Words Matter.

July 14, 2020

Recently, one of my colleagues sent me a musing about his favorite words. I found myself reading it several times and each time it made me smile. It sounded like him. As I read each of the words and his rationale for why he liked it, it was comforting to read – like having a conversation with him yet being inside of his brain while having it. The second part of his post was pondering what other people’s favorite words were – and why. Upon considering the question, here is what I learned:

1.      Language, like so many other things, can be (and probably is for a lot of people) filled with muscle memory. There are many words that I use because I’m just used to using them. And when I stopped to think about my favorite words, the first place I went was the obvious – what are the words I use all the time…I came up with a few (“awesome” being the one that came to me first). Is this a meaningful word to me? Do I consciously think about it and then use it in a sentence at just the right time? NO. It’s just a word I find myself using. Muscle memory.

2.      I believe (and say) that words matter. I feel that very strongly. So then why am I so lazy with this? Why do I let my muscle memory jump in and take over? I think the BLM movement has me thinking right along with the post I already mentioned. I’m quick to judge others when they use the wrong words, and quick to praise when they use the right words…so it became evident that it’s time for me to think more carefully (and slowly) about the words I use in specific scenarios.

3.      With that in mind, below are some of my favorite words that I use thoughtfully. I have also added in some Alicia-isms (as reported by two of my previous colleagues/friends in a 2013 birthday post), because these are things I still say, and I still believe, and I still think matter.

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BrilliantA long time ago a mentor of mine explained that this was a very under-utilized word. There is a story behind it, but suffice it to say, I agree. I use this word now when someone says something that makes a connection for me – that offers an insight that I hadn’t yet seen. It’s a word that when attributed to someone, typically makes them smile and want to say more brilliant things. I savor this word and use it for the perfect situation. And when I do, I love it and usually say it more than once: “that was Brilliant. BRILLIANT”. I’ve been known to explain my fascination with this word during keynote speeches in front of large audiences.

Legacy. This has been one of my favorites for only about 5 years – there is some kind of magic that happens when you turn 50 that leads you to understand the importance of the word and it only gets more focused and urgent over time. To me it is about what you are compelled to leave – your family, your friends, your community and maybe most importantly, this world. I believe if we can get clear on this earlier in life, it might better influence some of the choices we make.

Gift. As in, “What is your Gift?” I use this word to define the thing that you do so well, that comes so easily, that you think everyone can do it and therefore you brush it off without recognition of how good you are. I also think once you can define and refine your gift, it becomes your obligation to give it – not a choice. It can be tied to your legacy (it’s great if they are tied).

NarrativeI think I use this differently than some people. When I speak of narrative, I mean the story you are telling about yourself – both intentionally, and unintentionally. What do specific decisions do to your narrative? How focused can you be on your narrative such that what you want it to be is actually what it is?

Intentionality. I love this one. When you focus so hard on something that when it happens, you are not surprised – in sort of a cosmic way. To me this means when things happen because that’s the way they are supposed to happen. You put something in the universe, and with it you put energy and focus and suddenly it’s yours. It’s similar to my meaning of energy.

Serendipity. Because I love when this happens. The fortunate accident that leads to something wonderful. And because there is a famous ice cream place in NYC called Serendipity where I have beautiful memories with both of my kids.

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Assume Positive Intent.

You Give Life to that Which you Give Energy

Learning is Uncomfortable and Training Doesn’t Work (this is more relevant when you recognize I say it as a Chief Learning Officer having spent about 30 years in the L&D field)

Never run from something, always run to something.

Relationships are where the real work happens

You don’t have to be perfect; you just have to get a teeny bit better every day.

This last one came from the list my friends sent me, and I don’t remember saying it, but I like it…

It’s never good to lose your cool, but sometimes you just have to tell people when they’re acting like assholes.

Please feel free to comment right here or send me a note with your favorite words. I have become fascinated with the whole exercise. My commitment is to be more thoughtful, more intentional with my word choice – because we know how much this matters.

Brilliant. 😊