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  • davidvenancio

Photo by The Humantra on Unsplash

In my last post I talked about the power of a word- how a person has the power to choose words that describe situations, active choices versus passive ones. The discussion revolved around taking power over one’s language to ensure that the words being used serve us and that we be cognizant of the power of our choices.

With that said, this post isn’t meant to rehash that one- but rather extend it.

This conversation centers on the power of the spoken word and about how truly powerful we can be when we use our voice to speak. It is often said that we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with… This statement can relate to to many things- education and income level are just a couple of things where correlations are made. However, my contention with this is- imagine if the people around you knew how powerful their words were and didn’t squander them…what if, they instead used these words with all the power and might that they were worth?

An Example:

There is this great Vlog by the Vegan Cyclist…

(Side note: If you don’t know his stuff, check him out! He’s got great content- tongue and cheek, funny, informative & good spirited. I haven’t watched everything he’s put out, but the ones that I have- I’ve really enjoyed.)

I was particularly drawn to a video labeled “Off the Couch Ironman – with no Training” I mean- really, with that title how can you not be drawn to it?

It’s worth the watch on MANY levels, and I’m sure this won’t be the only time I reference it, but for the purposes of today and the topic at hand- I want to focus on a very small portion of the video…one that I would contend might be the biggest and most important lesson of the entire thing (spoiler alert!!!) It takes place about 24ish min into the video- at this point, he is recalling the latter stages of the marathon portion of this undertaking. His film crew has left for dinner and left to his own devices, he has decided he is going to “run” home…where he will call it quits. Now alone, his mind has convinced him that continuing no longer in his best interest and he should just give up (to be fair- I would argue that in this particular case, his mind was soooo right)! As he arrives back home, where he is going to quit, his family- assuming that with the amount of time that has passed since he left, he’s surely completed the entire event- greets him with all the inspiring accolades that families would say to congratulate one on completing such a monumental event. The Vegan Cyclist is so moved in this moment, inspired by their words, that he decides he cannot let his family down by quitting and chooses to go back out and continue on. Even better- his young son, so motivated by his father’s new found will to finish, offers to help his Dad complete the marathon by riding his bike alongside him…even more accountability!!!! I’m sure it comes as no surprise when I tell you that he finished it…it’s worth the watch!

A Personal Example:

This year, I am celebrating 15 year of sobriety. A pretty amazing accomplishment all things considered…

My prior life was heavily entangled with alcohol. My profession, my social life, basically my whole identity was intertwined with it and breaking away from it and starting fresh was no simple task. Moreover, my wife also struggled with it, and as my best friend and person who I spent the most time with, we were very codependent. To tie back into to my earlier point about being the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with- her and I were in lock step 95% of the time. We knew exactly how get the other on board with our debaucherous behavior. However, after many years together and both of our lives teetering on the brink of collapse, we made the decision that we both needed to get sober.

Having made the decision to get sober and with 30 days under our belt, life as it always does happened. My Dad, who had successfully battled cancer previously, was admitted into the hospital and the prognosis didn’t look good… With that information in hand, I quickly left California and traveled to Florida to be there for him. With ONLY 30 days of sobriety at that point, any traumatic experience can easily become a reason to drink… But a catastrophic event such as this was something that even non-alcoholic’s would understand as a “good” reason to drink. I should note that I could always find a “good” reason to drink…I drank because I was happy, because I was sad, bored, excited – you get the point…but I’m getting off track.

As I left my wife and family on one coast and traveled to the other, I was holding on to my sobriety precariously at best. Shortly after arriving, my father passed. My family was distraught and the scene played out as most would imagine. As my family worked to come to grips with what had just happened, we gathered to figure out to do next and my mother, being tired, felt it was best for us to all reconvene at her house. Like a classic alcoholic trying to get sober, I hadn’t yet told many people. In fact, the only person I had told was my sister. So when in the planning for “what is next” my Mom made the comment “I don’t have any beer at home, we will need to stop and get some beer for David!” My mom was suggesting that I drink, so what if she didn’t know I was trying to stop– BOOM – I’d found my out!

But then, out of nowhere, my sister spoke up “No we don’t, David isn’t drinking any more…HE IS sober now!” And just like that- the stand was made! With words spoken, I was now accountable to my family for my sobriety…complements of just 4 simple words spoked by my sister…”He is sober now.” I made it through the trip (and the last 15 years) without drinking. It is something I find remarkable even to this day!

