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To Be More Persuasive, Drop Useless Catch Phrases

There are a plethora of common expressions and catch phrases that we could do withou.

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“What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger” is the title of a Kelly Clarkson song. I cringe every time it comes on the radio, not because the song is so bad, but because the expression has questionable value. Not only is it incorrect, it actually represents misinformation. I’m aghast when authors or speakers use the phrase.

As one firmly ensconced in senior citizenry, I have years of experiences and observations. As such, I feel eminently qualified(!) to call out a plethora of common expressions and catch phrases that we could do without. Why? Upon examination they do not pass muster.

Catchphrases and Expressions  That Add Nothing

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? Worldwide, multi-millions of people are beset with crippling illnesses that have shattered their lives, reduced their economic livelihood, diminished their participation in society, and in some cases left them utterly helpless. The maladies they contracted, or the accidents that befell them, did not kill them, but for legions of people, their encounter did not make them stronger.

If you want to argue semantics and claim that their mental constitution became stronger, or their soul became stronger, we’ll leave that to the philosophers. A stroke doesn’t kill everyone who is afflicted, but those with severe strokes and considerable brain damage in no way are left stronger. Some are helpless for the rest of their lives. Many cannot speak, eat on their own, or handle the simplest of tasks requiring motor skills. How, exactly, does their plight make them stronger?

No More Than You Can Handle?

God won’t give you more than you can handle. This phrase appears in the Bible, but, in its popular use, has a life of its own independent of the biblical reference.

Did God give concentration camp victims no more than they could handle? What about the ones who didn’t survive? Would most adult children of alcoholics, who suffer from severe alcoholism themselves, agree that God won’t give you more than you can handle?

What about a young girl who is raped at age 11, is shattered emotionally, and as she ages finds herself unable to have effective adult relations with men? What about someone whose entire family has perished, whose life savings vanish in an instant, or who suffers from anxiety and depression so severely as to be dysfunctional? Oh, there are pills for that?

Everything happens for a reason. Yes, and the moon orbits Earth. Of course everything happens for a reason, but that doesn’t mean the outcome is beneficial or that the outcome contains lessons worth learning. Cause and effect… great, science works. Is it supposed to be comforting to tell someone who’s suffered a catastrophic loss that everything happens for a reason?

Are we to infer that God is behind each incident, of all eight billion people on earth and, by implication, behind all other incidents impacting intelligent life within our galaxy and the 100+ billion other known galaxies? So, we should be okay with whatever happens?

Poetic Justice as the Norm?

What goes around comes around. Maybe, maybe not. At one time or another we’ve likely all experienced events that partially confirm the validity of the statement, what goes around comes around, but to offer it as an all-purpose maxim? Please.

Tens of thousands of scoundrels and despicable people have plundered the fortunes and stolen the joy, or lives, of others in the course of history. Many such rogues never suffer consequences for their actions, and die in bliss. The global slave trade currently totals in the millions. As an operating principle in the world what goes around comes around is pure folly.

Good things come to those who wait. Waiting, especially in a day and age when everyone is grappling for, say, market leadership, might not be such a good strategy. In personal affairs, perhaps there is some justification for waiting, but in general, as Goethe said, “There is genius in boldness.”

Better late than never. Possibly. If you miss the bus at 1:05, you’ve missed that bus forever. The next bus might come at 1:25, which might be okay if you’re not in a hurry. If you’re late for a job interview, a first date, or any event where punctuality counts, better late than never might prove to be of exceedingly little consolation.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



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Life

Ignore Much of What Pundits Have to Say

Can we be confident in advice we receive from people who have not mastered what they teach?

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When the opportunity arose, I attended a lecture by one of the most well-known authors and speakers in America. I had previewed his CD and read two of his books prior to his lecture; in person, he lived up to my expectations. So, I was intrigued when a friend, involved with bringing this speaker to our area relayed a personal incident to me. 

Directly following the speaker’s presentation, my friend was responsible for driving him to the airport, and accompanying him until his flight departed. That summer afternoon, it was rainy and the skies were dark.

As it turned out, the author was a nervous flyer and took several drinks in the airport lounge prior to boarding the plane.  I found this incident to be amazing because I had so often heard him say things such as, “Everything in this universe is perfect.” It struck me that, in many ways, the speaker wasn’t practicing his philosophy. Nevertheless, all human beings have their faults and foibles and, as time passed, I forgot about the incident.

