Inspire, influence, impress….& be brief. 

Need a theme for your next meeting? Want to inspire co-workers with a rallying phrase? Looking for a principle to guide your everyday actions? Want your product to be easily remembered? Try creating a Try-Angle—a new, work-related angle or perspective that’s easy to remember and easy to follow, one that encourages others to try, to stretch, to reach, to buy. Here’s how.

Limit your words. “Try-Angles” encourage people to “try.” But there’s another meaning: the prefix “tri,” meaning “three” dictates the length of angle. Keep your motivational message down to three or four words.

Choose short words. It was Winston Churchill who noted that “big [wo]men use little words. If you’ve any doubt at all about the big pull of little words, consider these:

Martin Luther King, Jr., “I have a dream.”

Mother Teresa: “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”

Sam Walton: “Eliminate the dumb.”

John F. Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you.”

Black Elk, Oglala Sioux holy man: “The life of man is a circle.”

Twyla Tharp: “Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.”

By contrast, consider the non-pull of big words. “It is neither ameliorative of one’s current reality nor advantageous for reification of the future to garner the totality of one’s gallinaceous assemblage into a singular receptacle fabricated from the smaller extrusions of a large perennial plant that possesses a primary stem from which multiple outgrowths occur” doesn’t motivate at all. “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” does. Simplicity wins over “sesquipedalian” every single time.

Heighten awareness of what works. As you develop your Try-Angle, attune yourself to other messages that have withstood the test of time—primarily because they have a limited number of words and those words are monosyllabic in nature. See what we mean by taking the following test. Identify the try-angle described by each of the following ten clues.

1. A backfiring presidential promise not to raise taxes____________________

2. An exhortation befitting Emily Post, Letitia Baldrige or your mom________________

3. A pronoun-vague recommendation from a sportswear firm_________________

4. An alliterative architectural axiom ____________________________

5. Caesar’s explanation for how to rule a defeated nation__________________

6. W. Edwards Deming’s advice for improving workplace morale_________________

7. Hope-driven message from Britain’s leader during World War II _________________

8. Message for youth from a star-connected First Lady________________

9. First part of LeRoy Satchel’s Paige message that ends with “Something may be

gaining on you.” ______________

10. Military-inspired statement that today means “Win unconditionally” _____________

Create several. Involve others in the final selection. Once you begin to think about try-angles, you’ll find numerous applications for their use. For example, Jack Welch, CEO of General Electric and widely regarded as the “Manager of the Century,” seldom gives an interview without mentioning his personal credo, an alliterative try-angle: “speed, simplicity, self-confidence.” While you probably don’t give as many media interviews as he does, you can use your try-angles at staff meetings, on stationery, during the hiring process, et cetera. Additionally, the thought-process that leads to the creation of these simple-but-powerful messages will lead you to themes for conferences, slogans for competitions, frame-able posters, et cetera.

Whatever use you put your try-angles to, involve others in generating ideas for creating and applying them. And, for those try-angles that will receive the most attention, invite input from others to ensure you’ve chosen the most inspiring. In terms of having your key points remembered, we leave you with this historical paraphrase: “Remember the Main!”


  • Dr. Marlene Caroselli is the author of 60+ books, the most recent of which ("Applying Mr. Einstein") will be released by HRD Press in 2020. You can reach her at [email protected].