Words are weird – 7 Takeaways for April 18, 2021

Scam Alert!
(Image: canva.com)

Two shots in! Whoo-hoo! (Side effects, if any, will probably kick in about the time this is scheduled to publish. Thank you, automation!)

Hope you had a great week.

1. “They will say whatever they need to say to get as much money out of you as possible.”

Inside an International Tech-Support Scam – Doug Shadel and Neil Wertheimer – (AARP Bulletin)

The depth, frequency, and success rate of these scams are downright frightening. The lengths scammers will go to extracting as much money as possible from their victims may make you lose faith in humanity. As you might imagine I’ve been hearing about these scams for years. Even with as much press and publicity and exposure it’s getting, it’s frustrating to see it continue to take more and more of its victim’s hard-earned money.

For my part, I’ve used my platforms to continue to spread the message. Including this one.

Do this: read the article. Protect yourself. And share with those most vulnerable around you. Please.

2. “the technology is going to be weaponized by malicious actors”

Facebook, deepfakes, and April Fools scandals – Nina Schick – (podcast segment)

“The technology” in this case is deepfake technology — the ability to synthesize images, audio, and video that looking people doing and saying things they never did.

It has some amazing positive potential, but I’ve been concerned about the negative, and particularly the weaponization. The ability to generate deepfakes has already made amazing strides in both accuracy and ease, and within the next few years we’ll probably all be able to do it at will with an app on our phone. What then?

Do this: start polishing your bullshit detector, first by becoming familiar with the technology and its possibilities. We’re all going to need to be on the top of our skepticism game to ferret out truth from deception.

3. “You need to become more of who you are.”

43 THINGS I’VE LEARNED FROM PODCAST GUESTS – Srinivas Rao – (Facebook post)

The full quote that got my attention is “You don’t have to change who you are. You need to become more of who you are.”, from Sally Hogshead (presumably a podcast guest). For some reason this resonated with something we often struggle with, even in the business world: do you work to “fix” those areas in which you lack skill, or do you work to grow the areas in which you already excel? There’s a very strong argument that, within reason, the latter leads to greater success in the long run. And yet most performance evaluations, or even self-evaluations, focus on improving our weaknesses, rather than building our strengths even further. (Bonus: building our strengths is probably more fun.)

Do this: what strengths do you have that you’ve been letting languish that might benefit from a little focussed improvement?

4. “…no matter what you do in the world, […] you have to understand how to use words effectively, especially in the modern age.”

“This Is The Most Important Sentence You’ll Ever Write” with Copywriter Cole Schafer – Marie Forleo – (YouTube)

I keep coming back to certain themes in these takeaways, and writing is one of them. This interview with Cole Schafer was insightful, as a whole, and really gave me a better sense who Cole is (I’ve been following him for a while already). The bulk is about copywriting specifically, but this one statement by Marie really stood out. Once again, it’s reinforcing my pre-conceived beliefs, but I do so wish that more people understood this and that more people were being taught this. Many seem to believe that because we’re in “the modern age” writing isn’t as important as it once was, but I’d argue the exact opposite:  in today’s world of information overload, the ability to use words to stand out is more important than ever.

Do this: watch the video, if you like, but more importantly, spread the literacy gospel.

5. “A person who can change their mind is gorgeous.”

Six Sources of Personal Competitive Advantage to Get You Access to Hidden Opportunities – Tim Denning – (Medium)

Another of my themes, I guess. I get that changing your mind can be difficult, I really do. The problem is that we don’t value it at all. In fact, particularly when it comes to public figures it’s seen as a weakness rather than a strength. Admittedly, often a politically motivated change of mind is probably not something to value, but the ability to take a new position based on rational evidence or information coming to light seems, to me, to be incredibly valuable. Gorgeous, even.

Do this: the next time you think a politician isn’t doing what they said they would, consider — at least for a moment — that they may have simply changed their minds. They could be politically motivated, I get that, but at least start looking for evidence to the contrary. Oh, and be willing to change your own mind in light of new evidence, OK?

6. “Words are weird.”

Words Are the Sculptors of Culture – Lawrence Yeo – (More to That blog/newsletter)

Words really are weird. Yeo starts by pointing out how there are words in some languages that have no accurate equivalents in others. (He gives several examples, but I’ll add my own: the Dutch word “gezellig“.) He then expands on that to show that some cultures may be subtly influenced as a whole — often in significant ways — by some of their unique words. It really is a fascinating concept. I think we’ve all heard variations of the admonition that you become what you believe, or that you’re formed by the words choose to use, but seeing at at a societal level is really interesting. (As a side note: if you like deeper think pieces, I’d recommend More to That. It doesn’t publish often, but it’s always good.)

Do this: Subscribe to More to That, particularly if this type of think piece is your cup of tea.

7. “LAST WEEK the billionth dose of covid-19 vaccine was produced.”

American export controls threaten to hinder global vaccine production – The Economist – (Magazine)

At the beginning of the pandemic, we were not just worried about, but directly affected by, our reliance on overseas production of an assortment of products. The most obvious, early on, were N95 masks and other PPE. As the pandemic has progressed, the tide appears to have turned in what is perhaps a predictable, yet no less distressing way. Overseas vaccine manufacturers are at risk of running out of some of the raw materials they need due to U.S. export restrictions.

I’m not going to debate whether the restrictions are good or bad policy — the fact is the situation is simply too complex for a simple thumbs up / thumbs down evaluation.

What does strike me, and I hope resonates with you is simply this: regardless of borders or politics or policies or intentions, the world is more tightly interconnected than ever. A decision made here (or there) can have serious, dramatic impacts over there (or here).

Do this: before thinking “us or them”, consider the ramifications, in both directions.

What I’m Reading

In progress (also on GoodReads):


You’ll find all the books I’ve read or am reading as part of this project on the site’s Reading List page.

1 thought on “Words are weird – 7 Takeaways for April 18, 2021”

  1. Thanks for this, Leo.
    I particularly enjoyed the Words are Weird article. As a language teacher and learner and also a longtime expat, this resonates with me as well. I will use some of this as a reference in one of my culture studies classes, so thanks for that, too!


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