting tribute.

And for reminding us the most simple communication can at times be the most effective. In our increasingly complex world, we sometimes need to appreciate that less is indeed more. 

“Great moments are born from great opportunity. 

And that’s what you have here tonight, boys. 

That’s what you’ve earned here tonight. 

One game. 

If we played them 10 times, they might win nine. 

But not this game. 

Not tonight. 

Tonight, we skate with them. 

Tonight we stay with them. 

And we shut them down because we can. 

Tonight, we are the greatest hockey team in the world. 

You were born to be hockey players – every one of you, and you were meant to be here tonight. 

This is your time. 

Their time is done. 

It’s over. 

I’m sick and tired of hearing about what a great hockey team the Soviets have. 

Screw ’em. 

This is your time. 

Now go out there and take it!”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwpTj_Z9v-c

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYscemhnf88

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herb_Brooks

http://www.masterschannel.com/this-is-my-story/miracle-coach-brooks-addresses-team-pre-game

http://www.legacy.com/ns/news-story.aspx?t=herb-brooks–miracle-man&id=1253

http://heathbrothers.com/books/made-to-stick/

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