Too often, the words we use tell a hidden – an incorrect – story. Certain words are loaded with preconceptions that may inhibit our ability to win, grow, and thrive. Nine such words have long bothered me, having witnessed their ability to block potential and dampen enthusiasm.
Let’s look at these eight trigger words, and explore how a redefinition of each can be liberating:
- Incremental. In business settings, this word is scoffed at. It’s the Diet Coke of breakthrough, some puny change that falls short of recognition. This not only dissuades us from looking for small wins, but also makes seeking wins that matter seem out of reach. Let’s flip it and realize that micro-improvements can add up to massive progress. An incremental gain is still a gain that deserves recognition.
- Entrepreneur. I hate the implication of some elite club that forbids access to most people. The picture of sipping tea on a scenic patio while wearing white gloves is about as far as you can get from what an actual entrepreneur does. In fact, we all can be entrepreneurs of our own lives, careers, and communities. Further, it is more about scrappiness and grit than privilege and polish.
- Innovation. The granddaddy of loaded words, this one feels totally inaccessible for anyone that isn’t wearing a lab coat or a hoodie. Truth is, we can all be innovative in our own ways. You can make an innovative sales call, deliver an innovative report, send an innovative email. Yes, innovation still counts even if it doesn’t change the world.
- Creatives. Ah… the “creatives.” Those mysterious people on the sixth floor who have tattoos and earrings. The erroneous implication here is that some job functions require creativity while others don’t. Hogwash! In today’s competitive environment, creativity is part of the job responsibility for every role, title, and position.
- Qualified. If success only came to the ‘qualified’, how could three college dropouts – Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Steve Jobs – create companies worth $1.35 trillion, $554 billion, and $1.26 trillion respectively? Don’t let a lack of any external qualifications get in the way of pursuing your calling. Instead, use internal qualifications such as tenacity and persistence to seize bold opportunity.
- Can’t. If it can’t be done, why even bother? The problem is, “can’t thinking” is almost always proven wrong by those who ignore the very concept. Reminds me of an ancient Chinese proverb: “Man who says it can’t be done, should not interrupt man doing it.”
- Ready. We’ve been taught to never begin a pursuit until we’re fully ‘ready.’ But that well-intended advice becomes an excuse to never start at all. Instead, let’s start before we’re ready and figure it out along the route. It’s the only way progress is ever achieved.
- Expert. Another loaded word, an ‘expert’ is not what you think. We imagine a knowledgeable, all-knowing guru but instead we often find someone who learned a lot in the past but may be stuck in their ways. People who think they have all the answers can close their minds to new possibilities. Experts protect the past, yet rarely create the future. Remember, experts built the Titanic while an amateur built the arc.
It’s time to remove the biases and hidden stories in our language. When we change the words, we can change the world.