Quotes and Clichés — Challenge Them!

Posted on March 3, 2011


Do you remember a quote or cliché you heard when you were growing up that made an impression on you? I remember lots of them. For example, “You’re going to poke your eye out … ” if you did something or another, or when you crossed your eyes, “They’re gonna stay that way if you keep it up.” On the contrary, I never poked anyone’s eye out (although I was tempted to at times and occasionally still am) and my eyes never stayed crossed.

How about, “So-and-so is old as dirt,” or the more recent quote,” You are what you eat?” Does that mean if I eat buffalo, I am one, or if I eat a fish, or a crab … um, I mean a fish or a lobster? Don’t get me wrong, I agree with the intent, just not with the meaning at face value.

Mom and Dad Sayings

And what about some of the other quotes and clichés mom and dad used, such as:

  1. Beds are not made to be jumped on. (We all now know that is not true.)
  2. Don’t go outside with a wet head, you’ll catch cold. (Tried that to get out of school one day, and all I got was a wet head.)
  3. This hurts me more than it hurts you. (I NEVER believed that one for a minute.)
  4. Somebody opened the gate. (We lived on an Air Force base near the front gate when I first heard my mom use this expression. I took it literally.)
  5. It’s not over till the fat lady sings. (Never knew a fat lady, except my mom — God rest her chubby soul — and she never sang, so I thought “it” probably would never end.)
  6. So-and-so kicked the bucket. (Didn’t understand why anyone would do that.)

Kids are literal, so I’m sure we all had the same kind of thoughts about these expressions when we heard them growing up. I bring these up to make a point. Just because someone in authority says something, doesn’t necessarily make it true.

Challenge the Process

Jim Kouze and Barry Posner authored the book The Leadership Challenge where they noted five common practices exhibited by leaders who achieved extraordinary things. The third practice is “Challenge the Process.” But how do you challenge the process? That is a “loaded question” (‘nother cliché). It holds a lot of weighty meanings and takes courage to implement them.

Some applications might be:

  • Don’t accept things at face value.
  • Just because a process is in place, doesn’t mean it works or can’t be made to work better.
  • Your boss said, “That’s the way it is,” but you feel it doesn’t have to be. (It takes great courage to challenge this process and wisdom to know how to do it effectively.)
  • Everyone says, “It can’t be done.”

Be Brave

If we want to achieve certain things in life, we must be brave enough to challenge the process. One process I challenged was the fear that I could not break into writing and make it my profession. When I first started five years ago, there were very few websites that hosted legitimate freelance writing jobs. It took me months to find them. Now, they are as ubiquitous as advertised in-house positions.

My Own Experience

One thing that kept me going was the fact that I could not find another IT project manager position. At that time, the job market was flooded with them due to the tens of thousands of layoffs from Sprint (where I worked), AT&T and other large corporations. So, I continued to pursue writing.

Even though I had years of technical writing experience as an IT project manager, I had no practical freelance writing experience. But I continued to refuse the cheap-paying writing jobs companies kept offering me.

Just when I thought I was going to have to rethink my strategy, I was contacted out-of-the-blue by a company to which I applied months before. It was my first freelance writing job, and they paid me $35 per 500-word article. I held out for a decent-paying writing job … and I got it! I was ecstatic.

I felt encouraged that I made the right decision. Then, I got a job that paid me $2,000 per article working for an investment company. By that time, I was convinced I was on the right track.

I’d like to say things continued at that same pace, but jobs come and go. Companies typically only need a limited number of articles, and then they don’t need you anymore (although, I still write occasional, ad hoc articles for some early companies). You must maintain habits of finding good work and keeping your name prominent in social websites, so that companies contact you.

Bottom Line

We all must continue to challenge the process in our lives, to go beyond what we think we can do and what we think our limitations are, to question the quotes and clichés and not allow ourselves to be limited by the opinions or statements of others. Vince Lombardi said it best: “The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.”

Let’s put our strengths and practical knowledge into action, then we WILL see progress and success in our lives. Do you have a story that applies to this principal? If so, please share it with us.