it’s not about…

notabout

image by: Hikaru Cho

When interviewed recently, the man releasing to the media private tapes of his conversations with a princess said, “It’s not about the money.”

Have you noticed we say that to cover our tracks when, in reality, that very statement means invariably it really is about exactly that.

“It’s not about me” means “It’s all about me.”

Just as “It’s not about being right.” means “You’re wrong.”

Of course if it’s really not about something, we don’t need to mention it. Why would we?

I don’t sit down to a meal and say, “It’s not about being hungry.” Nor do I get in my car, start the engine and pronounce, “It’s not about going somewhere.”

Reality is often best hidden in plain sight.

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Piccadilly paradox

The other day travel news reported severe delays on the Piccadilly line.

Not in itself unusual.

However, the postscript revealed that the severe delays were due to a shortage of trains.

Where did they go?

Is someone scratching their head, muttering "I'm sure they were there last night"?

Maybe someone forgot to lock the train shed doors and they slipped away for an adventure of their own? Right now, they're chuffing along on the outer reaches of the Metropolitan line – gone for a day out in Amersham.

Maybe someone parked them all in the wrong siding and train drivers are meandering all over Cockfosters calling for their lost trains?… "Fenton!"

Maybe the fat controller said "park them at Harrow" and was misheard? Trains are right now queued up at Heathrow instead.

Anyone seen the trains?

I hope they're found before Monday.

pop my candy

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“Too cold to hold and got to be sold.” he called out.

It drew my attention and my gaze caught his.

“Don’t let dehydration ruin your vacation.” he grinned.

“Can I refresh you today?” he invited as I approached. “Guaranteed to cool you out without a doubt…”

This street trader’s appreciation of the value in selling not the product but the benefits, had won me over in the New Orleans heat of early afternoon. I could sense how it would feel to be refreshed and sated by one of his ice cold drinks. I duly purchased a beverage from the ice filled cool boxes at his feet.

Talking about value, contribution, benefits and outcomes seems effective. Doing so in language that engages the senses, even more so.

What might happen if we adopted this approach in organisations when we discuss people? Not, she’s top talent or he’s well qualified. But, she’ll energise you with a deep passion that washes over you like a wave of effervescent bubbles from popping candy. His courage and insight will inspire you like the view from the banks of the raging Mississippi with all its power and direction in the flush of Spring.

What if?

the ministry of free wifi baptists

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A squint was called for.

Surely it didn’t say that?

“A ministry of free wifi baptists”?

The illuminated sign, beside the steps leading to the building, had the expected proclamation associated with the building’s function; urging, as it did, passers by to heed God’s word. Above that communication, and below its ministerial name, was this strange subtitle.

Now, a few steps closer, all was revealed. As was a small chuckle. To self.

“A ministry of free will baptists”

Strange how our expectations and understanding of what we are seeing are shifted over time. Our presumptions coloured by the language of the day, not those of yester year. Our interpretation directed by the values of that time. Free will lost to the modern vernacular of free wifi.

A sign of the times, or a sign from above?

Something lost and something gained perhaps?

I chuckled again.

 

when the mocha is identical, but not the same…

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This facade was familiar, if a little unsettling. The colonial look unexpected, but befitting the environment of the town and surrounding shops. On entering though, the internals were reassuringly recognisable, for that particular coffee shop brand.

Feeling safe and on solid ground, I approached the young man behind the counter. “I’d like a tall salted caramel mocha please.” I said.

He politely and cheerily replied “Sure sir, I just need to let you know we’ve run out of the usual syrup, so we’ll put in another one. But it’s identical.” He punched some buttons on his display, already in slick, automated drink delivery mode.

“No it’s not.” I said.
“Not identical.”

He paused, holding a cup, looking a little taken aback – possibly not used to a challenge, or to my English humour? He looked a little less certain, but meekly offered, “It normally has toffee nut syrup in, but we can put hazelnut in instead. It tastes just as good.”

