Three Phrases that need to go the way of the Dodo: Outrage, Work/life Balance and Impactful

The dodo bird is known in pop culture for two things: being extinct and having been stupid. Yes, they appear to have been a little off-kilter in that they were flightless birds that would try to eat rocks. Although, they were also quite chubby from all the other grub they did manage to ingest.  I guess one could say they had rocks for brains.  Recently some scientists circulated rumors about the possibility of resurrecting the dodo bird.  Visions of Jurassic Park and absolute mayhem in which the birds would just repeatedly walk into glass and lay splat across the streets have crossed my mind.  Some things should just be left alone in their extinction and in that vein some words should be made extinct because they are the equivalent of the dodo bird.  Certain words are chubby and overwrought. Other words are just plain old dumb and don’t actually convey what the person thinks they do. And other phrases are so weighed down with false dichotomies that they stymie intelligent discourse; essentially not allowing intelligent discourse to take flight.


Let’s talk about outrage. How many times have you read about the collective outrage twitter, facebook, instagram followers profess at the post of some lame idiotic celebrity (faux or not), business leader, politician or everyday man/woman.  If you were to do a search of the recent news articles that used the word outrage you would be outraged by the mass volume.  Here are a few examples: “Israeli draft law aiming to ban the word ‘Nazi’ triggers outrage”; “Outrage as Army bans word ‘Christmas” ; “Madonna Uses N-Word in Photo Caption of Her Son, Responds to Outrage”;  “Ann Coulter’s Use of R-Word Sparks Outrage “ and “Outrage: Melissa Harris-Perry Used Racist, Derogatory Term On Air.“    Shakespeare were he alive and writing today, would have a field day with all this professed outrage. In this day and age Hamlet would have to state “the masses doth protest too much, methinks.”   All this outrage is either a mass psychosis so grand that perhaps scientists should find a way to resurrect both Freud and Jung instead of the dodo bird or …. Sorry, I can’t come up with anything else it can be.  I suppose this outrage is symptomatic of the fact that everyone knows has a mike and feels empowered to voice their outraged opinion. Someone said something stupid.  Must we all really throw, at said stupid person, virtual monkey feces in 140 characters or less and then demand contrition on the part of the outrager?  Every professed instance of outrage is inevitably followed by a demand for an apology or worse. There are some out there that feel that because there is a collective sense of outrage that they can then abuse others in return.   Outrage seems to be an excuse to act like a venom-filled turd. Outrage is all the rage and is just one big world-wide con game wherein these so-called “outrageous” acts are embedded within 24/7 news cycles and deflect other more serious news coverage and discourse. I am not saying that some of the labeled outrageous acts are not offensive or that they should be allowed but outrage just seems so manufactured.   When something is truly outrageous how will we know anymore? Turn your shock face off and move on.

If we want outrage to be impactful, it may be we have to change both how we profess outrage and use the word impactful.  I work in the non-profit field. People don’t earn much in terms of salary but in terms of karma and good will, they could be filled “rich.”  Sometimes that is not enough, however. I cannot tell you the countless number of meetings I have sat though where everyone talked about how impactful their work was.   It is not enough to say the work has grand impact. Apparently, there is a psychological need for the work to be impactful. Can you tell me the difference between saying the program had an impact and the program was impactful?   Every time I hear the word impactful, I twitch.  It’s not really a real word yet. Most standard dictionaries don’t include the word impactful.  However, considering that the definition of the word “literally” has just been changed to mean figuratively, it won’t be long before impactful is added to the majority of dictionaries. I get it. Languages evolve.  But the word impactful just seems like hyperbole. I hear someone say the word and I automatically start thinking that there is some exaggeration in their tale.  Note that many believe that the word impactful comes from the marketing and business world. Again, exaggeration comes to mind.  I know that in the non-profit world we take great value in having had an impact for the better on our communities, but using the word impactful won’t bring us any closer to that ideal.

