When catching up with old friends the conversation often turns to mutual friends.
“How is Mark doing?”
“He’s crushing it” or “He’s doing really well.”
“Crushing it” – popularized by entrepreneur Gary Vanderchuck – and “doing well” are codewords for “he’s making a lot of money.”
Sometimes they mean career success in terms of status, money, results.
This conversation usually comes up with my male friends. I rarely hear my girl friends describe their friends as “crushing it.”
That we equate “doing well” with money exposes our values. But should money continue being our metric for success? Life has taught me that “doing well” could and should mean so many other things, for example: having good health, meaningful work, and loving relationships.
It would be better to speak plainly: “Mark’s making a lot of money.” Let’s not confuse money with wellness.
The metaphor “crushing it” implies crushing the competition (to crush literally means to destroy with force to the point of injury). What else is there to crush?
“Crushing it” reinforces the story of scarcity, of living in a zero sum world where one’s gain is another’s loss – crush before you’re crushed. The same goes for “killing it” – kill before you’re killed.
Even if you take competition out of the picture, must success involve killing and crushing?
“Mark sold his company” or “Mark has gotten a lot of press coverage” invite questions to know more.
“Mark’s crushing it!” has a tone of finality. How can you respond to that? “Um yeah, I guess so,” you nod, in implicit agreement.
As someone who uses a lot of slang, especially with male friends, I must strive for more accurate and honest language.
George Orwell observed that good metaphors make us more aware while bad metaphors conceal or ignore. Vagueness and ready made phrases are often ways to avoid conversation – in this case, about well-being and success.
So before using ready made phrases I’ll pause and think: do they expand or shrink the listener’s worldview? Do they invite or mute conversation? What worldview do they enforce?
Better yet, I won’t use them at all.
“If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation, even among people who should and do know better… This invasion of one’s mind by ready-made phrases can only be prevented if one is constantly on guard against them, and every such phrase anesthetizes a portion of one’s brain.”
George Orwell, Politics and the English Language