Words are funny things!
Words are funny things! They are also sad things, happy things, destructive and constructive things, inciting and exciting things, helpful and harmful things. Know what they are not? They are not nothing. “Nothing” is a word, but words are not nothing.
Words are not everything, by any means. Words that are not accompanied or confirmed by action are often hollow, useless, or misleading.
Words that meant a lot to me
Birth of a Preacher
I was a boy preacher. Maybe I was 12 years old…or 13. Not sure which. I had just delivered a sermon to a small crowd on a Wednesday night at my grandfather’s church. I felt pretty low about my delivery that night. I had struggled and I knew it. I felt like a failure and wondered if maybe this was not to be my calling after all.
I had not said anything to that effect to anyone. We were riding home, Dad, Mom, my sister, brother, and me in Dad’s beloved Cadillac, when Dad made eye contact with me in the rearview mirror.
“You have a gift, son.”
My Dad was not one for throwing around compliments or encouraging words willy-nilly – or often at all.
I can still see and hear him say it to this day. The tenderness, love, and sincerity in his eyes at that moment encouraged me like no other.
Think about the word “encourage.” It has “courage” in it. It literally means “to give courage,” to give another strength, confidence, and hope. There is nothing better you can be than an encourager of others.
I believe that.
Death of a Salesman
“You are not a salesman.”
I was only ever fired from one job.
I was a regional salesman for the (Name Redacted) Company, a wholesaler of automotive upholstery materials. This was after I had experienced a horrible, life-altering crash-and-burn ending to the occupational dream I had nurtured since my youth.
After spending a couple of years licking my wounds and trying to regain my balance, I landed this job. (Name Redacted), a self-described salesman par excellence, had built the business from the ground up. He had become one of DFW’s premier suppliers and a recognized name in the industry. He hired me to peddle his wares in the DFW market and in west Texas, which I did.
The funny thing about Mr. Redacted was, he was not selling price, because we were by no means the cheapest outfit. He was not selling quality. We peddled the same materials all of our competitors sold. He was selling Name Redacted. His thing was, we stock more than anyone else and will have what you need when you need it, so buy it from Name Redacted.
That is how I sold it.
I thought I was doing a pretty good job of it. I had breathed life back into a few dormant accounts, landed a handful of new ones, collected some old debt. I was not setting the world on fire, but, hey, I was selling a name. (Redacted). It wasn’t even a unique name. In fact, it belonged to a bona fide asshole who once got miffed because the ladies in the office wanted to celebrate his birthday during business hours.
I remember one Monday morning, I inquired how his weekend had gone. He was a competitive team roper. I found that interesting.
“I don’t want to talk about that. This is bidness. I don’t talk about personal stuff during bidness hours.”
About a year into my tenure and shortly before Christmas, he called me into his office to fire me.
“You are not a salesman. You are not a bidnessman. You will never make it in bidness.”
He said other stuff I do not recall. These are the words that stuck…in my brain, my psyche, my soul, my craw. He spat them out like they were nothing, no big deal.
I swallowed them like gravel.
I guess he was encouraging me to find something I could do because I sucked at ‘bidness.’
I will never forget his words.
My pride, which had already taken major blows in recent years, was once more (and I thought perhaps fatally) wounded.
I was unemployed and Christmas was going to suck…again.
Back in bidness…
Fast-forward about 15 years and a million hard-traveled miles later to a Tricon American Homes company dinner. My favorite Irishman and my boss at the time, Executive VP Alan O’Brien, is introducing me to the president of the company. This is no ordinary company and certainly no ordinary president. He is a giant in the industry, well-respected and that respect, well-earned.
“At first, we were interviewing Gene,” Alan says to the Prez, “And then, he was interviewing us! I knew he was the one.”
And, just like that, Redacted’s words no longer haunted me. That was his opinion and he had every right to be wrong.
It’s only words???
I will remember what you said, whether I want to or not. I won’t forget.
Oh, the words that we remember.
“I love you.”
“I’m proud of you.”
“You will never make it.”
“You are such a loser.”
“I hate you.”
Regrets? I’ve had a few.
I have dedicated my life to crafting words – to inspire, to uplift, to teach, to encourage…
But I have also used words I wish I could retract. I have diminished, damaged, and otherwise discouraged with my words. To borrow from a great lyricist and singer, Tyler Childress, I have fired off words like shotgun shells loaded “with rock salt and nails.”
I regret every misguided, ill-intended, or hurtful word.
But then again, too few to mention.
I think my favorite word is “Doodah.”
When my grandson was an infant, discussions about the grandparent names we would assume were in full swing. I chose “Doodah,” because it was funny.
Hearing my now 16-year-old grandson, the kid who still says “yes sir” to me and is not the least bit embarrassed about his love for his grandparents, call me, without embarrassment, “Doodah,” makes me proud, joyous, and thankful.
Ty David is his name. David is my first name. That his why his mom made it his middle name. We are connected, him and me, by name, by blood, and by a common interest in going together to the odd FC Dallas game, Rangers game, or the occasional 10-mile hike.
Ty is also my favorite philosopher. He was about, I don’t know, seven or so, when he asked me a question and I answered. I do not remember the question or my answer, but I will never forget his response…
“I think that’s logical, but it makes no sense.”
That’s a kid after my own kidney right there.
Let’s hear from you!
May we never be so foolish as to treat the most powerful force on earth as “only words.”
I would love to hear from you, the reader. Leave a response on this blog or on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram. Answer all, any, or one of the following questions:
What – or whose – words most influenced you?
What – or whose – words have most inspired you?
What words most discouraged you?
If you had to choose the most powerful word you know, what would it be?