Monday, September 29, 2008

It Is What It Is

April 17 47/365 - "It is what it is"
Originally uploaded by bp6316

It is what it is. I hate the phrase. When I hear someone say it, I hear them saying, "Oh well." I overheard someone say it at work this morning. Within minutes I had this post written nearly word for word in my head.

The sports world generally takes the blame for introducing the phrase into the mainstream. It's often used by athletes and coaches alike to sum up difficulties they may be having. It's a clue to sports reporters to drop it and move on because, well, it is what it is.

Have I mentioned that I hate that phrase? Here's a few reasons why:

  • It provides no consideration for any alternative.
  • It gives no room for a differing opinion.
  • It offers no other options or solutions.
  • It invites mediocrity and discourages excellence.
  • It permits a problem or issue to continue.
  • It is saying, in essence, "Oh well."
After all, it is what it is.

Let's consider a few more ideas.
  • What if Thomas Edison, after attempting to invent a light bulb some 10,000 times, had thrown up his hands and simply said, "It is what it is"?
  • Abraham Lincoln did not sit back and watch as one state after another seceded from the Union, joining the Confederate States, and say, "It is what it is".
  • After witnessing and even experiencing some of the cruel acts the British Empire was exercising on the Indian people, Mohandas Gandhi did not simply shake his head and say, "It is what it is."
  • Orville and Wilbur Wright had failed at their own attempts to fly. They had witnessed others fail to be able to control flight, beyond that of a little gliding, yet they did not turn away and say, "It is what it is."
  • By the late 1930's Winston Churchill had suffered political isolation. His reputation was tarnished in the British Parliament and England as a whole. Largely because of his unpopular opposition to the rise of Nazi Germany. He did not resign to the life of a private citizen and simply say, "It is what it is."
  • Though blind and deaf, Helen Keller, graduated from college, was an author, activist, and lecturer. She did not simply accept the handicaps she had been born with and say, "It is what it is."
In short, great people do not say, "It is what it is." They provide solutions. They triumph over tragedy. They succeed in spite of failures. They inspire while defeating adversity. Because sometimes, it is not what it is.


Chris McDaniel said...

Oh man - our new culture of milquetoast & mediocrity's favorite response to any opposition.

Great's worst enemy is Good.

Careful - you may end up like this guy or oddly enough, THIS guy!

Jared said...

It's true that phrase is way to vague and in the end meaningless.

Nothing would move forward or get done if that's how everybody thought all of the time.

I think its the truly remarkable people who never use that phrase and always look deeper, I think by that list of examples you might agree with that.

Andrew Weaver said...

Jared - I most certainly do agree with that! Some have said, well there are times when matters are out of your control and you just have to say, "it is what it is".

But I'm not talking about things that are out of our control. We toss that phrase around so often we do nothing but invite mediocrity into our life!