What’s Your Favorite Word?

wordsRecently, someone asked me, “What’s your favorite word?” I was taken aback; I’d never been asked that question before and I’ve never considered having a favorite word.

When asked about my favorite color (blue) or my favorite composer (J.S. Bach), my answers are at the ready. But, my favorite word? I have to think about this.

I write quite a bit: web content, ad hoc poetry, all sorts of things, so, of course, I’ve developed a diverse vocabulary. The more important questions: Do I need a favorite word? Do I have to choose just one? Can I change my mind, i.e., my word?

I asked a professional editor if she has a favorite word. She responded so quickly that it frightened me. Have I been missing out on something all these years? (By the way, her favorite word is “persnickety.”)

If I decide to settle in on a favorite word, I’m thinking I want it to be something complex, out-of-the-ordinary, even. “Prestidigitation” perhaps? I love all those syllables and it’s so fun to say aloud. Plus, people often ask me what it means, so it can be a conversation starter.

Or, wait! Perhaps my favorite word should be short and simple, going for the “less is more” approach. If I select this route, perhaps I’ll choose “we.” I like the inclusivity of “we,” plus, it steers me away from my natural tendency to assume (wrongly) that I don’t need others to make things happen.

As I’m writing, I’m recalling a book I recently read in which I encountered a word previously unknown to me on nearly every page (and the book weighed in at 600 pages)! Although this made for a slower reading pace, I enjoyed the opportunity to beef up my vocabulary.

Back to the idea of having a favorite word, maybe I will choose one. I could choose something neither too complex nor too simple; something sort of “middle of the road,” yet meaningful to me. Then, I could embed the word in my everyday spoken and written vocabulary. I could make it part of my personal trademark.

What do you think? Do you have a favorite word? Should I get one?

The Nature of Trust

whitetaildeerWhile I was walking in the woods the other day, I chanced upon a family of white-tailed deer. The group of four appeared to be an adult female and three youngsters. Though I’ve sighted many a deer in these woods, on this particularly lovely, crisp fall day, I hesitated far longer than usual.

As I admired the beautiful creatures, I began to think about trust. The deer seemed to trust me. Why?

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”

— Ernest Hemingway

Initially, I remained very still, taking in their beauty. They were still, as well. I shuffled my feet, accidentally, and the four glanced immediately my way, but stayed in place.

I experimented by taking a few, tiptoed steps toward the animals. Though their eyes were all trained on me, for some reason, they trusted me. As I continued my experiment, a few steps at a time, all eight eyes were fixated my way. The deer allowed me to creep within ten feet of them.

Then, another person walking his dog (on a leash, thankfully) appeared out of nowhere. The doe and her three youngsters made a swift exit. The trust I’d slowly built with my new friends was immediately thwarted. All of the progress I had so carefully made vanished.

Luckily, the dog and his master quickly moved on. The deer began to settle down and inch back over my way.

Trust is like that. It takes much longer to build a trusting relationship than to derail it. In a relationship with a customer or a friend, it can take just one wrong move to break the trust.

My walk in the woods reminded me to tread steadily and carefully in my business and personal relationships, taking nothing for granted. It also reminded me to build as much trust as I can “up front.” If I have a strong foundation with my customers or friends, built on years of trust, a slight falter on my part just might go unnoticed.

by Rebecca Cochran

Photo courtesy PDPhoto.org

Walking (and Working) Backwards

Did you ever try walking backwards? I did the other day. Well, not actually walking backwards…Backwards

I take a walk daily. I’ve been doing so since I was a little girl. It feels so good, so natural and it’s such a simple way to exercise my body and my mind.

The other day, on a whim, I decided to start at the end of my usual route and walk from there to where I usually begin my walk. I know…that wasn’t exactly rocket science, but it was interesting to take in everything in reverse, to see the “backs” of things: trees, buildings, signs, everything.

As I “reverse-walked,” I couldn’t help but see things differently. I spied a hidden garden that I’d never noticed before. I saw sunlight glistening on a building, giving it a dazzling glow that I’d been missing all those years I’d been approaching from the opposite direction. And, I couldn’t help thinking that I should walk backwards more often, literally and figuratively.

What might I be missing each time I start a project at “the beginning”? Could I achieve a better result if I started somewhere in “the middle” or, even, at “the end”?

Could I be a better problem solver if I consciously worked backwards? By clearly defining what the end result should be, could I reverse-engineer the steps needed to reach that goal?

Certainly, as a musician, I recall teachers suggesting that the best way to learn a piece of music is to “learn it backwards.” In other words, start from the final measure, then append and learn a few prior measures, little by little, until you find your way back to the beginning. This works particularly well when memorizing anything.

Might I be more creative if I consciously “work backwards” more often? It’s incredibly easy to fall into the habit of sticking to a system, especially when that system has been working well for a long time. If I reverse my creative process, might my results be, dare I say it, more creative?

The simple exercise of taking my walk from “back to front” has reminded me that there is more than one way to approach a problem, reach a goal or generate a new idea.

I need to practice walking backwards more often.

What analogies can you add to this list?

by Rebecca Cochran