Friday, September 10, 2010

Step Three: Identify at Least Fifty Examples of Perfect or Near- Perfect Group Performance

So we built the wall,
and the entire wall was joined together
up to half its height,
for the people had a mind to work.

— Nehemiah 4:6 (NKJV)

This verse from Nehemiah brings to mind the part of
Mark Twain’s classic coming-of-age novel,
Adventures of Tom Sawyer, where Tom’s Aunt
Polly sends him out to whitewash the fence. Tom,
wanting to take it easy on a hot day, decides to persuade
the other children to do his work for him. Pretending that
the work is very enjoyable and that he wouldn’t want to
share it for any reason, Tom gains a free work crew and
a good laugh. While this is a fictional story, it rings true:
People can be persuaded to do unpleasant (and even
improper) tasks if they believe that the tasks are
enjoyable. That’s one reason why so many youngsters
get into trouble.

I want you to beware of Tom Sawyer’s approach and
instead act like a responsible adult: Build on peoples’
self-interest in positive ways to help them gain what
really is good for them and that they already want.

Let’s look at some examples of where groups of children
or adults perform perfectly or near perfectly with little
effort to gain something that’s good for all concerned:

• Soldiers follow the order to stand “at ease.” (It’s a simple
stance to master and feels much more comfortable than
the “attention” position that precedes it … ironically, it’s
much easier to pay attention to what is being said while
“at ease” than while at “attention.”)
• People who see fire and smoke nearby and hear a fire
alarm will head for the exits with little delay. (In my
experience, even those who are paralyzed by fear will be
assisted out by those who aren’t so fearful.)
• Elementary schoolchildren leave after the final bell rings
in their classrooms. (After being cooped up for most of the
school day, children are ready for a change of pace and
place; in most cases, they are headed for sports activities,
visits with friends, or their rooms at home.)
• Football players leave the playing field at half time for
either the sideline or the locker room. (They know the
coach wants to speak to them, they are ready for a break,
and there is limited time before the second half starts.)
• Drivers go forward after a red light turns green.
(Inattentive drivers will be reminded to proceed either
by their passengers or by honking horns from the drivers
behind them, serving to safely move traffic forward.)

• People drive on the correct side of the road. (Doing the
opposite is usually much more hazardous.)
• Pedestrians walk on the sidewalk rather than down the
middle of a busy road. (There is usually less chance of
being hit by a vehicle while on the sidewalk.)
• Readers look at English words from left to right and
Hebrew words from right to left. (The letters make
more sense when viewed in those directions.)
• Writers spell words in the most common way used by
their readers. (It’s easier to be understood that way.)
• People greet others in the most common friendly way
for that community. (Otherwise, people may be
offended or confused.)

• Employees don’t go to work on major religious
holidays that they observe. (Christians who are not
emergency personnel choose to be with their families
and friends on Christmas.)
• Runners wait for the starter’s pistol before crossing
the starting line. (Otherwise they will be disqualified
after two “false” starts and there will not be a fair
contest of skill for all concerned.)
• Neighbors don’t steal each others’ birdbaths.
(Neighbors would probably notice; it’s illegal; they aren’t
very expensive so most people can afford their own; and
they are usually bulky, heavy, and messy to haul away.)
• Visitors rarely try to take valuable art from museums
during visiting hours. (It’s illegal, there are guards, and
there are antitheft measures in place.)
• People drive cars in forward gears rather than in
reverse on roadways. (It’s much safer and easier to do it
this way.)

• Drivers close windows to vehicles before entering a car
wash. (There are signs to remind people, the attendants
usually mention it, and being hit by water will usually
get someone’s attention if all else fails.)
• Skaters put on skates before stepping onto the ice in a
rink. (Otherwise they will probably slip and fall rather
than have a good time skating.)
• Football players don helmets before taking the field in
a game. (It’s pretty dangerous not to do so and someone
will remind those who forget.)
• Hockey players carry hockey sticks during games.
(It’s pretty hard to handle the puck without one.)
• Carpenters use a hammer rather than their fists to
drive in nails. (It works much better and is less painful.)

