Beverly Sills, the wonderful soprano opera singer, was on one of her “if it’s Thursday it must be Seattle” concert tours. She had her routine publicity meeting with the local press. A columnist asked her if she hated to have to do the grind of eight concerts in seven days. She answered him abruptly, “I don’t have to do this, I get to do this.”
She had framed her work in a way that transformed it from a “grind” to a “joy” in her language and her mind.
Our choice of words to ourselves and others is crucial to our happiness. Is a man or woman fat, obese, a blob? Or well-rounded, zaftig, husky or voluptuous? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – but also the ear – for language.
For children, words and tone can have a huge impact on their desire or disgust for education. Multiplication tables can be boring drudgery, or a fun game to learn. The tables can be put into a song to make them brain sticky, or be deadly and elusive printed on a slab of paper.
This year’s presidential campaign is a framing exercise at its ugliest. Donald Trump has learned the art of framing in business. He doesn’t build tall buildings, he builds Trump Towers. To Trump, Hillary Clinton is not “Mrs. Clinton” or the “Democratic Candidate” but always “crooked Hillary,” hoping to make the characterization an indelible tattoo.
Hillary Clinton has not been as skillful or persistent as Trump in her framing. She could use the “Dangerous Donald” or “Reckless Donald” description incessantly like her opponent. She may yet do it or leave it to her ad makers.
In the used machinery business that I’m in we occasionally use the phrase “crème puff” to describe a lightly used piece of equipment. I remember chuckling when I heard my father describe a National Acme 2” RB6 he bought which had been stored in the Atchison, Kansas labyrinth of caves for 20 years at a constant 58 degrees and 37% humidity, as being a crème puff. He said it with such conviction that I not only wanted to descend into those caves, but also try out one of the machines for dessert.
Proper framing demands not just the right words, but the proper tone. When my son, Noah, joined me in the machinery business, he struggled to develop his enthusiasm for trading in greasy, chip-filled 30-year-old bar machines. They carried no romance for my son, who made movies in his spare time.
I thought there was no need to call a Wickman a rose. It was what it was and that was ok for me, but not for Noah.
He finally redefined the business for himself. He was a “treasure hunter.” The treasure was disguised as a machine tool waiting to be discovered and turned into gold by somebody with superior knowledge and the guts to correct its mispricing. That was worthy work for an ambitious romantic.
Question: How do you frame your daily work? How could you do it better?