My First Blog – “Outside the Circle”

One of the most often used catch-phrases of the last decade is to think “outside the box”.  I was watching a television show the other night where the lead character exclaimed that thinking outside the box is used so often that it is really should be referred to as thinking inside the box.  I thought that was funny.  I’ve previously joked that I want to think outside the circle, because it seems that almost everybody else wants to think outside the box.

That show got me thinking, what other clichés are past their prime and need to be put to rest?  Being in sales, I am very familiar with a “win-win” situation.  However that phrase has been so overused, that if you mention it now, you will just sound like a loser.   Is your company really “cutting-edge”?  Unless you invented something that never existed before, it’s probably not.  Besides, “cutting-edge” sounds painful. 

Does “value-added” really add value any longer?  It’s time to retire that one too.  Perhaps your firm endorses “best practices”.  Even if it is the best practice ever, it’s still practice, right?  Most athletes would agree that while practice is important, it’s how you play in the game that counts.  After all, you can look great in practice and still lose the game.   “Best performance” must surely be better than best practice, but I’m certainly not advocating for that to become the new catchy catch phrase.

Maybe you feel that you should “close early and often”, or perhaps you know people who are notorious for “picking low-hanging fruit”.  Whether you are working “out-of-pocket” or “up to your eyeballs in alligators”, please remember not to overuse clichés.  In fact, I suggest that you don’t use them at all. 

Please don’t call yourself a “thought-leader” or let people know that you are available 24/7.  Be creative, be original, and don’t be afraid to think outside the circle.


3 comments on “My First Blog – “Outside the Circle”

  1. Dave Banick says:

    Hey, Steve,

    This is quite good! Enjoyed reading it and future ones. Don’t be a stranger! (Ooo, sorry…old cliche’…)

  2. Steve,
    I enjoyed your well written commentary but I am not sure I agree with all of them, however, I am open to following your suggestions. The question I have is that some of those cliches really do express what I want to say and I would like something to consicely say the same thing without using them. For example, I will do believe I base my services, and selling on a “win-win”philsophy. How do I adequately express that point since it is a very importanat one for me? Also if you are in the healthcare field “best practices” is not an invogue word but the actual process expected in evidence based medicine.

    I would like to see a follow up to this posting with one telling us how we represent these thoughts on a resume.

    Thanks for making me think:)
    Deborah Dawson

    • Deborah,

      Thank you for reading my blog and providing your feedback. That was the very first blog that I ever wrote, so it is nice to know that someone actually read it. I’m glad that it provoked some thought.

      People use clichés because they are easy to rely on. Like many, I’m sure that I’m guilty at times, but I’ve heard a few salespeople who are big offenders, spewing cliché after cliché. While my blog article suggests eliminating clichés, I merely recommend minimizing reliance on them in an effort to sound different from your competition. After all, if we all speak alike, with similar messages, how is the client going to believe that your product or service is different from any others?

      Thinking outside the circle, I believe that “win-win” can be replaced with “mutually beneficial”. Same thought, different words. I’m sure you can come up with something even better, if you think about it. Regarding my commentary on “best practices”, I was actually being a little tongue-in-cheek, although best practices does seem to be the hot new buzz-word (technically two words) these days. While not my favorite resource, Wikipedia defines best practice as “a method or technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved with other means, and that is used as a benchmark”. offers a similar definition. It seems to me that many can be excellent, but only one can be the very best. My best advice is to eliminate clichés and set your own benchmark!

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