In every speech that I give, every column I write, every person or group that I mentor, my goal is to leave my audience with plenty of take-home value.

I could teach from a textbook and give lots of facts and case studies, but I don't. I use stories because people can easily relate to the points I make. Here's some food for thought.

Know who has your back. We can learn much from observing geese in flight. First, people who share a common direction and a sense of community get where they are going more quickly and easily because they rely on the strength of each other.

Second, stay in formation and accept help when it is needed, and offer help when others need it.

Third, geese instinctively share the task of leadership and do not resent the leader.

Fourth, when a goose is sick, wounded or shot down, two others drop out of formation to follow it down to earth to protect it. They remain with the wounded bird until it is well or dies.

Teamwork. Many years ago in Austria, they had a custom that helped villagers size up the future happiness of a newly married couple. After the wedding at the local church, the village women would escort the bride and groom to a nearby forest and stand them before a large tree. They would then hand the young couple a two-handled bucksaw and ask that they use it to fell the tree.

The closer the cooperation between the man and wife, the shorter the time it took for the tree to come down. And the older villagers wisely reasoned that, the shorter the time, the happier the young couple would be — because they had learned that most valuable of marital lessons — teamwork!

Never assume your boss knows everything. A young executive was leaving the office late one evening when he found the CEO standing in front of a shredder with a piece of paper in his hand.

"Listen," said the CEO, "this is a very sensitive and important document here, and my assistant has gone for the night. Can you make this thing work?"

"Certainly," said the young executive. He turned the machine on, inserted the paper, and pressed the start button.

"Excellent, excellent!" said the CEO as his paper disappeared inside the machine. "I just need one copy."

Lessons: 1. Not everyone who dumps on you is your enemy. 2. Not everyone who gets you out of a mess is your friend. 3. And when you're in deep doo-doo, it's best to keep your mouth shut!

Be sure there is a problem in the first place before working hard to solve one. One beautiful day, a bus driver started his route. There were no problems for the first few stops — a few people got on, a few got off.

At the next stop, however, a big hulk of a guy boarded. Extremely tall and built like a linebacker, he said, "Big John doesn't pay!" and sat down at the back. The driver didn't argue. The next day, the same thing happened — Big John got on again, refused to pay, and sat down. The same thing happened day after day.

This grated on the bus driver, who became increasingly angry over the way Big John was taking advantage of him. He signed up for bodybuilding and self-defense courses, and became quite strong. So, on the next Monday, when Big John once again got on the bus and said, "Big John doesn't pay!"

The driver stood up, challenging him, "And why not?" Surprised, Big John replied, "Big John buys a bus pass."

Mackay's Moral: You can learn from experience — yours or someone else's.

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail