Pay Attention or Pay the Price – This week’s #CoffeewithColm Episode 189

“My hopes of ever winning Strictly were dashed may moons ago.

I’m on a dance floor, giving it socks. My brother dances up to me, shouts over the music, “GOOD MAN, COL. YOU’RE RIGHT… FORGET THE BEAT!”

He laughed too as he danced away backwards, leaving me… broken.

Why am I telling you this tragic tale? Because, ladies and gentlemen, let’s talk ‘communication.’

George Bernard Shaw famously said, “The biggest problem in communication is the ‘illusion’ it has taken place.” Consider my brother; his ‘illuson’ was he made a joke, hahaha – my reality? took me years to get back on the dance floor.

You see, for communication to be truly effective, three principles must apply:

  1. There must be a broadcaster
  2. There must be a receiver
  3. The intended message must be crystal clear to all parties.

This stuff is not always easy. We must pay attention to what we say and what we hear; we either pay attention of pay the price.

Allow me demonstrate this?

To hear what happened next, watch the short video, listen to the short podcast, or read on below…

I have a business. It produces packed school lunches – a sandwich, drink and fruit in a bag – and on a full production day, we produce 37,043. So it’s busy.

One Monday morning last term, I’m in my office, knock at the door, it’s my Production Manager. At that exact same moment my phone rang.

“Hello, Colm O’Brien here.”

It was a lady; I know her very well, called Gillian from a local 3rd level college. She said, “Colm, we have a group coming in this Friday, eight hundred teenagers, would you sponsor their lunches?” I’m thinking, eight hundred – that’s a lot of lunches and then… some local… community… goodwill marketing methinks, so I said, “Gillian, just for you, consider it done. I hung up the phone, asked my Production Manager to make it so and got on with my week.

It’s now Friday (imagine you are all in my office)

8.09am, send Gillian a little email, “Good morning Gillian, looking forward to seeing you later. I’ll be there personally with your eight hundred packed lunches.”


8.45, my phone rings; it’s Gillian.

“Good morning Gillian, what’s the craic?”

“Colm, don’t worry about the craic now. What’s the story with the eight hundred packed lunches?”

Gillian, we spoke about this on Monday – eight hundred teenagers, your place, we’re feeding them, I’m paying.”

“Eight HUNDRED teenagers? I said eight HUNGRY teenagers!”

Seven HUNDRED and ninety two packed lunches wasted and all because I hadn’t paid attention.

The message had been broadcast, it had even been received but completely and utterly misheard by Yours Truly.

The cost? Ha! You don’t want to know. My therapist says I should talk about it but, do you know what? I’m just not ready.

Not only a waste of money, but a huge waste of time and energy, but worst of all, me, embarrassed.

So what can we learn from this?

Let’s be honest, haven’t we all wasted money, time and energy? Haven’t we all said something only to have it misunderstood? Haven’t we all misheard?

Whenever we communicate we must remember the three principles:

  • Broadcast, receive and clarify
    I’ll say that again… for clarification
  • Broadcast, receive and clarify

Clarification is what will make this stuff easier.

We must take the time and pay attention to ensure there is full and proper understanding.

Imagine if we took that moment, instead of taking the financial hit? Imagine not wasting all that time and energy? Imagine not being embarrassed?

Ladies and gentlemen, from this moment, forward, which would you prefer? To pay attention… or… pay the price?”


PS. I was honored to present that piece whilst representing Ireland, this weekend, at the Professional Speaking Association UK & Ireland in Coventry. A phrase you will know me to use is, “Sometimes I win and sometimes I learn” – this one was a learning experience and I wish the overall winner all the very best.

Onwards and upwards from here…

See you here this time next week for another ‘Coffee with Colm’

Yours truly,


Watch | Listen | Read | Think | Act


Did you enjoy that? Fancy a sip of some of my recent “Coffee with Colm” Blog posts:

  • Just Keep Swimming (or why negative thoughts act on us like a current does a swimmer) click here.
  • You Have Groupies… and they are watching… everything! – click here.
  • What if I was wrong? What if you CAN microwave personal growth? – click here.

HIRE ME TO SPEAK. Consider me speaking at your event, launch, awards, or as your after-dinner keynote. Find out more here.

JOIN OurBoard. Suffering from Commercial Loneliness? Are you a ‘Lonleypreneur’ Could you benefit from having a group of peers around you for support and encouragement? Check out OurBoard here.

FREE AUDIO BOOK. If would like a complimentary copy of my book “Feeding Johnny – How to Build a Business Despite the Roadblocks” in audio, narrated by yours truly so you get all the nuances, feel free to grab one here.

DEEP DIVE. If you would like to go deeper in your own personal journey, you can review the first step in my “12 Steps to Create the Life You Really Want” for FREE. Check it out here.

LINKEDIN. Perhaps the thing to do right now is simply to hook up professionally on LinkedIn – if that’s of interest, click here


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2 Responses to “Pay Attention or Pay the Price – This week’s #CoffeewithColm Episode 189”
  1. David Hegarty

    Colm, delighted, and I mean that, to make your acquaintance.
    Lovely piece, and I’m looking forward to immersing myself in more of your eloquent wisdom.
    With every good wish, David.

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