say what matters because it matters what you say


“Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.”

Robert Frost


This is my companion piece to “business and what you have to say matters.”

I believe that is more important than ever that individuals speak out with regard to what matters to them. Of course, I prefer that the people who do so articulate those thoughts well and emphasize the rich nuance in most of the important things that should be talked about. With that said at the end of the piece I’ve included a quick thought with regard to being canceled or canceled culture because it seems inextricably linked to encouraging people to say what matters because it matters what you say.

Which leads me to say I say what matters to me; a lot.

Well. I write a blog. A couple thousand pieces and a couple million words. In my mind I have something to say and I say it. Maybe it all means nothing and as Frost suggests: “I am one of those who have nothing to say but say it.” Regardless. If I say it, I own my words. I say this because we are edging into a world where people are of an age that are shifting into leadership positions, positions of influence, who, well, have a history of some sort of online writing. And, uh oh, they are being demanded to justify their words, thoughts, and ideas. In other words. They are being asked to own their words. They may have had nothing to say, but they said something and now they have to explain something about their nothing.

This is all incredibly interesting <and slightly amusing> to me because if you go online, you will find thousands of writing advice columns <usually formatted in the heinous listicle style and written by self-righteous older people> written to the attention of young people warning them of the dangers of what they put online and how it can affect their future employment.

The amusing part? I found none <zero> advice columns directed toward, well, people of my age.

And you know why? Because we older folk are supposed to know better.


Some of us do not know better.

There are lawyers seeking higher positions, business people seeking a seat in a C-level suite and even doctors seeking to shift into a more general business world who are finding that their words are following them <and they need to own them>.  To be clear, no, “it was just my personal opinion on my personal blog” doesn’t hack it. If you shared a thought, you own the words in how you shared it, therefore, you own the thought AND the words. There is no personal/professional split, they are thoughts and words you own. That said. Personal thoughts and professional behavior split IS doable and actually a ‘thing,’ but that another piece for another day.

Anyway. To be fair I will spend a second in the tricky part of ownership.

Is the past a predictor?

Should we waste our time revisiting the online writings of someone who most likely sat down and vented personal thoughts on things of matter?

And, maybe more importantly, should we be held accountable for words we decided to put down and share on the world wide web?

Simplistically, I would say of course we should be held accountable for the words then just as, of course, what we said then may be different than what we would say now. We need to own all the words <and justify the difference>.

Simplistically I would say it is indefensible to solely make a stand on ‘you said it because you can’ and, simplistically, it is indefensible to simply say ‘that was then and this is now.’

If you write, you own the words. Therefore, use words with care.

If you make a point, you own it. Yeah. You own the words you use to make that point.

I make no mistake when I post something in that I know when I open my mind and share my words, they represent a potent formula that can be drunk with pleasure or peril. I know whether it is a large presentation, a one-on-one discussion or a 998 word post on my blog I am doing so as a public speaker.

I own my words. I own my thoughts.


“Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.”

Yehuda Berg


I say that because I am surprised when older people get trapped in business discussions having to discuss things they may have written as if the words should remain ‘there’ and why should we discuss it ‘here.’ Its nuts. Its nuts because anyone with half a brain knows words are a constructive force or a destructive force. With either path I own what I construct as well as own what I deconstruct; and I don’t understand how you can get to a certain age, or a certain level, and not know that..

Now. What also surprises me a little is that older people who have blogs or write opinion pieces are not young inexperienced people but, if you are making a point, you really do know that simply ranting or using some childish phrasing or hyperbolic rhetoric diminishes what you have to say.

And I say that knowing I am free with the swear words and generous with snarkiness.

Anyway. I may not communicate what I want to say simply, but underneath the swear words, the snarkiness, the faux intellectualism and the casual use of grammar resides a desire to hit what I have always believed is the message simplicity bullseye <by the way … anyone, blogger, opinion writer and even a communications agency can use this simplistic guide>.

The bullseye.

On one axis you are bookended.

On one end is whatever issue & solution I can offer — functionally what I have to offer <my experience, my ideas, my thinking> — followed in toward the bullseye by … well … me, the writer, and who I am and what I stand for <so that my thinking gets filtered through who and what I am … lets call that my character>.

On the other end is the need or want or desire – functionally what is needed – moving toward the bullseye by what the situation, or people, may desire <or think they desire> so that pragmatism gets filtered through the sometimes random irrational minds of people.

The other axis is even simpler: hero, conflict and resolution. It is basic story telling applied to ideas. I want to offer a hero <it can be an idea> which can enter into a conflict unflinchingly or flinchingly if appropriate, and offer a resolution.

All this permits me even in my most dry pieces to attempt to offer my version of a story which, as stories are supposed to do, address deeper and enduring emotional levels tapping into personal “issues” such as self-esteem <conformity versus individuality>, self-doubt and economic wellbeing.

Everyone who writes should have a story. They shouldn’t toss out words thoughtlessly, or worse, irreverently.  Anger doesn’t guide a good story <typically> but as long as you continue to aim forward the bullseye even an anger driven critique can end up in an okay place when viewed by someone in the future.  And all of that matters if you assume at some point someone will demand you own your words.

Regardless. No matter the words, what you say, what I want today should be aligned with what I believe in. I can take a fairly hard stance on a variety of issues, and I have, but I also hope that my heroes & resolutions reflect adaptability to other’s views and the situation at hand. When I do meet new business people or people I haven’t seen in a while and sometimes they bring up something I have written, let’s say 5 years ago, I am good. I may not think exactly what I did then but my basic principled beliefs have not changed.

It surprises me when some fairly qualified people have not assumed that stance in what they have written.


I certainly have no patience for those who are more than willing to toss out their own past words as “I said that then but now …” or “I wish I had chosen my words more carefully.”  I will not suggest we should all get our words right every time <I surely don’t>, but not all words are created equal and the really important ones, the potent ones, the ones that can construct or deconstruct, you should get right. Well. At least right enough that someday in the future your career will not hang in the balance over poorly thought-out communications. Conversely, if you did think it out and your career can hang in the balance over it, well, you made a stand**. Good on you. And backing off that stand simply to get to where you want to be is, well, not good.

Look. I am very much aware that what I say today is probably the reason more people do not speak out. The consequences are often real and harsh and unforgiving. So don’t say what matters to you if that is what you choose (albeit I would note that silence is empty space for someone else to suggest something about how you feel about what matters). But if you do speak out, I have no time and I have no patience for people who do not own their words. And they should be ashamed of themselves for discarding thoughts and words so easily just to get something they want now. Thoughts and words are far too valuable to be that disposable. Ponder.

  • ** hanging in balance when you take a stand. So let me make a point about ‘cancel culture’ and ‘being cancelled for speaking out.’ I have written before cancel culture is bullshit. Everyone who has supposedly been ‘canceled’ is somewhere in the communication system, with an audience, screaming what they have to say at the top of their lungs. They never had their tongue cut ut and the never lost access to some platform. That said. Let me tell you DOES get cancelled – stupid poor communicators. You can have a minority point of view, you can even have a horrible point of view, and if you articulate it well, you do not get cancelled. If, conversely, you ‘dull axe’ your communication – which is usually simplifying something down to an idiot soundbite – you get cancelled. Yeah. Truly the only people who get cancelled are the ones who say stupid shit stupidly.
Written by Bruce