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  • Writer's pictureChuck Cusumano

Be Careful What You Start

By Chuck Cusumano

Most things start out as a one-time event or with no intentions of becoming something bigger.


It was early May in 2019 and I was preparing for a presentation to a group of leaders for an all-day training event. The group consisted of county-level administrators, department heads, and the leadership of the county’s first responders. It was their annual off-site all-day training event. Because I was going to be presenting to this audience all day long, I knew I needed to break up my lecture time with activities and group projects so that the audience did not get tired of hearing my voice all day and that it would help them retain the information better. I really wanted (needed) a partner to help with the set-up and to assist with the table discussions. As fate would have it (or, in my belief system, God sent me a blessing) I asked Jillian Broaddus if she would be my partner in helping with the event. (Jillian had just started her own company and I was excited to be her first client!) Jillian said she would help. I am sure that neither one of us at the time knew what we were starting!


To be a good speaker, you must ‘Stick the Landing’ if you want a perfect score!


As I was wrapping up the event that day, I was struggling to find a good way to end the training and to put a “bow” on what some of the best takeaways had been. I had a final summary section that would work and should be sufficient; but once you get to know your audience and understand who they are and how they are reacting to your teaching, I find that the ability to customize the talk to their specific needs and attitude is what gets you the best results and commands the highest ratings. However, to be good at this, you must have the ability to pivot on the spot and be willing to abandon your PowerPoint or whatever you are doing so you can capture the moment and ‘stick the landing’!  From some dark recess of my brain, a story popped into my thought stream; before I knew it, I had abandoned my summary and could hear myself telling this crazy story of when I was a young kid growing up and had witnessed a flea circus! Yes, that is correct – a flea circus! What exactly this story had to do with leadership training was still a little unclear to even me! Once the story started, I realized I was running out of time at the event and that I would have to somehow make this random story be my ‘stick the landing’ conclusion. Since this seems to happen to me more times than I really want to admit, I am rather practiced in bailing myself out of these situations (although they have not to date asked me to speak again at one of their events!).


What does this story have to do with ANYTHING?


Well, Jillian heard the story just like the rest of the audience and – unbeknownst to me – she wrote a blog about the story. So, on May 16, 2019, the very first blog article, The Flea Circus Analogy, was posted on our website and on LinkedIn. Here we are, FIVE years later, and almost 100 original blogs in the books! Jillian has authored, edited, or co-written almost every single one with myself or with one of our consultants for the past 5 years. It has been fun, exciting, and exhausting. On more than one occasion, I have said to myself or Jillian, “Should we stop?” I am glad she ‘held my feet to the fire’ or sometimes maybe even ‘held my hand.’ (That first year, I was such a bad writer, I even contracted Hanna Marcus to edit my blog before I sent it to Jillian!) Five years of writing and creating later, Jillian and I are still at it!  There is even a BOOK written by Jillian (with the rest of The Joshua Group supporting her in the research) coming out in July. So be careful of what you start… you never know when or where it will end!


Here are some other examples we think you may be interested in…


A quick search on the Internet revealed many examples of crazy starts to various traditions. We think you will be as interested in these as we were!


And, in the meantime, please keep reading our blog! Feel free to comment on the content or just email us (like so many of you have done) telling us what you think or concepts you’d love to see covered. If you want help starting your own FILL IN THE BLANK, give us a shout at


Now look at these –


  • Black Friday – Originating in the 1960s, the term "Black Friday" was first used by Philadelphia police to describe the chaos that ensued on the day after Thanksgiving, when hordes of suburban shoppers and tourists flooded into the city in advance of the big Army-Navy football game held on that Saturday every year. Retailers soon adopted the day as an unofficial holiday to push their sales, promoting major discounts that have led to it becoming the busiest shopping day of the year in the United States.

  • The Ice Bucket Challenge – This was a campaign started in 2014 intended to promote awareness of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and encourage donations to research. It went viral on social media and became a global phenomenon, with participants, including celebrities and public figures, dumping a bucket of ice water over their heads and challenging others to do the same. The challenge quickly became an annual event to raise funds for ALS research.