Looking back, I can point to my sister’s comments as the defining turning point in my life, she spoke up and took a stand for me, and in return- all I had to do was “the next right thing”!

Ironically this post isn’t about alcoholism or drinking BUT about the power my sister’s words had-not just over that trip but over the next 15 years of my life. I truly believe that just about EVERYONE else in the world would have given me the out to drink on that day, but she didn’t. I was lucky to have her there in that moment, calling me to be bigger and better than I could be on my own. Her words altered my life for the positive in so many unimaginable ways…

A touch of contrast…

Little did I know that back at home, without the support of family and without someone to take a stand for her- my wife wasn’t able to hold on and slipped. I later found out that she was POSITIVE that I would drink considering the situation and left to her own devices- decided that there was no reason for her to refrain…certain that once I got back, we’d return to our old ways. It took her additional 12 months to get sober. I realize that the conversation is complex and it’s hard to surmise how things might have been different if she had been with me…but who knows how those same powerful words might have also affected her journey.


There is no event in my life that more clearly illustrates how powerful the people you surround yourself with can be. People’s comments, even those made quickly in passing, can affect you for days, months, and sometimes- even years.

So the question begging to be asked..

Are the 5 people closest to you motivating you? Inspiring you? Do they call you to be bigger than you have ever dreamt you could be? Do they speak the words YOU need to hear?

  • davidvenancio

Choose your words carefully because you are listening. Each day we are have a multitude of options to articulate how our lives unfold. Infinite choices leave us with an incredible scope of power to shape our lives with our words.

We commonly underestimate the power of a single word. We believe that certain situations dictate, even demand, the use of a specific word to describe an occurrence. It is as if only one word describes what really happened or accurately represents the actual situation. We are not readily cognizant that we choose the words we speak and that our word choice fulfills a distinct purpose.

In the late 90s, I first came to understand the power of a single word. The word in question on this particular day was “pressure”. Approximately 200 people, witnessed an exercise unfold where a participant explained a family situation in front of the group to the facilitator. In his memories, the participant felt “pressured” by his parents to attend college, explaining that his parents “pressured” him to attend Stanford. His parents would happily pay for him to attend their college of choice BUT would not fund him in any other endeavors…such as his preferred pursuit to become a professional baseball player.

The seminar leader, having a sense of his background and history, realized that this word “pressure” was very charged for him. It represented a significant marker as to how he saw his parents and how he felt about his life as a young adult. The seminar leader intentionally challenged the participant to truly understand what the word “pressure” represented as it described the situation. Was this word “chosen” versus “dictated”? Was “pressure” the only appropriate word for the situation? Did the word “SERVE” him as it related to this situation?

As I watched the conversation unfold, the seminar leader described what pressure represented to him- a giant ball that was continually inflated until the sides of the ball are stretched or the feeling one gets when diving deep into the ocean until your eardrums feel like they will pop!

Interestingly, the participant continued to use the word “pressure,” followed by “come on…you know what I mean.” Steadfast, in his conviction, the seminar leader challenged each of his retorts.

“No, I don’t know what you mean” and “pressure to me is like “X” what you’re describing to me looks like “Y,” the seminar leader debated.

After 15 minutes of going back and forth between the two, 199 people in the room understood precisely the point to which the seminar leader eluded. It appeared that the person most closely involved in the situation, the person with the most to gain, could not see it.

The “Ah-Ha Moment” presented itself at minute 16 when the participant realized that he had chosen the word “pressure” to describe the situation with his family. He easily could have chosen a different word such as encouraged or insisted, versus “pressured.” In that single moment of realization, his world was forever changed by simply selecting a different word to

describe the situation. Changing that word changed his relationship with his mother and father immediately.

The participant immediately understood that he had choices in life where he previously thought there were none! Ironically, he still used the word “pressured” to describe the situation, BUT just knowing it was his choice made all the difference to forge a new relationship with his parents: one with a greater amount of freedom!!

Similarly, I remember feeling like a fraud when I hadn’t run a triathlon in several years, and I told someone that I was a triathlete — was I? Don’t you have to “do” triathlons to be a triathlete? What is the statute of limitations on claiming you are something by doing it? One year? Five years?

After some thought, I realized that with five triathlons under my belt and the fact that I was running, biking and swimming, I earned the right to call myself a triathlete! By declaration, I am a triathlete. Triathlete is a word I chose to describe myself; it is not predicated on performance. It empowers me; it calls me to be a better version of myself each day…

What words are you using to describe situations or yourself? Are they empowering, do you see that you are choosing?

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