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a blog by Chris Barrow


Statements that famous people never made

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”


I was attending a trade show a few weeks ago and noticed a stand that appeared to be offering coaching services (and good luck to them).

Behind a desk full of printed material were the usual pop-up displays, one of which was plastered with all of those quotes that us coachy types like to pull out of our Mary Poppins bag of goodies and bedazzle you with.

One-liners that demonstrate your inadequacy and promote the need to look at yourself in a mirror that we are holding for you (invoice in the other hand).

The coaches’ strap line:

“you’re broken – Mr Gandhi/Kennedy/Napoleon/Einstein says so – but I can fix you.“

Sorry to disappoint but the above words about change were never uttered or written by their illustrious claimed originator.

The nearest verifiable quotation that we do have reads:

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”

source – Brian Morton – The New York Times

I can imagine the PR guys saying “Thats very wise Mr Gandhi but it isn’t going to fit anywhere – don’t worry, Jimmy at the office will work on it for you.”

At some stage, “Jimmy” has taken the original statement and turned it into a Tweet-sized bite that can adorn a bumper, brochure or badge.

A little research on Google will reveal many other examples of this phenomenon, some of which have been desiccated to fit into smaller places, others attributed to celebrities who don’t own the original IP – why?

We seem to like our mantras and mottos – things we can remember without having to tax our brains – nursery rhymes, prayers and oaths of allegiance – but celebrity endorsement adds a special flavour of authenticity by hi-jacking the reputation of the alleged author.

I suppose its just the same as any endorsement – that watch must keep time better because George Clooney is wearing one.

My perfume will knock ‘em dead because Keira Knightley wears it.

Surely if I wear the same shoes as Christiano, my game will improve?

We give uncanny credit to such testimonials and tributes – they influence our buying decisions and all the research supports that.

Pity then, the celebrity found to be a bad boy or girl nowadays, facing the loss of millions in endorsement fees if they are found chasing girls whilst in wedlock, fiddling the odds or nibbling an opponent.

Now that science has demonstrated how influenced we are by these Hallmark quotes, I think we should adapt this trend to more every-day signage:

“Please do not park in front of my drive”

Nelson Mandela

“No running, jumping, diving or splashing in the pool.”

Mother Theresa

“Any rude behaviour towards our employees will be considered an infringement of their human rights and our staff have been instructed to call the police in the event of intimidation.”


“you should brush your teeth and floss every day.”

Winston Churchill

It does have a certain gravitas doesn’t it?

Every single one of the above quotes has exactly the same authenticity as Mr Gandhi’s request for change – so why not?

You may have noticed that it helps considerably if the so-called authors are dead.

In conclusion:

“every self-respecting dentist needs a business coach – and Chris Barrow is the best.”

Abraham Lincoln (at his other address)

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