There is no doubt. Short words have a power that long words do not. Phrases with short words stick in our heads. We repeat them back – they touch us because we know what they mean. It’s not just the stuff of the big speech – always best spoken simply: “New Deal”; “Peace in our Time”; “Don’t ask, Don’t tell”; and “Yes, we can” – but of the best ads too: – “Just do it”; “The King of Beers”; and “It’s the Real Thing.”
Too many of us hide behind long words. It gives us short-term power over others – and we assume that others admire us for “knowing” more than they do. They don’t. How can they if they don’t know what we’re trying to say?
My plea to you, when you write, blog, or speak today is to drop all long words for short ones, the sort used by most people. See if you can get through the day doing this. You won’t be able to, but you will learn a lot if you try. Look into the eyes of those you try to reach and you will know straight away that you need never use a long word again when a short one will do.
(PS Every word in this article has only 1 or 2 syllables. Except that last one…)
My favourite part of the Monty Python classic, The Life of Brian, finds its hero addressing his adoring crowd. “You are all individuals!” he shouts. The crowd responds, together and in unison: “We are all individuals!” except for one man in the crowd, who mutters: “Well, I’m not!” It is 35 years since The Life of Brian came out and yet only now can we really say we ARE all becoming individuals at work. That it has taken so long is the stuff of Python-esque farce, though not nearly as funny.
The Harvard Business Review carried an article by Marcus Buckingham questioning the enduring monolithic delivery models of learning. We have come to expect highly personalised consumer goods, so why have we been so slow to change when it comes to learning in business? I couldn’t agree more. Much of the content we deliver for learning along with our colleagues at 10Eighty has become highly tailored. Technology has allowed the innovative businesses I work with to deliver specific material to the needs of individuals, usually without the need to enter a classroom at all.
While many of us can see an evolution in the way learning is delivered, far less well understood is the way in which learning is received. For we now live in the age ofcollaborative learning – where the best learning often takes place in a social context, with a heavy emphasis on sharing. We only need to look at the collaborative electronic games our children play to know this type of learning is here to stay. Many businesses are taking an enlightened interest in this approach and it’s easy to understand why. Sharing knowledge, ideas and problems is crucial to individual and collective development. For a start, the act of simply talking about the challenge takes us closer to the solution. We have probably all felt clearer about challenge just through writing it down, talking about the task ahead and hearing the responses of those around us.
Collaborative learning may be easier to embed in some business cultures than others. Even in the latter, though the pragmatism of money, time and quality is now driving the decision. It is becoming tougher for us all to be physically in one place to address a challenge, so the technology and software that underpins collaborative learning is now coming to our aid, giving us the chance to meet and share knowledge, insights and ideas more effectively in our own time and at our own pace. So, in spite of what the Life of Brian dissenter thought, we really are all, finally, becoming individuals now…
I’ve been running my business for 3 years now. During the first year I was driven by fear of failure – the fear of not being able to survive and put food on the table. I worked hard – and the failure never came. I surprised myself – I earned more and enjoyed myself more than ever.
In Years 2&3, I still felt fear, but now it was the fear of success. It’s the fear that many of us don’t own up to, but which is holding so many of us back. We are not supposed to be afraid to succeed, but the truth is that many of us are. Psychologists explain that we associate the excitement of success with the same reaction to trauma, so we subconsciously avoid subjecting themselves to such excitement-inducing circumstances. People are also often conditioned to believe the hope of successmeans risks – and risks are the precursor of disappointment.
As I approach Year 4, I have overcome my fear of success. I’ve outflanked it by doing these 3 things:-
- Review the positive events in your day, every day. Many of us focus on the things that went wrong, when in truth so many things went right. When you start to think like this on a daily basis, the negative bias in your mind soon begins to dissipate.
- Tackle fears of uncertainty feeling out of control by telling yourself to focus not on the uncertainty that rapid success brings but instead on the values you practice in business each day – known commonly as doing the “right thing”. Focus on a good process and the end-product usually takes care of itself.
- Think about why you do what you do at least once a day: not the responsibilities, but the bigger purpose. A small amount of time each day on this will help you save lots of time through excellent decision making.
Ask yourself honestly whether you are actually afraid of success rather than failure. If you are, then it’s time to get to work and break down the barriers that hold you back.
You may be feeling frustrated this morning, perhaps even a little angry. You may not be making progress with a project, or perhaps your colleagues are starting to annoy you. Often, you may not even know precisely why you’re frustrated. It doesn’t matter – let’s deal with it now. I get as frustrated as anyone else, but I try to deal with it effectively through 3 simple steps.
Outcome. When frustrated, I take a step back and ask myself a simple, forward-looking question: “What are we are trying to achieve?” You’re probably further down the road than you realise. It is easy to get wrapped up in a particular challenge without thinking of the progress already made. Avoid questions that keep you in the past, such as “Who is to blame?” or “How did we get into this mess?” Instead ask yourself “What is working?”, “What needs to change?” and “How do we get there?”
Attitude. I know it’s difficult, but attempt to strip the emotion out of the situation. Criticism from others, for example, is felt far more personally than intended by others. Instead, think about the positives in feeling frustration – we have all experienced “light bulb” moments through brainstorming challenges, shortly after experiencing the biggest doubts. You need to experience frustration to appreciate progress.
Simplify. The best answers are very simple and very often exist within the knowledge of you and your team – you just don’t know what they are yet. It’s tempting sometimes to look beyond the obvious to an attractive but complicated solution or get bombarded by (or even seduced by the comfort of) clutter, noise and distractions. Remember that frenzied but unfocused activity is an inadequate short-term substitute for achievement.
My advice is to remove all the clutter and strip a problem down to its essentials before moving forward again. So focus on the outcome, adopt the positive attitude and simplify the challenge. Do this and you are already well on the way to moving beyond frustration and on to something much, much better.