Rudyard Kipling nailed it he said that “words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”

Words and their meanings get us as high as the stars, and can just as easily undo us into a thousand flakes.

The words that sit upon my tongue are different to the ones on yours. They might sound the same, but to each of us they taste entirely different. The flavour of them, their meanings, will differ, even when definitions are identical.


How does that list of words taste to you? What’s the meaning hidden below the shapes and sounds in which they take form?

Sometimes the word comes first, other times the meaning.

We have a feeling and we try to find a word that’ll suit. We then tie that word to that feeling, and if that feeling is tied to an action or event, then it’s a third knot in the rope.

More practically – if we have a series of bad clients, ones we’ll call “crappy”, then we’ll start to see the work we do, or perhaps where do it, as “crappy”. How can we not? We program ourselves by walking into an office daily and go “ugh, crappy client, crappy work, crappy day.”

Even after those poor clients are gone, we’ll still have tied that word, that emotion, that meaning, to our workplace.

Walking into a crappy job in a crappy office isn’t a good way to start a day, is it?

These meanings come from experience. For the most part, the first, or perhaps most dramatic, experience we had in which we found a need to package it up quickly and easily, in something as versatile and as compressing as a single word.

We have thousands of words like these. Each helping to define our days, our actions, our opinions of ourselves and of others.

We rarely challenge those meanings, nor the moments we tie those words to.

Such idleness often provides us misery.

If we allow those flavours on our tongues for too long, it’ll be near impossible to cleanse our palette.

If we spend too long thinking that we’re lousy creatives we’ll disregard any opportunity to grow. We won’t grab onto it and make it our own with an encompassing glee, simply because we’ll be whispering, just loud enough for it to travel to our own ears, “why bother?”

Using New Words To Get Better

But we can change our outlook on our careers and our work and our own abilities by changing a few words around.

It’s not a quick fix, and it’s not magic. You aren’t going to suddenly become a good designer simply because you keep telling yourself you’re a good designer. Nor are you going to fix a broken situation because you change the words you use to describe it.

But what if you simply said you were a developing designer? A student designer? An energetic designer? These are the kind of words you can keep secret; a little language just for you.

Those are better than saying you’re an untalented designer, a failed designer, an embarrassed designer.

Instead of feeling discouraged when a client rejects a pitch, feel setback at worst, but work towards feeling challenged. A failure is a chance to learn, it’s an opportunity.

Embarrassment is a reminder that you have energy enough to care, which means you have energy enough to laugh and grow.

You’re not shown to be ignorant of a topic, you’re gifted with an opportunity to grow.

What’d You Say?

It starts with nothing more than some attention. A kind of mindfulness that raises a flag when we start using the same words over and over, especially when certain moods are kicking around with them.

If we looked at our weak spots as places to happily develop and work on, instead of, well, weakness, we can start to do things we didn’t think we’d ever achieve.

Don’t say “I can’t” when “I can’t, yet” gives you a reminder that action is needed.

If we did so and put in a level of stoic work that Seneca would be proud to witness, we’ll find life a lot easier and happier.

What about you?

How do you define who you are and what you do? How do you define your work today within the context of the work you’ll do for the next 12 months? Or if you’re brave enough, then next 12 years? What words do you use when thinking on these scales and how does using such words impact you today?

Do you have definitions? It’s ok if you don’t – I didn’t until recently.

“Craft” is a big one for me at the moment, what it means to others and what it means to me are things I’m constantly thinking about. It’s a word I’m starting to wrap like a ribbon around my thoughts and actions.

My craft. There’s something powerful in that word for me. That silly little world. And you’ll start to see it come up a lot more.

Thinking about those kind of words and what they mean to me has given me insight into my values. I find myself holding a new compass, one that points in a direction I could only vaguely sniff at before.

All because I started to ask myself what the words I use really mean.