While we are filled with outrage and trying to be impactful, we are desperately distraught over and struggling with the work-life balance thing. Or so it seems. I used to read about 12 books a year partly due to my nightly 40 minute daily bath. Now, because of my smart phone and IPAD, I can answer emails while taking a bath and I read about one book a year.  I used to scan the streets furiously looking for creepy people up ahead to avoid (I do live and work in New York). Now, I answer emails so that when I get into work, I can go straight to my countless impactful meetings where we express outrage over the latest congressional shenanigans. I used to watch hours upon hours of live television, but now I only watch records television at odd hours of the day so that I can work on my latest work brief, blog, or manuscript. Where is the work-balance here? There is none. And I am ok with some of it. Much of what I do related to work, during so-called off hours serves to move me up higher in the business world, gets my name out there more and gives me added shine as a so-called expert. Yes, it is about the ego. If your work is your career and tightly embedded with your identity I don’t see how you separate work from life.  What is life in this equation? I still hang with my family, I still eat out, and I still write a personal blog. I still watch Arrow, Supernatural and Grimm. Hmm. See a pattern in those shows? I may have some need to vent. The work/life balance phrase connotes that there is a need for a balance and that there is a formula or optimal recipe. Can we head to a Jamba Juice and get a work-life smoothie that will keep us regulated?  The phrase is overused and overwrought. It sets up a false dichotomy in our advanced technological times that makes many feel unnecessarily guilty. I would never say you should focus 100% effort on work to the exclusion of all else. However, not every moment has to be balanced. Work is part of our life and it is impossible to balance a part with the whole.

Temper Tantrum or Outrage?

Temper Tantrum or Outrage?

If you caught the Grammy’s or the media coverage of the 2014 Grammys, you might have caught wind that there were some impactful performances, that many individuals in the twitterverse were fueled with outrage at some of the telecast’s political statements and that many wondered how the Queen B herself maintains her work/life balance (hint she’s married to a fellow superstar and they can perform easily together).  As such, I have a modest proposal for scientists. If you resurrect the dodo bird can you make extinct the words of outrage, impactful and work-life balance?  Perhaps they can be removed from our collective DNA through some fancy gene therapy.

15 replies »

  1. Funny you wrote this post because last night on the news a women was “outrage” and I thought how dramatic can you get. Certain words are over used and in the process lose their impact no pun intended.


      • I am preparing myself cause you can hear the outrage in Paris. So much for a bi-partisan experience. Outrage is one of the words of the day. BTW, I do enjoy reading your blog.


  2. What a great article, how it’s impactful on my life. LOL That is a word I don’t run into much, lucky me. My husband is driven crazy by the “on my plate” phrase. I have too much on my plate right now to help you with that. Oh really. Really? What does that mean even? I rarely bother with outrage, I prefer sarcasm, petty of me, but there it is. As for the work/life balance, please. Does anyone have a life? Who are they? LOL I love your rant, toned down to not raise to the level of outrage. Very delicate balance there. 🙂


  3. Excellent points. We had “work-life balance” initiatives introduced with considerable fanfare, but I still recall my outrage when I realized most of them (like the on-site dry-cleaning service) was an HR ploy to keep people working longer and harder.

    I’d add a 4th to the list – “No problem.” I laughed yesterday when I heard Garrison Keeler’s “Guy Noir” complain about this long running irritant. As in, “Is it that hard to say ‘You’re welcome,” when I say ‘Thank you?”

    The problem is, as certain phrases cease being impactful, new ones take their place. Scott Adams has his ear to the ground in the world of corporate-speak, so yesterday’s Dilbert gives us a clue of what is “coming online” (another potential candidate for early extinction).


    • Thanks for sharing the Dilbert link I just laughed out loud in my office like a silly woman. Lead from the front I am so going to blog about that at some point.
      I think another great possible blog is how did no problem come to mean your welcome . I hear that a lot when people hold open the door. Yeah, dry cleaning on site is just a way to keep employees working past the blood sweat and tears that are spilled


  4. I love the way you think! I have done a lot of work with non-profits and I am proud to make an “impact” in the lives of those I work with. It’s funny because I have always felt I could not do a job where I was not making a social impact, and that feeling is somehow engraved in me. Very insightful post.


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