The Power of Words

On my way to work yesterday morning I was listening to a podcast with Luis Von Ahn, the co-founder of Duolingo among a number of other impressive accomplishments. The interview is over two hours in length and I've only made it through about thirty minutes so far, but I was struck by something Luis said. In discussing his upbringing with Tim Ferris, the interviewer, Luis mentioned what his mom used to say to him growing up. Instead of saying, "you're so smart," or "you're so good at ______," Luis' mother would always say to him, "you worked so hard on that!" He goes on to say, "maybe that's why I'm such a workaholic." I've been mulling over this for a while and how I reacted to similar things being said to me growing up.

To be honest, I would not be surprised if Luis works the way he does because of the words his mother used with him as a child. I remember vividly my parents saying similar things, "Great job, Daniel," or "Good work," or "I'm proud of you for working hard," and even, "you're smart, Daniel," or "you're good at _____," so I had a dose of both kinds of feedback. The part I find most fascinating is the response it has bred in me as I've aged.
Like many millennials I was raised in an environment (more than just parents and a house, but a community in general) that fed me with the thoughts that I was going to be amazing at something and come out of college ready to change the world. I am good at a number of things, but I'm not amazing at anything yet. So many millennials find themselves disillusioned right after college because everything isn't going as they always dreamed.

Life is hard and it takes a lot of work. Consistent effort is required in order to do anything of significance, but we all seem to have forgotten those lessons of our childhood in favor of more romantic notions.

I'm lucky to be one of the few starting to figure this out. Instead of being in love with the end result, and hoping I can jump there immediately, I'm learning to love the process. It takes the form of writing every day, even when I don't feel like it or it seems as though I have nothing to write about. It takes the form of making Vlogs even when I don't want to or feel like no one else in the world cares; it's for me to help myself become a better communicator and storyteller, not to entertain others. It takes the form of racking my brain and resources to figure out how to market a niche IT company to the public when only a specific group of people need our services. It takes the form of making the most of every opportunity regardless of how difficult it is going to be.

All of this to say, your words have immense power over other people, especially those younger than yourself. Be mindful of that opportunity. It should never be abused or ignored, but a instead seen as a privilege.