The Power of a Single Word

Today’s prompt conjures 2 things; a fond memory shared with an old co-worker from days working in the training department of a bank, and great irritation at anyone who uses the word.

Before figuring out what to be when I grew up, I worked many jobs, but all of them had a common thread: teaching. I was either elected to train new employees on the register procedures working retail, showing the ropes waiting tables, and eventually after a few years as a bank teller and an assistant branch manager, I was hired as a teller trainer. At the bank, the training department had a bank classroom, complete with online customers, cash drawers with monopoly money and actual hands-on transactions. Newly hired tellers completed a series of classes to earn their way to a pay raise. The first week of employment was spent at headquarters in our mock bank, preparing them well for  real live customers.

One of the first, and probably most important lessons I learned in that job was from my mentor, who we’ll call J. She was (and is) awesome at her job. J made new hires feel comfortable and welcome, had a giving nature and a fun sense of humor. We hit it off right away and it’s one of the best working relationships I’ve ever had. J detested the word obvious. Obvious, especially when spoken to a student, conveys arrogant superiority. “Duh. It’s so obvious. How could you not know that?” It’s the mark of a bad instructor, regardless of subject or industry. While in the classroom setting, we never seriously used the word, but in our office, preparing for upcoming courses – we would often use the word jokingly, or see how many times we could use it in conversation. It became a silly inside joke that we found hilarious.

I loved working with J. But, as with any military family, PCS season eventually came and we moved out of state. We may have moved, but the lessons of my year working with her stuck with me. Now as a personal trainer, it’s still a word I hate hearing.

“It’s so obvious! Cut out junk food and you’ll lose weight!”

Really? Have you seen the ridiculous amount of CONFLICTING CRAP there is available surrounding health, fitness and weight loss? It is quite the opposite.  If it was so obvious – we wouldn’t have the health problems, including type II diabetes, and other obesity-related diseases we are currently facing. Despite advertisements for every diet pill, shake, saran wrap wraps and every other b.s. program out there claiming miraculous results with little effort, the truth is it’s slow, and often hard. It’s a process. It’s a lifetime of changing old habits and incorporating new ones.

If you grow up in one place never knowing what else is out there, that there are different ways of living and eating, you don’t know what you don’t know. If living where there are 18 fast food restaurants in a 2-mile radius has taught me anything, it’s this: things are not obvious if they are not pointed out. If you’ve never picked up a dumbbell a day in your life, it’s not intuitive. It’s not obvious. As instructors, as teachers, as professionals responsible for leading others, it’s obviously time for obvious to leave our vocabularies!

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