“But not identical?” I offered

“No.” he conceded, before asking me my name, to write on the cup which would soon contain my ‘similar’ salted caramel mocha.

The other day I ordered a chilli (chile?) mocha. Medium, this time. The girl taking my order asked, “Hot or cold?”

“That’s sophisticated.” I grinned.

She looked puzzled.

“…to offer different varieties of chillies?” I said.

She laughed. “I meant do you want a hot drink or a cold one? … That’s good though.” she muttered, grinning widely.

Pedantic? Maybe?

I like to think I engaged this young man and woman in some banter. Something to add a little spice to the daily grind of latte, cappuccino, chai tea…

A little variation, a little change, a new reflection, a new awareness, a smile. All good ingredients for drinking in life.

the contradictions of light

sunrise over Niagara Falls

We are fascinated by light.

Our world is governed by it. Sunrise, sunset. Morning, night. Seeing, not seeing. Awake, asleep. Healthy, poorly. Life and death. Light controls our biological rhythms. As living creatures we are inextricably linked to light.

We are drawn to light, like moths almost. Who hasn’t paused to watch the sun rise or set? Who hasn’t marvelled at the richness of colour in that morning or night sky? Glistening dew and its water droplets reflecting sunlight. Sunlight dancing through a wooded canopy. A flash of lightening startling the dark sky.

We use light in idiom too, reflecting the importance of light to us. Idioms like: Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. A guiding light. In the light of… Out like a light. Shed light on. The light dawned. The glint in your eye. Even enlightenment, or seeing the light, to describe finding a connection to something greater.

And we try to replicate light in our manufactured world. Fluorescent light, incandescent light, light emitting diodes, laser lights etc.  We use them to create brightly lit advertising displays, televisions, laptops, mobiles, rooms, houses…

I took this picture of sunrise over Niagara Falls this morning. Somehow, the man-made advertising light on the hotel seemed to destroy the majesty of the sun.

It served as a reminder of our fascination, alongside our abject inability to come close to the wonder of the natural world.

 

the personality of language, with added chocolate chips

illuminateddandelion.com

“How are you today?” seems to be the standard opening gambit here in the USA. Whether it be the local shopkeeper, Alvin at Starbucks, or the unnamed lady in magenta trying to sell me tour tickets.

I have already learned the expected response. It is, “I’m good thank you, how are you?” The ‘good’ in “I’m good…” is presumably a veiled message to Father Christmas, should he be hiding in the bushes? An overly keen attempt to get on to the right list; the list that provides a full stocking, not a sparsely filled alternative in just a few months time?

I, of course, have much to learn colloquially. I have made the apparent mistake of responding, “Cheers!” when given my purchases. I did it to the lady who served me cinnamon scone for breakfast and she looked a little bewildered. I’m told that “cheers” isn’t used in that way here.

Some words have raised importance. Some reduced. I hadn’t expected, for example, my ‘Peachy Pistachio Greek Yogurt’ to contain chocolate chips. But it does. More chocolate chips in fact than peachiness. Sure enough though, a browse of the ingredient list confirms their right to be. Odd not to mention them?

Thankfully, I am yet to be offered a “have a nice day…” as a departing command. Surely, after all, it’s my choice if I wish my day to be nice or not?

I don’t wish to knock America. Merely to point out how language use is very local. The patterns and rituals of language are different. The same words mean different things. Some words are common, some important, some tossed away like chocolate chips at a yogurt factory.

This isn’t just about geography though. Each of us has our own dialect. Favourite words or phrases for us. Words and phrases which cause a shudder, or recoil, when used freely by someone else. Or, words which draw us in, because they resonate with our own sense making and thereby connect us.

Language has personality. It takes on the persona of unique individuals. The persona of family histories. The persona of local dialects. The persona of nation states. The persona of tribes, of cultures, of religions.

We speak who we are.