articulate - adjective
1. having parts connected by joints, as in "articulated"
2. made up of distinct words joined together in such a way as to convey meaning
3. able to express oneself clearly and distinctly
4. well formulated, clearly presented

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Do you ever think about mottos?

I can't even think the word "motto" without also mentally hearing the lines from Disney's movie, The Lion King:

     Simba:  "What's a motto?"
     Timone:  "Nothing!  What's a motto with you? Hahahahaha!"

Yeah, my funny bone is easily tickled!

Aside from the questionable wisdom provided by animated movie characters, I've been thinking about mottos lately.  

It started when I was conversing with a lady who was working with preschoolers.  The children were busily occupied in various corners of the room, playing house, driving cars accompanied by appropriate sound effects, etc.  In the course of our conversation, it was mentioned that a certain store had changed its selling policy nationwide.  From across the room, a little voice sang out, "Nationwide is on your side!"

The adult conversation lay in ashes at the feet of two laughing females.  

Mottos have magic.  They should sum up your reason for being, beckon you to a higher level of excellence.  They should reflect your purpose and sound appealing to your ears.
An internet search, however, reveals that famous quotes are often confused with mottos.

For instance, it's interesting and even intriguing to note that Albert Einstein said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge," but is that a motto?  Not necessarily.  I like it, but it's just a thought-provoking opinion held by a genius. defines motto this way:
     1. a maxim adopted as an expression of the guiding principle of a person, organization, city,etc.
     2. a sentence, phrase, or word expressing the spirit or purpose of a person, organization,city, etc., and often inscribed on a badge, banner, etc.
A search for a bona-fide motto yields an interesting array of applications worldwide.
  • Organizations use mottos - for example, the Civil Air Patrol - Semper Vigilens or Always Vigilant
  • Civil servants use mottos - the Minneapolis Police Department, for instance - To Protect with Courage, To Serve with Compassion
  • Universities and countries employ them - Yale's is Lux et veritas or Light and truth, and Morocco's is God, the Country, the King.
  • And of course, nearly everyone can quote various mottos from the military.  For example, what do you think of when I say, "Be all that you can be" or "Semper Fi"?  Do I hear a "huah!"?

Business mottos are particularly interesting.  Some are very serious, reflecting a dual purpose of advertising quality products while motivating employees:
  • Accenture: High Performance, Delivered
  • Casio: Creativity and Contribution
  • Kalypso: Delivering on the promise of innovation
Others are blatant horse hockey designed solely to attract business:
  • Burger King: Have It Your Way
  • Canon: Delighting you always
  • Electrolux: Thinking of you
Some are clever:
  • Nikon: At the heart of the image
  • Infosys: Win in the flat world
Some are motivational in many life areas:
  • Nike: Just do It
 Some fall kind of flat:
  • Morrisons: More Reasons to Shop at Morrisons
  • Nutella: Che mondo sarebbe senza nutella (What would the world be like without Nutella)
 And others are imaginative or just plain fun:
  • KFC: Finger Lickin' Good
  • Xbox 360: Jump In

I never had a motto.  Never thought I needed one.  But recently, I've been thinking about adopting one temporarily.  Born out of a lifetime of people pleasing and striving to meet others' expectations, it will need to reflect a desire to move forward, to grow, to be independent minded.  It can't be distracting with flowery words or phrases.  It can't be cumbersomely long.  I'd like it to be both imaginative and fun, but the reality is I'm already imaginative and fun.  This motto needs to spur me to stop apologizing for being who I am.

So after thinking for a while, I summed all that up into 2 short reminders made of only four words.  I put it on a document, framed it in a border, printed it and put in on my bookshelf.

It will do for now.

It's not catchy or cutesy-wootsy.  It'll never make money or become a nationwide catch-phrase.  But it serves as a reminder to stand a little straighter, to stop mentally mumbling apologetically.  It frees me to be me.  
What do you think?  Do you have a motto that serves you well?

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