  • Google Doodles – What started in 1998 as a humorous out-of-office message for Google’s founders when they attended the Burning Man festival has turned into a regular feature on the Google homepage. These doodles are creative alterations of the Google logo intended to celebrate holidays, anniversaries, and the lives of famous artists, pioneers, and scientists. They have become a way of educating and sharing culture globally. (Speaking of Burning Man, the festival itself has interesting origins: Originally starting in 1986, Larry Harvey and Jerry James built an 8-foot wooden man and burned it on a San Francisco beach in front of a small crowd. The event was intended to be a small, personal celebration, but it resonated with those who attended. It has since evolved into an annual gathering with over 70,000 participants in the Nevada desert, focusing on community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance.)

  • Movember – Starting in 2003 in Australia as a fun challenge among friends to grow a mustache during November, Movember has evolved into an annual event involving the growing of mustaches during November to raise awareness of men's health issues, such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and men's suicide. The Movember Foundation has grown into a global movement with a significant impact on the funding of health projects.

  • The Wave (at sports stadiums) – Originating in the early 1980s during an Oakland Athletics baseball game, "the Wave" was popularized by professional cheerleader Krazy George Henderson and has become a common sight at sporting events. Despite its spontaneous and fun beginning, it has become a tradition for crowds at sports stadiums worldwide to entertain themselves and show team spirit.

  • Hallmark Holidays – Hallmark, known for its greeting cards, is often credited with popularizing various holidays through its products. While not the originator of most of these holidays, Hallmark significantly boosted the celebration of occasions like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day in the U.S. by creating cards specifically for these events. This marketing strategy not only increased card sales but also helped cement these days as occasions for widespread celebration.

  • Diamond Engagement Rings – The tradition of diamond engagement rings was heavily shaped by De Beers' marketing campaign starting in 1938. The slogan "A Diamond is Forever" crafted by N.W. Ayer & Son effectively linked diamonds with marital commitment. This campaign was so successful that it made diamond rings practically synonymous with engagements, turning a luxury item into a must-have in the process of marriage proposals in the U.S. and eventually worldwide.

  • Free Slurpee Day – 7-Eleven’s annual celebration of Free Slurpee Day on July 11 (7/11, echoing the company’s name) started in 2002 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the convenience store chain. It was originally intended as a one-off event but turned into a yearly tradition due to its popularity, drawing customers into stores for a free Slurpee but also boosting sales of other items during their visit.

  • Small Business Saturday – American Express launched Small Business Saturday in 2010 to encourage consumers to shop at local and small businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. This initiative was initially a response to the global financial crisis and aimed at helping small businesses recover and thrive. It has since become a fixture of the holiday shopping season, supported by local governments and many organizations, promoting a "shop local" culture across the U.S.

  • The Michelin Guide – Originally a free guide for motorists published by the Michelin tire company in 1900, this guide aimed to boost the demand for cars – and consequently, tires – by offering information on how to maintain vehicles, along with maps and lists of car mechanics and hotels. The guide later evolved into a prestigious restaurant rating system that profoundly influences the dining industry today. Michelin's star rating can make or break restaurants, showcasing how a marketing tool transformed into a cultural institution within the hospitality industry.

  • Earth Day – Initially celebrated on April 22, 1970, Earth Day was conceived by Senator Gaylord Nelson as a one-time national teach-in on the environment. It was intended to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth's natural environment. However, the public's overwhelming response turned Earth Day into an annual event, now observed globally to promote environmental activism and education.

  • The Super Bowl Halftime Show – The Super Bowl itself is a sports tradition, but the halftime show as it is known today began in a more modest form. The first Super Bowl in 1967 featured two college marching bands performing at halftime. It wasn't until Michael Jackson's performance in 1993, which was planned as a one-time boost to regain viewership, that the Super Bowl Halftime Show transformed into a major event featuring top artists, becoming a significant aspect of the game's entertainment and a cultural phenomenon in its own right.

  • Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade – This parade started in 1924 as a way for the employees of Macy’s to celebrate the holiday season, featuring animals from the Central Park Zoo and Macy's employees dressed in vibrant costumes. Intended initially as a one-time celebration, the parade was so successful and drew such large crowds that Macy’s decided to make it an annual event. It has since become a cherished Thanksgiving tradition broadcast nationally.

  • The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting – What began during the Great Depression era in 1931 with a small, undecorated tree placed by construction workers has turned into an annual holiday event. The first formal tree lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center took place in 1933. The tree lighting is now a major event featuring celebrity performances and live broadcasts, symbolizing the start of the holiday season in New York City.


Thanks for 5 years of reading our blog!




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