Hide the Pill - Speaker | Mentor | Pádraic O'Maille | The Disciplines of Successs | Ireland

Picture the bedlam.

Christmas Eve 2011. 

We’d just collected a new six week old Labrador pup called Potter. 

In their collective enthusiasm the kids had taken him for a stroll by the beach and he’d fallen in to a big pool of ice cold water. 

When he returned to our house he was like a drowned rat – shivering and sniffling and whinging. It seemed his tail had gone limp as a result of the swim and he proceeded unsuccessfully to catch his tail to relieve the pain.

Finally when his whinging ascended to a shriek I rang my cousin Marty Ryan, a family vet in Newport. 

Having listened to the facts Marty diagnosed that it was most likely a case of limber tail syndrome, a condition that labradors are prone to but would heal up very quickly. In the short term however it might help to give him a buffered aspirin, not paracetamol, to ease the pain and reduce the inflammation.

I put the phone down and proceeded to try to give the puppy the pill. But try as I might, that puppy wasn’t for taking that pill. I pushed the pill in his mouth, shoved it back his throat, and held his mouth closed but every time he’d squirm out of my clutch and spit it out. Then he’d look at me with two big brown glassy eyes saying what are you trying to do? I don’t like it.

In desperation I called Marty back and explained my quandary. Marty is a man of few words and calmly replied.


I said what.


Have you ever seen a puppy eat peanut butter for the first time? It’s a sight to behold. He sniffed it to begin with. Then he licked it all over. Then he began to drool huge globules of saliva down his cheeks. Then he began to eat every scintilla of peanut butter on my hand. Including the pill.

It took about 20 minutes to kick in and for him to stop shrieking. Twenty minutes later he was lying on his back, his legs up in the air snoring like an old man. Christmas had arrived early for that puppy doggie.

I too received an early present. As he lay there in perfect comfort on my lap it struck me that the right pill works in life. It can solve problems, ease pain and bring relief.

The thing about pills however, even the most efficacious ones, is that in their raw state they can be hard to swallow. 

Your ideas and communications and messages are exactly like the pill in my story. Your ideas and communications and messages can solve great problems for your listeners but first of all you’ve got to get them to swallow the pill. You have to hide them in peanut butter.

The technique to hide your Pill in peanut butter has been known since mankind first had to communicate ideas and messages and communications. The single most powerful, effective and impactful way to make your ideas and messages stick is to hide them in peanut butter i.e. present them in story format.

Why is it that Forbes Magazine, The Harvard Business Review and Hubspot have all recently posted articles stating that storytelling will be the single biggest business skill of the next five years? It’s because  neuroscientists, through the use of sophisticated brain imaging technology called fMRI have now identified beyond all doubt that our brains are hardwired to connect and engage and be moved by stories not facts. 

And yet in our business presentations we have been weaned on a culture of spewing facts supported by countless power point presentations containing myriads of bullet points. 90% of all business presentations are fact based.

The problem with facts are that like the puppy and the Pill facts are hard to swallow 

It would be some years later before I received my present. I heard the iconic businessman and writer Doug Stevenson relate the exact same story but he used it to convey an entirely different message.