Tuesday, April 9, 2013

“We strive to be vague”

In the 1976 Film The Outlaw of Josey Wales, Lone Watie, the old Cherokee Indian chief tells Josey about an Indian Leaders’ meeting with the Secretary of the Interior. The Secretary told them how ‘civilized’ they were and encouraged them to ‘endeavor to persevere’. Lone Watie and his Indian leaders were struck by the vagueness of such a phrase. They “thought about ‘endeavor to persevere’ for a long time. And when we had thought about it long enough, we declared war on the union.”

It’s one of my favorite scenes from the movie. I love how the ‘white man’s language’ can come off as immensely vague and non-committal. After all, what does ‘endeavor to persevere’ mean? It means, ‘try to get through whatever it is you have to get through’.  That’s pretty wishy washy advice, not at all a compelling statement of support.

Lawyers may be the best at writing in vague terms. Take for example the ubiquitous use of the word “strive” on law firm websites, a personal pet peeve of mine. “We strive to give our clients the best legal advice”. “We strive to be committed to client service”. What does ‘strive’ mean? It means you try. Good for you! You are exactly like everyone else ‘trying’ to do what’s right. ‘Strive’ is one of those loop holey words that won’t come back to bite you. So, it gets used a lot. “Hey, we only said we’d try. We never said it was what we do”.

Professionals who don’t take a stand, who don’t make a compelling commitment and who don’t follow through on their commitments, are destined to go through their careers swimming in the pool of mediocrity and under-achievement. Eliminate those wishy washy, loop holey words from your vocabulary and make compelling statements backed by a commitment to do as you say. I don’t want a doctor to ‘try’ to fix what ails me. I want her to cure me. I want my lawyer to fix my problem, too. Not just ‘strive’ to fix it.

If you’d like me to strive to fix problems, don’t hesitate to call at 502-693-4731. You’ll find I’m an eager resource and that it costs nothing to talk.

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