Last week, I wrote a BLArticle™ that took me longer to write than any other BLArticle™ I’ve written in the past two years. There were so many lessons in the Jeremy Lin story; I wanted to get it just right. Well, I almost did, but one word seemed to throw the message off a bit. I used the word, “hero,” to describe Jeremy Lin, and I used it to describe Seabiscuit as well. A friend of mine, who not only reads my weekly BLArticles™ but also frequently comments on them, posted this response:
“I don’t believe the word “hero” is quite correct – I would say that Jeremy Lin and Seabiscuit are more “inspirations” then heroes. They excel at their jobs. I excel at mine, but I don’t consider myself a hero. You excel at yours… do you consider yourself a hero? Our men and women in the military, the police, firefighters, EMT’s, all of our folks on the front line… THEY are heroes.”
How can you argue with that logic? I went back and edited that BLArticle™ to fix my oversight, and to show respect to those who are true heroes. True heroes like my father, Lee Jolles, courageously fought for our country in not just one, but two wars in two wars – Now Lee Jolles was a hero.
Sometimes it’s difficult to find the right word, but that doesn’t diminish how important the right word can really be. A couple of days ago, I went with my wife Ronni to grab a quick dinner at the Silver Diner restaurant. I don’t know why, but I was craving a biscuit, and if you have ever been to Silver Diner, you probably know why. The biscuits there are fresh and fluffy, and if you are going to splurge on a biscuit, this is the place to do it!
It’s not necessarily good for you to eat these biscuits all the time, and for me, it had been a few years since I had one. When my biscuit arrived at the table, I took a big bite with great anticipation. It was neither fresh, nor fluffy. I didn’t think it was possible to have your heartbroken over a biscuit, yet there I was, wallowing in my broken and stale biscuit. When the waitress came over a few minutes later and asked her obligatory “how’s everything” question, I could not hold back. “Well, my meal was fine, but, well, it’s this biscuit. It was my first biscuit here in years, and it was stale.”
Expecting an apology of some sort, I received something else that was a bit unexpected. I received a different word. “You mean crispy! Sometimes our cooks like to give those biscuits a soft top, and keep the bottom nice and crispy.” Then she looked me straight in the eyes and smiled.
Please understand that both of us knew the biscuit was stale, but that one word, along with that smile, made me smile. Then it made me laugh. I went from being disappointed to being entertained. One word salvaged the biscuit, the meal, and a full tip for our waitress. As a matter of fact, I found her description of my long-awaited biscuit so entertaining that I gave her a higher tip than usual. She earned it.
As a Xerox salesman, we were taught to never use the word, “cheap,” and we didn’t allow our clients to use it either. When we heard a prospect say, “We’re just looking for a cheap machine,” we would swoop in with a couple of words of our own: “By ‘cheap,’ I’m assuming you mean ‘cost effective?” It was hard to argue with that logic, and most prospects would immediately nod sheepishly. Xerox equipment was never going to be “cheap” equipment, but “cost effective?” You bet. Now we had a couple of words we could work with.
Too often, we might choose the wrong word and we can lose a meaningful moment. By the same token, we can find the right word, and make a moment inspiring. It might be worthwhile for us to take that extra moment to look for the right word… even for those of us who may be writing a BLArticle™.