Bathtub Lessons



Bill, a good friend of a friend of mine, spends weeks and weeks on business travel. He recently went to Beijing to meet with an important client on a multi-million deal. The negotiations took forever, as it often happens in China. Eventually, sometime close to midnight he sneaked out from the exquisite ballroom where his team was held for hours by overly patient Chinese counterparts.

Enough is enough, said Bill, I need a drink. And he went straight to the bar. After the first Martini, Bill felt much better. Relaxing music and dim light slowly melted his mood. In just six hours I will be on the plane going back to LA, thought Bill. Forget this negotiations, forget this deal, I’m just…

At this very moment a tall attractive woman approached him and with a nice smile said. “I can help you with this deal. Do you have a moment?”

Excuse me?

My name is Wang, and first of all I’d like to buy you a drink, may I?


Before he knew it, Wang was back with two more drinks.

Ms. Wang, I…

No, the tradition of this place is to drink first, and then talk, smiled Wang.

Bill took a sip, and that what the last thing he remembered.

He woke up feeling completely frozen. When he looked around he realized — yes, you guessed it — he was lying in a bathtub filled with ice. He started panicking, but then he saw a big sign on the wall.

Do Not Move! Call Operator 12-21.

He frantically pushed the small button of the white hotel telephone sitting on a small table beside the bathtub.

After a couple of rings when the operator picked up the phone, Bill started screaming that he needed immediate help. To his surprise the operator calmly noted: “Sir, please don’t move and follow my instructions. Please reach behind you, but do it very slowly. Do you feel that there is a tube protruding from your lower back?”

The operator again calmly but reassuringly said: “No need to panic, Sir. Your kidney has been harvested. There is a gang of organ thieves in the city. Emergency service is on the way. Please don’t move. They will be there in three minutes.”

Now let me ask you a question – do you remember the number of the operator Bill needed to call? Do you recall who gave a drink to the man? And why was Bill in Beijing after all?

No matter how many times you’ve heard this urban legend, somehow you vividly recall all the details of this story with no effort. The idea simply stuck in your head.

Chip and Dan Heath, the authors of the bestselling book “Made to Stick,” decided to answer to this very important question of how to make your ideas and your communication effective and viable. In other words, how to make it stick in someone else’s head.

The six principles from the Heath brothers’ book include:

1.      Simplicity

2.      Unexpectedness

3.      Concreteness

4.      Credibility

5.      Emotions

6.      Stories

If you work in business development, marketing or fundraising, these “sticky” principles should be your guide to get your point across or land a donor. As the Heaths explain, the first principle should bring the idea to its core. “We must create ideas that are both simple and profound.”

Using surprise as an opening can help create a spark of interest from your audience. Yet the surprise alone will go only so far without clarity. We need to add concrete data to justify our point, and make our point credible.

Finally, don’t forget that people love emotional context in a story format. That’s why we go to movies. Try to create an amazing experience with your story, so they’ll never forget your point.

Now when you are preparing for that annual campaign or major rebranding at your company, don’t forget to use these six principles.

But wait, what was the name of the woman who offered a drink to Bill?


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