Words can unlock power, purpose and success

Will everyone who is weary of the negativity, bickering and disrespect that is rampant during this election season please raise your hand? Wow! It looks like you're doing a coast-to-coast wave!

Great news -- there's a terrific book that can restore your faith in humanity and help you discover your own purpose through the power of words. Kevin Hall's "Aspire" is one of the most positive, encouraging books I have read in years. And I urge you to spend a couple of hours with it, too.

Hall is a leadership trainer and business consultant. He became interested in the deeper power of words during a chance meeting with an Indian shopkeeper in Vienna who shared a "secret word" -- "genshai." The shopkeeper explained that genshai means that "you should never treat another person in a manner that would make them feel small."

Intrigued, Hall says he found in those words a profound yet simple lesson: "One word could change the world for the better. Words are like passwords. They unlock the power. They open the door. Genshai. That single word contained as much depth as any lesson or sermon I had ever heard."

Others reinforced Hall's conclusion, and along the way he learned that all words have secrets. He writes at length about his conversations with Dr. Arthur Watkins, a retired university professor who devoted his life to etymology, the study of words.

Hall shared his fascination with words and their power, and explained how he wanted to learn about the secrets of words and how they might help people lead purpose-filled lives. Watkins responded with the origins of the word "leader," finishing with the notion that "being a leader means finding the path, but before you can help someone else find their path, you must know yours."

Hall says: "In one short visit my new teacher revealed that words, all words, have an essence, and by understanding that essence, we are in a position to be able to use them to light our paths."

In all, Hall identifies the 11 words that he believes can light the path to lifelong success. I won't spoil your reading by mentioning them all here, but I absolutely agree with his word choices. As a professional speaker and author, I understand very well the power of the words I choose and their impact on the people who read or hear them.

As Hall says, "If it's true that a picture is worth a thousand words, it's also true that a word is worth a thousand pictures." He cites a brilliant example in the "Inspire" chapter with a story about the late Art Berg.

Berg was an inspirational speaker and author whose books include "The Impossible Takes a Little Longer." He was invited in 2000 by Baltimore Ravens Coach Brian Billick to talk to his team before a day of grueling training camp practice. The players were accustomed to hearing motivational speeches to help them play at the top of their game, but when Berg entered in his wheelchair, they were unprepared to hear what he was about to say to them.

Berg was 21 when a car accident left him a quadriplegic. He struggled for years to relearn everyday tasks like brushing his teeth. But he decided early on that he would not be defeated. He relied on the poem "Invictus," by William Ernest Henley, to help him through the most difficult days. One of the memorable lines from that poem is "I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul." Invictus is derived from the Latin word for "unconquered." Not coincidentally, Berg's publishing company is called Invictus Press.

What Berg said to the Ravens was: "It's up to you to decide what you want to accomplish. You and you alone." Berg was invited to stay and watch a preseason game, during which the Ravens fell behind. Their owner told Berg that if the team came back to win, he would put "Invictus" on the scoreboard. Not only did it make the scoreboard, "Invictus" was also engraved on the side of the Super Bowl championship rings that year. The Ravens gave Berg one of those rings.

Kevin Hall has chosen his words carefully and thoughtfully. I have just one word to add to Kevin: Thanks!

Mackay's Moral: Your words power your potential.

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman and author. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or send e-mail to harvey@mackay.com. His column is distributed by United Feature Syndicate.

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