The Weakest Link
The show “The Weakest Link” tapped into a basic human fear of lacking importance and not being good enough to be included in the community. Being the weakest link provides a certain freedom. I know because I am the weakest link.
When I played music for a living, being surrounded by musicians who were better players than me helped the band sound its best. For me there is a freedom in acknowledging the talents and strengths of those around me. It’s good for them to hear the truth, it inspires me to be my best and it’s good for me so that I can focus on my strengths.
The truth is that after working for two decades in financial services, there are still experts in money management, financial planning, estate planning, insurance and tax rules that know more than me. So why not put together a great team and leverage their expertise? Granted, by virtue of being around experts everyday I was able to learn. But I came to the realization that by giving advice in these areas based only on my knowledge, I was denying my clients access to world-class advice and was therefore providing a disservice to them.
That’s why I started our firm in 1999. I felt more needed to be done to help people than what was in the traditional investment firm or financial services company model. Now I am happy to be called the “weakest link” and to run a firm that coordinates a team of world-class experts. There is comfort in being surrounded by people so much better than me at so many things.
Jim Rohn, the inspirational speaker and writer who passed on in late 2009, challenged his listeners, “don’t run with the easy crowd. Run with the people who challenge and inspire you.” Sounds like Jim was a fan of being the “Weakest Link.”
Of course they do. Words are used to create agreements that make fortunes and destroy them. Words are used to create marriages. Words on a page officially end them. The reason the pen is mightier than a sword is because words matter. How we talk to others and to ourselves dramatically impact relationships.
I haven’t personally read the research but it sounds plausible to me: a friend who is a psychologist tells me that the words we say can actually cause changes in our brains, biochemical changes. He says that the language we use can and does change our beliefs.
Words determine the effectiveness of our plans. Weak language yields powerless actions. For robust results we must communicate intentions with purpose.
There are six levels of language used in communicating plans or intentions.
Obligation. “I should exercise more.” This indicates an internal battle is going on and there is tension. It’s as though something outside ourselves is communicating against our will. You know it would be good, but you just don’t want to.
Possibility. “I might do a kickboxing class.” Possibility shifts the focus from external obligation to choice and self-responsibility. Possibilities are a great place to start because they can be energizing and inspiring. The risk with this level of language is that it can seduce you into a false sense of well-being.
Preference. “I would like to spend more time with my family during the week.” Moving higher up the scale adds emotional energy and creates incentives beyond merely considering possibilities. This increases the odds that your words will lead to action.
Passion. “I’d love to learn to speak Spanish.” Chances are that something is going to change in your world when your language gets to this level.
Plans. Creating a plan helps line up possibilities, preferences and passions. Considering resources, factors, timelines and action steps and clearly communicating them with specificity. “I will know that I have achieved my goal of adopting a healthier lifestyle in order lose weight and lower my cholesterol when I have read two books on nutrition, attended exercise classes regularly for three months, lowered my cholesterol below 200 and lost 10 pounds by June 1st.”
Promise. The most powerful language is promise. “I will win the Tour De France.” “I will be on time.” Promise indicates absolute commitment and can help stretch and motivate us beyond our comfort zone.
There is a risk with this level of communication. Unrealistic, excessive or casual promises can degenerate into obligations, frustration or broken relationships if promises remain unfulfilled.
Try noticing as you speak with others what level of language they use when discussing different topics and what levels you use. I’d love to hear your insights.
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Trent O’Connell finished the Canyonlands ½-Marathon in Moab, Utah.
Trent said: “The course was beautiful! I was pleased overall with my time [since] this was my first ½ and at a higher altitude. My two fraternity brothers and I are looking to make this an annual event. You know you are getting old when your “guy’s trip” is a marathon instead of a weekend of no sleep and money not so well spent!”
Way to go, Trent.