I wake up this morning with two words scratching at my throat. I expected one to be frog, but no. I spilled them out, and they stayed there, on my table, watching me! – Success, Optimism – They did not only watch me. They stare at me. They poke me, their front letters pounding on the table.
Can I tell you a secret? But promise me you will share it with as many people as you can.
Words are wild beasts! and in life you have two choices, you can either tame them… or be their prey. I discovered this as a child. I remember sketching words all day long on my notepad, writing their precise taxonomy; colors, noises, herding habits. Collecting words was impossible, they were too many and too much alive… they were French at that time, later on they started to be English, then Spanish… whatever their country of birth is, does not matter! Words murmur, mutter, growl, snarl, roar at times, but they can also sing, curl against you or lick your wounds. They have shapes, coat or fur, perfumes at time… Have you notice that? Have you notice the singing and the perfumes of rain? and how through winter to summer, rain is shedding feathers getting warmer. Now… some words have claws… claws than get really tight around your life -night, fight, frigth, plight. Others are hissing at us -snake, darkness, shadows of blindness… Success. There, it is still staring at me, watching me. How many people do you know are being chased by Success? or trapped in its claws, struggling desperately for more money hoping the bait would be enough to calm the beast. These people, they can’t sleep… they don’t have time for their family… they don’t eat… they’re always on the run, the word circling closer and closer around its preys. Remember, words are wild beast, and in life you have two choices, you can either tame them or be their prey. The thing with words is that they are really good at two things -Priming us -and Imposing their meaning onto us. Out in the jungle, words come with a meaning before you give them one! A spirit of their own. Long ago I attended a creative workshop, and the teacher gave us a simple exercise, to write a text of 500 words starting with ‘he appeared.’ 90% of students wrote about priest, christ, ghost… I was one of the exception starting my text with ‘he appeared at the door with a bouquet of flowers.’ Words are loaded with meaning. Unless you make that meaning yours, they will hunt you. Priming is another fascinating power of words. It’s often a herding habits, when words come together repeatedly. In a US university a group of students was told they were to be tested on their English skills. They were given four words per line and they were to make a three words sentence with those. The true test was actually on how fast they were walking between the door and the elevator when leaving the testing room. Group A of students, having on their paper more than 50% of words linked with old age, walk 25% slower than group B. This is priming, changing your behavior by repeating a set of words to you. This is what our newspapers are doing daily with words like fears, recession, crisis, emigration. This is also what advertisement can be doing, priming you to buy their products.
In mongolia they don’t name horses, they believe once a horse is named it loses some of its spirit and wilderness. How to tame a word? You give it a name. You give it a meaning of your own. For instance, you can take the word as an acronym and build up a sentence from it. That’s called ‘conscious words.’ Look at Success…. there, watching us. We can cage it, just now, and success becomes ‘sharing unexpected creative credible emotional sensible stories.’ Out in the jungle success could run free again tomorrow. It’s okay. Tame it again. Make it yours, make it your pet! What about optimism? ‘ongoing permission to inspire making individual self-motivated.’ That’s an easy one. But remember. Words are wild beast, and out in your jungle you can be their master.
For more tips on “taming a word” check our book Swim Like a Fish, An easy guide to developing your self-leadership
(Aussi disponible en Français Nager Comme un Poisson, un guide facile pour développer votre self-leadership)