“Never use the word ‘just. It diminishes who you really are!” – Futurist Jim Carroll
I talk too much – I suppose it comes with having a career as a speaker.
I suspect I am a bit of an extrovert.
I also golf very early.
This combination sometimes has me finding myself golfing solo, since it seems that not everyone wants to find themselves racing around the course with a 7 a.m. start. Eager for conversation, I will find myself in conversation with many of the grounds crew – the folks busy maintaining and sprucing up the course each day. And in those conversations, I have found much inspiration and knowledge. But I’ve also learned that, as in many industries and jobs, people seem to automatically diminish who they are and what they do.
Two stories will let me share this thought.
One time, I was coming up the 8th fairway, having nailed my tee shot right into the middle. Uh-oh – two young ladies were about 30 feet from the ball, working with various instruments to extract things from the soil. Naturally, I went over to talk to them – first to apologize, and second, to find out what the heck they were up to. It turns out that the head groundskeeper told them that the first person they were likely to encounter that day would be me – I have a bit of a reputation for striking up a conversation!
It turns out that the older of the two was working on soil samples for her master’s degree – you see, my home course is located right next to the University of Guelph Turf Grass Institute, one of the world’s leading golf course turf management programs. I began to quiz the young woman at length on the nature of her thesis, the information the samples would provide, and how this might help with course maintenance in the future. This is how I learn about things – follow the science of turf grass, and you can learn much about the science of agriculture. I filmed a brief story about this one day while golfing in Arizona.
I then turned my attention to the second young woman, asking about her role in this project.
“Oh, I’m just a student,” she replied. “I’m just helping out.”
Just a student.
At that very moment, she was unconsciously diminishing herself. I recoil at the phrase; it seems to be full of motivational self-sabotage.
“Don’t use the word ‘just,‘” I suggested with a smile, and began to ask her about her career goals, plans, and role in the project. It turns out that she too was considering forging a path in this unique career, and so she wasn’t just helping out – she was at the beginning of the process of satisfying herself that this was a career worth exploring. She wasn’t ‘just‘ an assistant – she was an active participant in the research, and I told her so.
This might all seem rather pedantic, but to me, it matters. Any time we use the word ‘just,‘ we are self-consciously limiting who we are, what we do, the skills we have, the knowledge we possess, and the drive that powers our inner motivation. Using the word ‘just‘ is such a diminutive word that I really don’t like to see it in action. And the thing is when you use the word ‘just,’ you never give someone the opportunity to discover your inner magic. And believe me, there are people out there with inner magic who you need to discover – because you never know what it might lead to!
This point was driven home – with much emphasis – with another chance encounter on the course. Another morning, I was out early for “Men’s Day,” a weekly event where a group of guys compete in a team format with a 9-hold score. I don’t participate but often find myself playing with 3 other fellows at the start. Most end up only playing 9 holes because they need to get out early, get their scores in for their team, and then head off to work. This often means that I find myself once again, playing alone on the ‘back 9,’ and end up talking to more of the grounds crew.
One day, while walking up to the 11th hole, I noticed a young fellow on the grounds crew who always seemed to be dressed too warm for the summer heat. It was already 78F, and he was dressed in layers. I joked to him about the heat, and he sheepishly admitted that he found the morning rather chilly, At one point, he commented “I’m just a groundskeeper,‘ and that “it’s kind of cold when we start at 4 a.m.’ A conversation ensued.
Part way into the conversation, he quizzed me about what I did – and I told him that, among other things, I was an author, having published 39 books. He lit up at that moment. “I want to publish a book,” he said, “but am struggling to figure out how,” I told him offhand that if he was serious, I could guide him through the process of getting an ISBN, a book cover, and how to get the interior formatted for print-on-demand through Amazon. That’s what I do with my own books because that’s all that pretty much matters right now. I will often offer up this guidance to aspiring authors, suspecting that it will never lead to anything.
Boy, was I wrong in this particular situation!
One thing led to another, and the back story is this – not only did he want to publish a book, but he had already written it! He sent me the table of contents and the first chapter later that day. It’s a dense 700-page tome about the history and politics of his home country, Kenya – fully written and ready to publish. Not only that, but he had also finished a short comic version of the book, ready to go. To top it off, he has also authored the first edition of his two-volume autobiography – a unique story of his drive, motivation, career path, and life lessons learned along the way It turns out he is 41 years old and has lived a rather colorful life, with multiple twists and turns in his career path, which now has him heading into the industry and career of golf course grounds management.
You never know who you are going to meet – and will never have the opportunity if you don’t get beyond the ‘just.’ Since then, I’ve been guiding him through the process of getting published,m and was overjoyed when he relayed his success with the first step in obtaining the ISBNs. He now has the formatting work undertaken by his ‘digital team’ back in Kenya, and hopes to have the book in print next month.
“Just a groundskeeper” indeed.
The word ‘just’ is. such a negative word, because no one is ‘just’ something.
They are always so much more.
And you can learn so much if you just get beyond the ‘just.’