July 15, 2014
Water Polo, Anyone?
Who doesn’t love to receive fan mail!
When John Betz, sent me an email with “An Apostate of Left-Brain
Communication” in the subject box and followed it with the message below, I
knew his story had to be in The Metaphor Minute. Since an apostate is
someone who forsakes his religion, cause, party, etc., I was curious to see what
turned John away from exclusive left-brain thinking to becoming a fan of right
brain thinking, the mental home of metaphors.
John, The Apostate
His email said, “Your book (The Tall Lady with the Iceberg: the power
of metaphors to sell, persuade & explain anything to anyone) changed the way
I frame my research reports. While facts and figures are still at the core,
wrapping them in metaphorical language not only helps clients better comprehend
the research, but makes it more enjoyable for them to read. I can say
that because of the testimonials we have received. (emphasis mine) I
have you to thank for helping make that happen.”
(Thank you, John, and I am delighted that you are a fellow Metaphorian.)
John, The New Apostle
I should explain. John is Global Technical Strategist at
Vermilion Technical Research, a boutique research firm in Minneapolis. He writes
and sells equity research to institutional money managers. He faces the same
challenge anyone does who has to present left-brain analytical and fact-driven
How do you package left-brain information into vivid and engaging reading
Wrap It in Metaphor
Here’s an excerpt from a longer April, 2014 report he wrote that
illustrates his solution. Notice how John hooks his readers’ curiosity
immediately with an analogy in the title: “The market’s water polo match.”
Then, he follows through on his theme in the technical explanation.
The general weakness in these indices, however, masks the severity of
declines in many leadership Groups and Sectors. The best analogy would
be that of a water polo match. Above the surface, the back and forth is visible
and at least somewhat orderly; but beneath the surface, that’s where the melee
unfolds. And underneath the surface of the U.S. indices, one time leadership
segments and names are getting pummeled: biotechs, 3D printers … For
most of these names, in the absence of identifiable long-term support, we view
their 200-day Mas as the technical “lines in the sand.”
How much more engaging, meaningful and impactful the water polo analogy is than
a simple recitation of facts.
His Visual Thinking Beyond Reports
John’s appreciation for the power of metaphor to engage and
shape thinking is also reflected in the way he sees his work and describes it to
He is a private pilot and, using his love for aviation, he describes his firm’s
portfolio managers as the pilots who take care of the passengers, the clients,
and his particular role is like a windsock, helping investors see the direction
of the markets and keeping them aligned with the trends and protecting them from
getting blown off-course.
Unique, memorable, and reassuring.
What is your hobby? If you analogized your hobby to your work, what is your
role? How would that affect how you work and how you relate to, and communicate
Never Be Boring Again
Learn from John. Even the most left-brain businesses benefit
from right-brain communication.
Make What You Say Pay — With Metaphors.
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P.S. For more information on John's firm, visit
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