Work in Japan Advice Board

キービジュアル キービジュアル

Creative Career Path

The Magic Eye of Metaphor2009.07.07

    “Metaphors be with you” is a play on words made famous by Eric Daniels and poet Peter Schneidre, playing off of the phrase from Star Wars, may the force be with you. It is more than just a clever play on words, it points to a powerful way to become a more effective communicator. 

    The word metaphor comes from the Greek metaphero, meaning to carry over or transfer, from one place to another. The power of metaphor is that of transformation. While grammarians and poets make many distinctions about types of metaphors, the real power is the bridge which connects the unfamiliar to the familiar. The Magic Eye of Metaphor is the mind’s eye. 


    Anne Miller, author of Metaphorically Selling, says that metaphor has the power to sell ideas, evaporate objections, make a point, or close a sale. She also provides a four-step process for doing this, illustrated with hundreds of contemporary examples from business, politics, and media. 


    Metaphors cut to the quick, and help you get your point across instantly by creating word pictures, analogies, or connections that don’t require further explanation. Of course it takes skill and practice to use metaphors effectively. Bad metaphors may backfire, mixed metaphors sound forced, and dying metaphors suffer from lack of originality. But if you can find the right turn of phrase, your words will resonate with meaning and significance. 


    The most interesting metaphors are those which take you someplace you have never been before, or may never actually go, were it not for the transformation of the metaphor. 


    A Zen proverb has it that we know hot and cold through experience (冷暖自知, reidan jichi). 

    That may seem obvious, but although we have all experienced hot and cold, it is not easy to describe the extremes of that experience. Let me give you an example from my personal experience. 

    I’ve been practicing Aikido for nearly four decades. I have experienced some unusual forms of training, which most people would have neither the opportunity nor the inclination to experience. One form of training we practice each winter is cold water river training, conducted annually on January 3rd at sunrise at a river in Tochigi Prefecture in Japan. After breathing exercises and a brief run to warm up, we strip down to swimming wear and plunge neck deep into the icy waters. After a few minutes we come out of the water, change back into our Aikido training wear, and do a brief run to warm back up. Similar activities take place annually at the New Year in Japan, which are always covered on national television. 

    The question is, How cold was it? 


    I could say it was very cold, but that wouldn’t mean much without a metaphor to take you there. You could start with the name of the river Kinugawa, meaning Angry Devil River, so cold it made the Devil mad! 


    You could give the air temperature, which averaged 7 degrees below zero Celsius, but if you grew up with the Fahrenheit temperature scale, then Celsius doesn’t mean much until you convert it back to Fahrenheit. 

    How cold was it? You could say that it was so cold, that the water was warmer than air, because it was still water! 


    How cold was it? You could say that it was so cold that you had to scream (kiai) to keep your heart from stopping. 


    It was so cold, that you can’t feel your fingers or toes, nor the rocks on the bottom that you are kicking with your bare feet, at least until you thaw out the next day! 

    It was so cold, that I didn’t notice I was standing next to Mr. Ishige, a famous baseball player at the time with the Seibu Lions, until next day when the two of us were on the front page of the Sankei Sports Newspaper. I think the photographer was aiming at Ishige. 


    How cold was it? It was so cold that I didn’t even notice that the women around me were changing from their wet to their dry clothes until I was already changed, and so were they! 

    Maybe now thanks to metaphor, you have a better idea of how cold it was. Just maybe you didn’t look away or think of something else when the magic of metaphor took your mind to that place, even if it was just long enough to decide that you’re not going to get wet in winter! 


    We are bombarded by messages in this hyper-connected world, and the noise level keeps rising. And yet metaphors can cut through all of the noise and bring you to the threshold of the story. To see a video of how I presented this metaphor in a Toastmasters Keynote speech visit: 

    There is an Art to keeping people on the edge of their seats, and a Science to persuasion. Wrapped into one, it is called World Class Speaking. You can learn more about how to make yourself understood, gain support for your ideas, to lead and inspire others, by visiting to find out how. 

    William Reed

    • このエントリーをはてなブックマークに追加

    Article Writer

    William Reed

    William Reed is a renowned author-speaker who coaches physical finesse and flexible focus for a creative career path. A certified Master Trainer in Guerrilla Marketing and 7th-dan in Aikido, he combines practical wisdom of East and West to help you learn personal branding at the Entrepreneurs Creative Edge.

    Similar Articles