• Paul Rutherford


Updated: Jun 15

Many moons ago, I was a corporate speechwriter. It proved a great way to learn about organizations, the personality of power and how to put across complex messages in an easy-to-hear, compelling way.

It also taught me the perils of perfectionism:

A new CEO had arrived in the business just in time for the Year Start Kick-Off. The grapevine was quivering with talk of a radical ‘change agenda’.

That was certainly clear at my first, angst-ridden briefing with him; he wanted to set out his vision and make a strong initial impression. “We must turn a corner, which means we must do things differently’” He asked me to send a draft in three days.

I set to work with my notes, having in mind Churchill’s Fight them on the Beaches and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

During the first day, the opening sentence became an obsession; I wrote, re-wrote, played basketball with my waste bin, re-wrote the re-writes, honed, polished and crafted. I spent 70 minutes on the positioning of a semi-colon.

By the third day I had a beautiful – almost poetic - opening paragraph, and less than two hours to write the rest…

* * *

A short while after sending it all to his PA, she called me. Her boss had some changes. “Are they major?” I asked, my employment status hanging by a thread.

“Oh, I don’t think so. In fact, given the number of tick marks, I think he rather likes it. Except the first paragraph. He’s crossed that out. Twice.”

Coachaiku: 17-syllable reflections, in a 5-7-5 form, for personal and professional development.

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