Birds, Words, and Entrepreneurship

One of the joys of my financial abundance as an entrepreneur is owning a country home in the Catskills. Its best feature is a screened-in back porch where I sleep on warmer nights. I love that it’s completely silent except for the gurgling of our nearby stream.

That all changes at around 5:00 AM when the air is filled with the sounds of birds chirping. I’m not so much of an early riser as I am a lousy sleeper, so when it starts up, I’m awake. (This could be very enjoyable or very annoying, depending on how late I was up the night before.)

My sister Jennifer recently showed me a super cool app called Merlin. It will listen to the birdsong and identify which birds are chirping. When I turned it on this past weekend I discovered that those indiscriminate chirping sounds were coming from 18 different types of birds.

Suddenly, I wasn’t just surrounded by random birds that sounded alike. Now the trees were alive with birds with distinctive colors, sizes, and sounds. Knowing this changed my whole listening experience.

Very often, our journey as an entrepreneur is filled with “noise” that can seem indiscriminate. As a coach, my job is to help you to make distinctions that sift through that noise.

One of the tools I use to do this is word substitution. When I hear my clients repeatedly describing their experience using the same word, such as “overwhelmed” or “stressed” or “bored,” I will say, “If you couldn’t use that word, what other words would you use?”

This is an excellent way to get to the heart of the situation and begin to reframe it.

For instance, I was speaking to someone who said that she felt “discouraged.” She substituted it with “disappointment.” “Discouragement” has an “everything’s going against me” kind of a feel, whereas “disappointment” is an acknowledgement of the current situation, allowing us to pinpoint actions she could take to create the results she wanted.

I’m oversimplifying it here for the sake of brevity, of course. But this is an exercise you can do at any time. Once you hear yourself frequently repeating words to describe your situation, ask yourself, “What other words could I use instead?” “Procrastination” can become “avoidance;” “stuck” can become “uncertain,” etc.

Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.

The first bird to begin chirping is typically the Veery, and its call is a distinctive sound that descends in a spiral. I never even knew this bird existed before! Nor did I know about the Red-eyed Vireo, the Northern Flicker, or the Least Flycatcher. It’s similar to understanding more about your leadership qualities, which you can find by taking my quiz “Are you Wired for Business Success?” Click here to take it now. Just like the birds, once you get to know your qualities, you’ll broaden your perspective.