I was talking to an acquaintance in Toronto when she told me that she had just moved from Sydney and was trying to find a job. She lamented how difficult it was to find work, and I nodded sympathetically. Then she said:
“It’s hard. I wish something would just fall into my lap.”
I noticed that she specifically used “fall into my lap” to underscore this wistful expectation or hope that “something like this would just happen to her.” That happiness will eventually find her and give her exactly what she wants without the work required. It changed my perception of how she approached her job search: there was probably more she could actively do. Industrial fair? Maybe not, but I thought about it when she said that.
That’s the power of language.
The words that we put into our natural vocabulary carry specific meanings, hopes, and dreams that don’t need to be spelled out directly. They open a window into our thought process and worldview. dr Jack Schafer, an assistant professor at Western Illinois University, wrote:
“Certain words reflect the behavioral characteristics of the person who spoke or wrote them. I have labeled these words as word clues. Word cues increase the likelihood of predicting people’s behavioral traits by analyzing the words they choose when speaking or writing.”
Phrases like “fall into my lap” reveal a pervasive, underlying belief that with a little doer attitude and luck, things will sort themselves out somehow; hard effort on your part optional.
And I’ve made it my mission to pick up on those words ever since, and I hear it in everyday conversations with friends:
“Any luck finding what you’re looking for?” “If an opportunity comes knocking on your door, you should open it, duh.” “Wow, you’ve struck gold!” “Fingers fingers.” just got lucky. “Everything will be fine in the end.” “A well-paid job doesn’t just fall out of the sky.”
I call these words “happiness-oriented,” and the twist is that most of the successful entrepreneurs I speak to have almost eliminated these words from their daily conversations.
Because they know that luck plays a tiny part.
Happiness-focused words can be toxic because they undermine the idea of shared hard work and effort. They imply giving up agency and control over certain aspects of your life – like business – and leaving whatever good comes of it to a higher unseen power. We often do not realize that we are saying these words. Worse still, we don’t see how they affect how we behave and how we are perceived.
To use happiness-oriented words, instead of acknowledging that YOU have the power to make the decisions that actually benefit your goals, admit that you wait for things to happen to YOU. You tell the world and yourself that you don’t have to drive the car. you stay behind thanks
If you want to eat healthier, you need to make conscious choices to eat healthier, e.g. B. Cooking at home instead of ordering takeout. Anyone looking to save for retirement must make a conscious decision to open and contribute to a 401k. These don’t happen by accident or because you were “lucky”.
Of course, no one really believes that good-paying jobs will “fall from the sky” or that “opportunity will come knocking.” We just love using happiness-focused words to keep hope alive for a number of reasons:
We’re Disillusioned With “Success Porn”
Incredible against all odds success stories are endlessly paraded in the media. We hear from those who have “lost their luck” and somehow – with the vaguest of details – turned things around. Now they are more successful, richer, fitter, in a happy relationship and so on.
The common narrative paints an unrealistic picture of how success comes about and what it takes. But the message that’s easily overlooked is this: These people aren’t just lucky, they’re die-hard AF.
Wayne Gretzky’s famous saying “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” comes to mind. But what is NOT said – just implied – is that you have to make a TON OF SHOTS first, and eventually you might get lucky. If you look behind the scenes of these success stories, you’ll see a much more boring, truer topic: resilience, aka lots and lots of missed shots, and the will to keep going.
JK Rowling was rejected by 12 publishers before Harry Potter was finally released, making her a bajillionaire. It took Tim Ferriss 26 hits before 26th Publishers accepted his manuscript for The 4 Hour Week. Babe Ruth had a staggering 714 career homers but also had 1,330 strikeouts.
As I wrote in another GrowthLab post, luck isn’t so much “luck” as it is a probability that if you hit enough pucks at the keeper, even if your aim sucks, one will eventually go in. But you have to make sure that you keep taking those shots. So make the decision to send out those coffee meeting requests, come up with new business ideas after the last four failed, write those blog posts that probably no one will read at first, launch those products and new to start – just keep stopping.
We don’t want to be personally responsible for not “making it”.
I like to take the IDEA of hard work with me to a nice steak and candlelit dinner, but in reality I often want to take it outside with a baseball bat and bang on it.
Struggling to learn a new skill, understanding an esoteric concept, racking your brain for a solution when something doesn’t work, doing these things most of the time just isn’t fun. Hard work is hard, yo. But what’s even worse is working so hard and having nothing to show for it.
What would our friends and family think? Worse, what would we think of ourselves? (That we’re a sucka, that’s what.)
Depending on luck, taking the helm means never having to admit to things that aren’t happening in our favor. It allows us to shift responsibility and guilt onto those in power so that we can shrug and say, “Well, these are the breaks,” when in fact we may not have been working hard. Or do whatever we can to work toward what we always talk and dream about. And that’s hard to admit.
I touched on this idea in another article: We say we want a thing, but our actions and choices don’t fit that cause.
The faster we realize that we are capable of making decisions and taking matters into our own hands, the faster we can actually get what we want.
We feel like we “deserve” things
On Facebook, I often get updates from friends getting job offers (or new jobs), breaking certain sales goals, or generally doing AWESOME things, and I’m happy for them. Inevitably, there was a message of congratulations along the lines of “Keep it up! You deserve it!”
puke. “Deserve” is such a misleading word.
“Deserve” implies inevitability. “Universe, I’ve done my part just enough, thank you. Now you have to make yours.”
Except it doesn’t work that way. There is no magical tipping point where the gods owe you. There is no such thing as a work ethic bank account that you can pull from the moment it’s positive. Life is less accurate than that.
Think of the most successful companies of our time: They are successful because they bring so much value to the world. Not “just enough”. But overwhelming amounts. Steve Jobs changed smartphones (and pretty much all technology) forever. Oprah inspires millions and provides a platform for others to be heard (and has been for decades).
Chris Rock’s scathing comedy covers big, important issues like politics and race, and here he makes this point about “deserving” things just because (warning: explicit language ahead):
Find out what value YOU can consistently and overwhelmingly bring to the world rather than what the world can give you, like you deserve a trophy for showing up occasionally. That’s not really how things work. Good things only happen after you’ve provided amazing value to the world — and you’d feel good about it, too.
In a world where happiness can play a small part, offering immense value to the world is one of the best ways to create your own happiness.
“Often you will find that the harder you work and the smarter you work, the happier you are. But there is luck, and it helps.” — Neil Gaiman, author