A Short List of “Sadly Magic” Words
Hopefully you were taught and continue to use several “magic” words; words like “Please” and “Thank you.” They are magic because they help others know that you care about them.
However, there are several negative “magic” words, too, which continually fail to produce good results. Eliminate or reduce the use of these words from your vocabulary. Take time to think about each of these. Think about how easily they come to mind and why.
I doubt that any of these ideas are original with me. Maybe YOU have a few to add (I do, too).
1. CAN’T. Anything which someone has already done successfully is not impossible. Amazingly, every great achievement started with someone asking the right question, “How can this be done?” I cannot think of a single worthy achievement that was started with “I can’t.” Asking the right question is essential to finding the correct answer, just as making the right statement is essential for determining the value of the actions taken. I failed one graduate exam because I misunderstood the instructions. The professor said his tests were not hard. I heard that. What I missed was his explanation that he only asks 3 questions…and the students are allowed 3 hours to answer. When I re-took the course the NEXT year I was much more informed and was one of only 2 who received a top grade. My original failure was not because I could not do the work, but because I misunderstood the instructions.
2. MAYBE. (used in place of an affirmative or a negative … “yes” or “no”) Too many use this word as a lazy way to get out of saying “no,” or to get out of making a commitment. I never allow myself to be “maybe hostage” to anyone. My response: “Then, I will assume your answer is No.” Real passion does not allow an exit door. We avoided using this word with our children. They needed to know that when we told them the plan it was THE plan. Our children were not needlessly and cruelly disappointed. They knew we were people of our word. We could be trusted. Better to think it through before raising hopes OR dashing dreams.
3. UNPREPARED. Whether in business or in personal life it is good to plan for negative and positive outcomes. As a former business owner I helped plan for market downturns, lawsuits, and other emergencies. We also hired “ahead” of need. If you wait until you need an employee, you cannot afford the time to properly train that person. Why needlessly create your own profitability bottleneck? We had systems in place to help us deal with each possibility. Up to 1/3 of businesses go bankrupt in major downturns. We knew we would not. As an example: When COVID mania hit you could neither find masks NOR toilet tissue at the stores. People panicked. Some started buying up every mask and roll of TP available. Anyone who already had a supply of TP BEFORE the panic began were called “hoarders” by those who were unprepared. Suddenly, being prepared was “evil.” BUT having a TP supply was far different from having a mask supply. My family always had extra essential supplies*. Growing up, stores in our small town were not open 24/7/365. Snow storms, flooded roads, the flu, and electrical outages were common enough. As a result, when COVID hit our household had 2 months of TP … because we were prepared for known emergencies. It doesn’t have an expiration date and it will be used, so we always bought it when it was on sale. Masks had not been essentials and we had only a few of those in our supply cabinet. Until that point it would have been weird to have a significant supply of masks. So, why were BOTH out of stock at the store? Masks I can understand, but lack of TP was the result of poor personal planning. A positive solution is to think ahead and prepare for commonplace emergencies and opportunities BEFORE they happen.
*Before jumping on me for not considering that the poor who cannot have extra…I was not talking to THEM, but you.
4. DESERVE. People seldom “deserve” anything they have not worked for. Even our “rights” did not come naturally. It took thoughtful and intelligent people months to draft the Bill of Rights as an addition to our Constitution. Women were not even allowed to vote until early last century. It took hard work and persistence to grant that right. Prisons are full of people who thought it would be easier to steal their way to wealth. Apparently theft is not as good of a career move as they thought. Don’t let marketing agents or politicians fool you. You are NOT that special. You do not deserve a living wage as a participation award. You do not deserve a loving mate. It takes innovation, planning, and hard work to achieve what you desire in these and many other issues of life. You prefer a happy life? It is not a gift. Happiness is not guaranteed. It must be pursued and won through determined effort.
5. CHOICE. Many feel they are making thoughtful choices, when their decisions in important areas of their lives have no basis in fact. Humans have incredible biases. One great bias we all should work to overcome is that our own beliefs are correct, even when proven wrong. As one simple example, I hear many young folk (and some older ones) say they are going to move in with a girlfriend/boyfriend rather than marrying because half of marriages end in divorce. It sounds like a studied, unbiased choice. It isn’t. Fact: People who marry without living together first have a 62% chance of enjoying a life-long partner (they live longer and more likely to report that they are happy, too). Fact: People who move in with someone they do not intend to marry have about an 11% chance of enjoying that person as a life-long partner. Marriage is almost 6x more likely to have good results than merely living together without the prospect of matrimony. The point is not about morality, but truth. If you are going to make an important decision you should first study the issue thoroughly. Ignorance CAN harm you. You should only use this word “choice” when you KNOW the facts and have logically eliminated “my opinion is right” bias. It is nearly impossible to make a wise choice on biased opinions.
Ford Motor Company made an unwise decision acquiring Jaguar because they did not know anything about its profit margin (it was barely breaking even at the time). They merely assumed (bias) that Jaguar was highly profitable since it was a well-known luxury car business. According to at least one analyst, they lost perhaps a billion dollars trying to make it profitable.
There are more.
… to name just a few.
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