Insights April 6, 2021

Winning language, can-do attitudes, and bilingual success

Living Word
By Living Word

Perhaps the way we speak is holding us back? Successful people will never be caught saying ‘it can’t be done’ or ‘let’s wait and see’. Instead, their can-do approach is embedded in the way they speak.

Last year, Jodie Cook wrote about phrases that you won’t catch successful people use for Forbes. “Your words become your actions and your actions define your past, present and future,” she says. For instance, ‘I’ll try’ is one of those phrases you will not hear them say. Instead, “successful people decide what they are going to do and then they do it. As Yoda says, ‘Do. Or do not. There is no try.’ If they commit to making something happen they will follow through on that promise.”

Also, you won’t hear them blame failure on circumstances with ‘it’s just one of those days’ or ‘it’s not fair’, and they certainly won’t take a passive approach such as ‘let’s wait and see’. They simply don’t leave succeeding to external forces, but instead work to make success inevitable. As such, phrases like ‘it’s not my fault’ would not pass their lips. “Successful people know that for every time the cards have fallen unfairly, there’s another time where they were dealt a great hand.”

Responsibility and outworking

“The things you say in the office, no matter how innocuous they seem to you, might be knocking you down the career ladder and putting the top position you dream about out of reach,” says entrepreneur Ilya Pozin in a feature about things successful people never say for LinkedIn. If you want to achieve success in the workplace, he suggests, one of the phrases to avoid is ‘it can’t be done’. In the business world, “if you offer solutions instead of giving up, you’ll be seen as a valuable member of the team”.

For Inc, Jeff Haden has revealed what extraordinarily successful people say every day. He argues that while they might not expect to be perfect, they take responsibility and always want to improve. And on the subject of working hard, regardless of experience, funding and connections, people with a can-do attitude say ‘that’s OK. I’ll just outwork them’. Jimmy Spithill, skipper of America’s Cup-winning Team Oracle USA, has been quoted as saying “rarely have I seen a situation where doing less than the other guy is a good strategy”, which makes a lot of sense.

Language knowledge propels

Winning language can give you an edge, and knowing more than one language can help too, according to Business Insider’s list of super successful people who are also bilingual. Among the world’s top business leaders, those who speak more than one language include for example Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and CEO of Facebook. In 2014, he made headlines for answering questions in a Q&A session with students at Beijing’s Tsinghua University in Mandarin.

Babbel Magazine has written about famous bilingual people who are more successful thanks to language as well. One of them is stand-up comedian Eddie Izzard, who has performed in French, German and Spanish, and apparently plans to write also in Arabic, Russian and Mandarin. Mega star, singer and songwriter Shakira communicates in Spanish, Portuguese, English, French and Italian, and award-winning actress Natalie Portman has fluent command of Hebrew and English, as well as a conversational level of Spanish, French, German and Japanese. Writer Steph Koyfman says that “these people have drive, they have hustle, and they also have foreign language knowledge to propel them even further”.