Illegitimi Non Carborundum

Entrepreneurial mindset is about building business focus and momentum. Use powerful words or phrases like “illegitimi non carborundum” to help guide you and keep you moving forward this year.

Illegitimi non carborundum!

What do you think of my 2021 rallying cry? No, this isn't a politically incorrect curse from the Roman legions to the "Barbarians" on Netflix. I first saw this carved into a granite chunk on a professor's desk when I was in college. It resonated with me then and it has always given me a lift. "Don't let the bastards grind you down!" This year, I will use it as a very handy response to all of the nasty twists and turns, rather than resorting to some old-fashioned cuss words (insert your favorite 2020 expletive-deleted here).   

Wait, you 'haven't heard about "illegitimi non-carborundum"? This fake-Latin phrase is one of those urban legends attributed to British intelligence forces. It was adopted by US Army General "Vinegar" Joe Stilwell as his motto during World War II. Since then, it has popped up in American and British cultural references, despite its being a classy but totally fake Latin phrase.

Maja's Illegitimi Non Carborundum paperweight - front

Illegitimi Non Carborundum paperweight - front

Maja's Illegitimi Non Carborundum paperweight - back

Illegitimi Non Carborundum paperweight - back

Why this motto for 2021? 

The year has begun with a ferocity and incivility that has taken us all by surprise. Last year sucked, and collectively we are so over 2020. Already the year is heading down that familiar road. No fair! Many of us felt like we were jumping from the frying pan into the fire, regardless of how we tried to shift and adapt to the swirling mess around us. Enough is enough. I 'don't plan to be retaken by surprise if I can help it.

This year I plan to remember everyone is human, and we all really want much the same thing… except when we don't. Last year I hunkered down. I didn't react much to the world and the people in it, preferring to keep my head firmly planted in the aspects of my business and helping my clients. As Dr. Phil would say, "How's that working for you, honey?" Not very well in the end. This year speaking out is a necessity — illegitimi be damned.

Harness the power of words to build your entrepreneurial mindset

My business partner and other close colleagues are debating the best way to take on 2021, given what we all went through last year. In a "normal" year, whatever that means these days, most of us are conditioned to start a new year by looking at where we were last year and then planning to move forward. Part of this ritual for me has always been to select a word for the year. This ritual has become a part of building our entrepreneurial mindset. Having a word or phrase creates focus and momentum for us as a business team. 

Well, this year, a word wasn't enough. I chose a phrase. I wanted a different way to look at things. Our business northstar is to create a more loving, friendly world using our businesses as the springboard. It was time to add some grit and growl to back it up to let the world know we mean what we say AND we are not pushovers.

Choosing only one word didn't seem likely. There were many I wanted to use. Most didn't have a terrific reputation in the polite world. The terms below all invoke potent feelings and actions. Applying them to my business reminds me exactly why we are a social purpose corporation with a triple bottom line. I propose we use these nine words and apply their meanings to the lives of our business, our clients and our employees. These words are:

  • Wisdom – Good judgment, ability to perceive people and situations correctly; Ability to deliberate and decide on a correct response
  • Piety – The correct observance of ritual and social traditions through ceremony and duty. This is a very stuffy and out-of-fashion word for most people. I would interpret it to mean our responsibility and obligation to do the right thing and set good examples as role models in our communities and cultures. Maybe a more contemporary version would be" walkin' the talk!"
  • Vision – Broaden our perspective to understand our place/role in the cosmos relating to our past, present and future.
  • Courage – Act appropriately in the face of danger
  • Integrity – Honor, being trustworthy to oneself and others, involving oath-keeping, honesty, fairness, respect and self-confidence
  • Perseverance – Drive, the motivation to pursue goals even when that pursuit becomes difficult
  • Hospitality – Acting as both a gracious host and an appreciative guest, involving benevolence, friendliness, humor, and honoring a gift for a gift. In ancient times, it was a responsibility and obligation for both parties to create a safe space for interacting, with severe consequences to those who violated hospitality codes.
  • Moderation – Cultivating one's appetites so that one is neither a slave to them nor driven to ill health
  • Fertility – Bounty of mind, body and spirit, involving creativity, production of objects, food, works of are, etc. in an appreciation of the physical, sensual nurturing

Okay, these words might not be your first choice to use for your business. Find the words that you react to, that get your ideas flowing and your mind into the game. Choose words that will help you see things from a new angle, change your perspective, flip the way you look at things. It's time to let 2020 go and all the limiting, selfish thinking that contributed to the mess. Ask yourself, what words will I choose to help guide me and keep me moving forward this year?

These nine words are going to become a profound part of me and my business, even if they sound a bit stuffy and dated. Harnessing their power will allow me to change how I meet the challenges of running my own business and become a better human to other humans. Make mine an order of "Excelsior" to go with a large side order of "hell, yes!"

Robynne Davis

Robynne Davis is Executive Director at Xylina SPC, a woman owned, Washington Social Purpose Corporation with an emphasis on social justice and environmental responsibility. She also is the board Secretary for the Oregon Small Business Fair.

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