“Language should bind us, not divide us.” ~Ann Richards
I know Ann Richards for her ballsy and hilarious quote, “I’ve been tested by fire and the fire lost.” I want that on a t-shirt. My friend, Sara, posted something that reminded me it’s high time I read Ann’s autobiography. I loved the play based on her life, ANN, written by and starring Holland Taylor. Ann was one of those lights in history that make it possible for so many of us to carve our own paths today, traditional or otherwise.
As a writer, her quote about language is one from her autobiography that is especially powerful for me. In a world of acronyms and exclusivity, I much prefer Ann’s way of thinking. Too often language is used to divide us—by gender, by race, by religion, by education level, by industry, by socioeconomic status. In her book, Ann said that she prided herself on being a straight shooter, someone who didn’t mince words, sugarcoat, or tip toe around sensitive issues. Keep it simple. Keep it honest. Keep it authentic.
Now working in an industry that is full of acronyms and complicated language, I’m going to keep this quote about language close at hand. In my writing, I want to illuminate not complicate, to clearly communicate rather than separate. And I know from Ann Richards that this is possible.
When we started talking about pickling, a random forest, and elastic stories at work, it wasn’t a conversation about life off-the-grid; it was about writing code. My brain was stretched, expanded, and twisted over the next 2 hours as I furiously scribbled notes and googled terms I didn’t know so as not to disrupt the flow of the conversation. When it was all over, I felt like I’d taken a ride on the Kingda Ka rollercoaster at Great Adventure. Where were my land legs safely rooted in the world of design thinking, ROI, and NPV analysis?
This kind of experience, as confusing as it may be, is so critical for business and product people because we have to understand the underlying work that brings our ideas and decisions to life. Programmers are wizards of the humblest order. I marvel at what they do, and when I say that out loud, they say anyone could do what they do. That’s simply not true; they are talented beyond words.
This is exactly the world I love—drop me off in a foreign land where I don’t speak the language, and give me a deadline and a limited budget that I have to use to get back home to the world of designing something that delights a customer. And that’s exactly where I am right now. Home is on the horizon, and until I get there, I’m going to enjoy the journey and learn, learn, learn.
“You find who you are by seeing it. It takes a journey to develop your voice.” ~Rapper DDm at Creative Mornings Washington, D.C.
I was blown away by the Creative Mornings event with DDm about the power of language. He redefined language as our entire presence – what we say, what we do, and how we look. Hundreds of creative people sat enraptured at 8:30am in the main room at the Renwick Gallery on Friday. We laughed and we learned, together. Language conveys who we are. To learn who we are, we need to explore.
So get out there, way out there. Leave your comfort zone. Try new things. Meet new people. Put yourself in a place that inspires you. Be around people who are proud of who they are, and who celebrate your unique perspective. Learn something that you’ve always been curious about. Create something beautiful. Be shiny. Do something that makes you smile for the joy it brings you. Find your voice, and use it.