High-Priced Gurus

One morning, I had the occasion to pick up USA Today. In the lifestyle section, there was a feature on a relationship guru and author of international best-sellers on relationships. She had won the “Oscar” of infomercials, earning $24 million in a single year.  

In this published interview, the reporter asked her why we should listen to a relationship guru who had been married five times. Five times? I couldn’t believe it! She had wedded her fifth husband, some 11 years her junior, only a short time before producing her award-winning infomercial on having a successful relationship. 

In the infomercial, she is featured as having a loving relationship with her husband. Okay, but in no way does the infomercial tell us that he is her fifth husband and that she had married him three weeks ago.

Not Walking their Talk

I had a flash from the past: I recalled the story about the nervous flyer author. Yet, nothing prepared me for the revelations about the relationship guru, a self-proclaimed expert, using the slickest 21st-century marketing available to sell her information and products.  

She was well-versed in her subject matter. Upon hearing her advice, I recognized that it did seem sound. However, the larger issue is, “Can we be confident in the advice we receive from those who have not mastered what they teach, or who do not even remotely walk their talk?”

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Education

Academic Underachievement As a Permanent Condition

Academic achievement occurs through individual effort: One boy and one girl after another rising above

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On the state and local level, as decisions are made about how and in what form we will educate the nation’s children, an age-old issue remains. The underlying causes of income inequality and civil unrest likely has less to do with media-inflamed coverage and more to do with a lingering issue that few people want to earnestly discuss: educational disparity.

In virtually every U.S. school system, the disparity year after year, decade after decade, and even longer, in mathematics competency, reading proficiency, test scores, honor roll status, and graduation rates, between African American students and other students is disturbing.

A Disturbing Reality

Here in the third decade of the third millennium, with a male African American high school dropout rate at 40% across the U.S., can anyone view the situation optimistically? Any responsible American would understandably be concerned.

As Eric Hanushek, who is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, as well as a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, exclaimed “It’s remarkable.” Following his extensive analysis of the situation, he remarked, “I knew that the gap hadn’t been closing too much, but when I actually looked at the data I was myself surprised.”

In one community after another, and one school system after another, when strenuous efforts to bridge the gap do not bear fruit, invariably someone yells “foul,” as if some grand conspiracy is occurring and a magic wand, yet to be waved, could suddenly redress all. And, as if hard-working, dedicated teachers are not attempting their utmost for each of their students.

An Undesired Path

Consider the school system in Chapel Hill-Carrboro, North Carolina. This locale, deemed, “The southern part of heaven,” by a variety of writers, is among the most progressive in the United States. The teachers and educators here have a vested interest in demonstrating that their school system, beyond all others, can succeed in the vital area of closing achievement gaps between whites and minorities.

Nevertheless, year in and year out the gap remains. So, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education becomes primed to try anything! Another in an endless line of supposed “fixes” was to eliminate the advanced math classes in the middle schools and to lump all non-pre-algebra students together, with similar plans to eliminate other advanced classes such as in language arts.

Just as you cannot easily erect a sound building on quicksand, and you cannot expect to solve a decades-old problem by starting with a shaky foundation. Taking a lowest common denominator approach to developing school curriculum has never consistently worked, anywhere. It frustrates the students and dramatically increases a teacher’s burden – all such students must then be taught at individual learning speeds. Do you know any superhuman teachers? If so, could you afford them?

Face the Real Issues

Permanently closing the academic gap between underachieving students and the rest of the student population requires addressing reality – airing the truth about the disparity – not resorting to politically “correct” psychobabble and curricula finagling for another ten years, and then another ten, and then another.

This disparity encompasses such issues as the number of hours the television is on in given households, family or parental encouragement for completing homework assignments, a regular workspace, and established hours for studying in a quiet environment, among other factors.

Until solid analysis, exploration, and programs that address these issues are undertaken, no amount of wrangling with classes will prove to be the “winning formula.” And, school boards will have no chance of effectively addressing the continuing problem of poor academic performance among student groups.

In Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story The Sign of Four, detective Sherlock Holmes says, “…When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” The schools in U.S. communities routinely exhaust talented teachers with a task that cannot be solved by them, nor is it theirs to solve.

Students Eager to Learn

However improbable to those who wish to pretend otherwise, academic achievement occurs through individual effort: One boy and one girl after another rising above and cracking the books, then coming to class as serious students, eager to learn, and primed to excel. Such achievement is not likely to occur any other way.

Otherwise, expect that income inequality and civil unrest will continue for decades into the 21st century.

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