Whoever came up with the phrase "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me"...must have been a robot. 

I think the phrase "Loose lips sink ships (World War II propaganda slogan)," is a more appropriate phrase of the human condition. 

Words can hurt. 

Mother Teresa once wisely said, "Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless."

Words can heal. 

"Be careful what you say," Joel Osteen warns, "You can say something hurtful in ten seconds, but ten years later, the wounds are still there."

Words have power. 

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Something happened to me recently that hasn't happened maybe ever. My words deeply offended someone I have never met before and didn't know. I was crushed. 

While speaking at a school about tools to rise and how to be your true authentic self, I opened with a story that I've told many times (mainly to athletes though). The point I was trying to make was the importance of being able to quiet the noise within our own brain. Meaning, the internal words we use to speak to ourselves have so much power. 

Immediately after my talk, I learned from the teacher that hosted me, that I offended someone. My metaphorical story/parable worked for most of the audience, but offended two teachers. Without getting into specifics, in their opinion, I offended a specific demographic within the school. I had a blind spot in my story, and I didn't even see it.

After that feedback, the warm blanket of embarrassment ran over me. If you know me, you know that I have a sensitive side, but that I am even more sensitive of what others feel. I sometimes care too much of what others think, over my own feelings (hence my work with Project Rise...I've come a long way, but I'm still a work in progress).

I immediately asked to speak and apologize to the individuals I offended, which I did. It was uncomfortable, but necessary. I 100% owned my mistake and explained the high level goal and big picture point of the story. I expressed my regret and thanked them for the courage to speak up and express their feelings. It was a tremendous learning experience to say the least. 

Here's the problem though. I was quick to apologize to another person for my mistake, but I was rattled for several days, and struggled moving on. 

I was able to ask for forgiveness from another, but I was not able to give forgiveness to myself. 

I allowed the residue of this mistake and embarrassment carry over into a huge monumental moment in my life - the launching of my books Project Rise and the Rise Journal. During my book signing, one of my friends noticed my energy was low (thanks Sean). Sean has worked with me as a Performance Coach to help increase the impact of Project Rise. He's an expert in body and mind optimization, meditation, and energy. He felt that I was off, and I truly was. 

Here's the crux of this message and what I was battling:

Your words can hurt others, but more importantly, the words you say to yourself can hurt you the most of all. 

I felt like somewhat of a hypocrite because I preach the importance of pressing the reset button, moving on from mistakes, and learning from failure. However, I had a hard time taking my own advice. 

Project Rise is a platform designed to help others break down the internal barriers that we all face; that I've faced and continue to face daily. The first and most powerful brick of this Great Wall that I call the Barrier of Inner-Peace, which impedes our authentic and true self, is the lie of perfection

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Perfection is the enemy to fulfillment. There is no need to be perfect in order to fit in, be liked, or have influence. True leadership and inspiration comes from owning your imperfections and living with a vulnerable spirit. I love the concept of: Seek Connection, Not Perfection.

I'm reminding myself and you that sometimes we fail. It's part of life. Hey you, you failed. So what, we all do. What's the lesson? 

The next brick to break down from this Great Wall, is guilt and shame. Forgiveness transcends. If it was your friend who made a mistake, you probably would not scold them, or say negative things about them. If this is true, then why would you do that to yourself? A healthy relationship and boundaries with your internal dialogue is just as important as the way you treat others. It's ok to forgive yourself. I applied this method and it really helped.

Is there some form of baggage in your life that you've been holding on to? It's time to forgive yourself. For the record, I've forgiven myself (this process just took a little longer than I'd hoped). 

The third and last brick of the Barrier of Inner-Peace is the concept of, "It's all about me," or having a "Me Mentality." Listen, people are more worried about themselves than what you are doing. Don't flatter yourself, it's not all about you. By having a broader lens that sees the world beyond just yourself is vital for inner-peace and perspective. 

Do you have a Me or We Mentality? When you enter a room, are you thinking about how you can enhance yourself or others?

The tools that either build or break down this wall built on perfection, guilt, and a "me mentally," are the words that we say to ourself.  

Below are 3 concepts you can utilize to master the power of your words. 

Positive to Negative Ratio

How many positive words do you think it takes to counteract a negative word? In a study published in the Harvard Business Review by Marcial Losada and Emily Heaphy, top performing teams give each other more than five positive comments for every negative criticism (5.6 to 1). For average performing teams, the ratio was 2 to 1 (positive to negative). And in low performing teams, the ratio was .36 to 1 (that's a positivity deficit!). 

Think about when you have received feedback. You could have been given several points of praise, but you most likely focused on the one criticism. A single point of negative feedback is effective to grab one's attention, but just make sure when you use words with others and yourself, you balance the negativity with highlighting the good as well. Positive words have the power to uplift and inspire, more then negative words. This is a great reminder as a parent, leader, and monitoring your own self talk. 

Say It, Then Slay It

High Performance Coach Trevor Moawad says, "What you say to yourself is 10 times more powerful then what others can say to you." One of Trevor's highest profile clients is Russell Wilson.

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say it, then slay it.


One of the main reasons why I love Russell Wilson is his mindset. He really has no business competing at the level he does, but he is able to squeeze every single ounce of talent he has. Does he have physical gifts? No doubt. But, in my opinion, his number one asset is his mental toughness. 

One of his many mental tricks that he uses to master his mindset is to, as he calls it, "Speak it into existence." When things are going tough, and he needs to make a play, he says what he wants to do first. He will announce his intention to himself, a coach, in the huddle, or a teammate on the sideline - then he makes it happen. 

By simply saying how you feel and what you want to happen, you will help trigger your subconscious mind to take the necessary actions to bring to life what your words are saying. Give this Say It, Then Slay It approach a try, and watch your focus, execution, and accountability improve.

We Mentality  

Empathy, altruism, and an awareness level beyond just your little world eases the tension and pressure of being perfect. When you feel like it's all about you, you begin to believe that all eyes are on you when they really aren't. 

The lesson I'm taking from my experience I shared above, is to think about all parties involved while delivering a message and using words. This perspective of focusing on WE (the entire audience), not ME will increase my impact. Stephen Covey, best selling author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People offers this wisdom of words: when you write a book or give a speech, make sure it's for others and not yourself. 

But, here's the twist, when you have a We Mentality, you realize that you can't please everyone and there will be a difference in opinion. If you or someone else disagrees with you, it's ok. No one is perfect. Any team, family, friendship, or group are going to have occasional moments where feelings might be hurt by what someone said. As long as clear communication is in place, people take ownership, apologize when necessary, and learn from that experience - these experiences are opportunities to actually come closer together and grow. 

Take a look at these We Mentally questions:

  • How can I help? 
  • What does my audience/team members need? 
  • What skills and experiences can I utilize to make a difference? 
  • Who's talents or wisdom can I use to enhance my impact to improve the team? 
  • If I make a mistake with my words or actions, did I own it, learn a lesson, and give grace to myself and others when appropriate?

This global lens will help share the load of pressure that you don't have to bare alone. 

Being in the position I'm in, where I have the pleasure of speaking to a wide variety of audiences, I'm fully aware that I can't please everyone. My message will not strike a chord with 100% of the listeners, and I will on occasion offend someone with a joke, metaphor, or story. I'm ok with this, and I'm grateful for this experience. The framework I offered above was written as much for me as I hope it will help you.

In closing, by understanding the power of your words, you will improve your influence, impact, and relationships...relationships with others, but most importantly, the relationship you have with yourself

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Collin Henderson