• Passengers almost always arrive safely after
commercial plane flights. (Serious injuries from
commercial aviation are practically nonexistent as a
percentage of all people who fly … the flight deck crew
members have their lives and safety at stake, too.)
• People receive bills sent by mail. (Companies wouldn’t
use mail services and postal employees would lose their
jobs unless the rate of lost envelopes was very low.)
• People drink treated water without becoming sick.
(It’s well known how to kill bacteria, it’s inexpensive to
accomplish, and laws require it for most municipalities.)
• Bank customers’ deposits are correctly credited to their
checking accounts. (Banks make their money by lending
a multiple of the deposits that they have on hand, and
customers soon leave a bank that shortchanges their
• Aides to politicians promptly return telephone calls a
month before an election. (They don’t want to run the
risk of annoying a voter who might tell lots of others.)

• Firemen respond promptly to an alarm. (Some people
enjoy this work so much and consider it so valuable
that they volunteer their services for no pay.)
• Sunday school teachers and their substitutes are on
time for their classes. (These volunteers want to do
God’s work and are so concerned about the children
they teach that they will seek out a reliable replacement
when necessary.)
• Adults arrive on time for their baptisms. (This is an
important spiritual event that they are probably looking
forward to doing as a sign of their obedience to God, and
baptisms aren’t conducted every day.)
• Prisoners are ready to go outside when it’s time for
their yard exercise. (Many prisoners find these brief
times when they aren’t cooped up indoors to be the
high points of their days.)
• Teenagers remember to go to their drivers’ license
test appointments. (They are anxious to obtain licenses
and know that missing the appointment will delay

• Newly elected officials take their oaths of office. (They
cannot serve until this swearing in occurs, and they get a
lot of publicity when they do.)
• Mortgage lenders cash the certified pay-off checks
they receive at property closings. (They will have no
money to lend from the transaction and earn no new
interest until they do.)
• Ringmasters open the formal part of circus
performances. (The show doesn’t shift into high gear
until the ringmasters begin their spiels, ringmasters love
the attention, and many children cannot understand
what’s going on without an explanation.)
• Magicians make items seem to disappear. (It’s one of
the main ways they “amaze” the audience.)
• Trainers feed fish to sea lions during performances at
sea life parks. (The food encourages the sea lions to

• Children show up to watch holiday parades that pass
their homes. (They love the excitement.)
• Christian families remember to decorate their
Christmas trees. (Joining with one another to decorate
the tree is one of many Christmas activities that families
• Children willingly leave their family cars and the
parking lot to enter Disneyland. (Wouldn’t you, if you
were still a child?)
• Politicians vote for themselves. (They can use an
absentee ballot if they will be away from their registered
polling places.)
• Advertisers provide materials to be presented during
the time they have purchased on television and radio.
(Otherwise, the advertiser will owe the contracted
amount but receive no benefit from the expense.)

• Heads of state accept invitations to speak at the United
Nations. (They and their countries will receive much
publicity as a result.)
• Business travelers put enough postage on the envelopes
that they use to send in their passport applications.
(Otherwise, the mail will just be returned to them,
delaying receipt of their passports.)
• Prison wardens feed the inmates. (Who wants to
maintain control in a prison full of hungry, angry
• Jail guards check visitors for weapons. (It’s
dangerous not to.)
• Judges sentence people found guilty of crimes. (They
are required by law to do so, and judges can lose their
jobs if they don’t sentence guilty defendants.)

• Gas stations sell fuel except during rationing. (It’s a
major source of their income and may also help attract
repair customers.)
• Supermarkets have food for sale. (It’s hard to imagine
they would call themselves supermarkets otherwise.)
• White-tablecloth restaurants offer menus to diners.
(I’ve only been to one that didn’t. The waiter told me
the chef would make anything I wanted so I should just
order what I liked to eat.)
• Shoe stores display shoes you can buy. (Otherwise,
why bother to display them?)
• Airlines have seats on sale for future flights. (Airlines
usually lose money and need the cash that advance
payments for future flights bring.)

Copyright 2010 Donald W. Mitchell, All Rights Reserved.

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