I have heard many people use the word cliche. In most instances it was used to describe something marginal. Or, to put something in a negative context. The usual. Boring. Average.
By definition a cliche is: A phrase or opinion that is overused and lacks original thought. Again, seemingly negative, right?
I think what really is lacking with cliche’s is exploration and action supporting them. Let’s flip the script.
About 4 years ago I was approached by my now brother-in-law (My wife’s sister’s husband) and asked if I would officiate their wedding. I was humbled and honored. I was also thinking to myself how was I going to pull this one off.
The first part was easy. Got online. Did a little research. And, Bam. Twenty minutes and 20 bucks later I was official…Rev Ted!
The second part, not so much. What the hell (Rev Ted doesn’t use that word) was I going to say? I took this very serious. I wanted to come up with some profound and original words for these two people, that I loved, on their big day. I iterated, reiterated, and reiterated again. And then I realized that all the lessons were right there before me. Sure, I could put a spin on them or add big fancy words to make myself sound smart, but I did neither. I basically told them not to follow in my foot steps and ignore the profound messages in cliches that could guide and strengthen their relationship. I had done just that until life handed me some of what I have written about in recent posts.
On the day of their wedding I threw on my seer sucker suit, stood before them and advised that they do what most of have failed to do…to find deep meaning in cliches and strive to live them out. I referred to some of the most common:
Money doesn’t buy you happiness (So true…still many if not most still say, “If only I had…”)
Treat others as you would want to be treated. (This may be the hardest of all cliches. Especially if you simply added an operative word…consistently)
Stop to smell the roses. (Are you like me and achieve something in life and move right onto the next thing? Again, we are not good at this in life or leadership)
My obsession with cliche’s was born.
Now pause for a moment. How well are you doing with understanding and living out these three overused cliches? That second one…think deep. Actually, have you ever even truly given thought to how you want to be treated? I, we have work to do. Before we add action we must pause and explore the deeper lessens in these overused phrases. And, that is exactly what I am looking for you to do today.
Today, four years later, I am writing this on a plane coming back from a 5 day stay in France. I was over there for a conference of sorts with my client to help facilitate and present. On the last day I gave a presentation that I called “Be the Cliche Employee”. I think it home with many people as I spoke about:
Finding deeper meaning
Treat others as you would want to be treated.
Seek first to understand rather than be understood.
No question is a dumb question. (This one really brings it home as we have heard this since grade school yet still feel dumb asking questions in certain, or many, situations)
And 5 or 6 more.
I challenged them, called for action and clearly related these cliches to a building and sustaining a more effective, impactful and productive work environment. And thus my exploration of cliches continues.
I apologize that this post doesn’t have a singular lesson. My intent is to put into context why I have mentioned cliches in past posts and to get your mind going a bit. I will dig into individual cliches on separate posts because many of them are worthy of being singled out and explored.
I will end by sharing with you what my last slide of my presentation in France said and looked like.
I clicked my powerpoint point to this slide, turned to the big screen and saw my two boys and could barely talk looking at them. I miss them terribly. I probably didn’t need to say anything more at that moment. My emotion and pride probably said it all. Yet, I ended my presentation by saying that the way to be the best employee is to connect with something (several things) that are much bigger than work. I noted that in no way am I minimizing hard work or true commitment to the company in which you work for, but you will need to be energized and reset after long, stressful days and at times need to feel a greater purpose in why you work. Without this eventually you lose sight and the people around you are affected…period…I see it all the time.
My last words were, “You will not be the best employee you can be unless you connect to something bigger than you…bigger than work. Then and only then will you truly give yourself the opportunity to meet your maximum potential”.
And, I meant it.