What to do when you run or ride into a wall of cliches

In a world full of cliches, the one that seems to annoy the most is the phrase “You’re only as strong as your weakest link.” It’s one of those condescending phrases people seem to blurt out when they see you at a disadvantage, or when you’re hurt. Or worse yet, they point it at someone that has just experienced some failing that seems to have harmed the team. In other words the most cynical bastards in the world sometimes use that phrase.

Cliches happen

WallYou know how it works. Show up at a group run on a Saturday morning with a tender achilles and dare to gripe about it. Someone will undoubtedly huff and say the cliched phrase you hate to hear, “Well, you know…you know you’re only as strong as your weakest link.”

AS IF that is somehow supposed to help. Secretly you want to look up and blurt out a great big, “Fuck you.” Polite decorum prevents you from doing so. But later in the car you say it out loud just to get it off your chest.

In the moment you just shake your head and somehow find the strength to ignore the ugly obviousness of that statement and smile. “Yeah, you know, that’s true…” you say. But secretly you’re thinking: “I can’t wait until that asshole’s the one that’s hurt and I can say that stupid shit to him.”

Not a nice thing to say

“Fuck off” or “Fuck you” is seldom a nice thing to say. Still, it would be so much more satisfying to let fly rather than hold back. But truth be told, if we went around saying “fuck off” to the stupid, cliched things we hear each day, absolutely no one would want to hang out with us. And we’d get fired. Because the business world is full of cliches and the people saying them are often your pointy-haired boss.

Justified FU

Wall threeIn all the time I was caregiver to a wife with cancer, there were failings of mine that deserved a round of critical commentary. But most of the time she’d find a way to be nice about it.

With one notable exception. While trying to gulp down a horrid tasting container of liquid required before a colonoscopy, she was near gagging. It wasn’t just the taste of the stuff. She could handle that fine. But chemotherapy does evil stuff to your taste buds. Even good tasting foods are awful to a chemo patient. So imagine that nasty taste X100 and that’s what she was dealing with. It took her an hour to gag down half of it, and I for some reason got impatient with her. So I went out in the backyard to tell her to suck it up right then and there. She looked me straight in the eye and said, “Fuck. Off.”

And I deserved that. No doubt. It was insensitive of me. I’ve never claimed to be perfect. But that was so much less than perfect it deserved a caning like they dole out in Eastern Asian countries when people get caught selling or using drugs. If I’d have told her something banal such as “You know, you’re only as strong as your weakest link” at that moment she might have tackled me, held me down and choked me to death. Cliches are simply not designed to help in times of pain or crisis. Yet people use them because they know not what to say.

Habitual cliches

Athletes and businesspeople still seem to love using cliches. We pretend it’s some sort of motivational Magic Syrup. In actuality we torture each other with all kinds of cliched phrases that seem well-intentioned but actually are a way of saying “fuck you” while trying to be nice. So here, in no particular order, are the nice little “fuck yous” people use everyday. We’ve provided the “under your breath response” as a service to you.

“Noone said it was going to be easy!”….Yeah, fuck you too. 

“There’s no I in team!”Fuck you and your stupid little team.

“Work smarter not harder.”Fuck your smartass smartness. 

“If you act enthusiastic, you’ll be enthusiastic.”Fuck you and by the way? I hope you die an enthusiastic death. 

Pointy-Haired_Boss“What the mind can conceive, the mind can achieve!”Try that while you’re puking after three miles of climbing, you miserable piece of fuck. 

“Think outside the box!”What box? This is a fucking bike, you weirdo creep. 

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”…Actually, it makes way more fucking sense to draft when the going gets tough. 

“Lead, follow, or get out of the way”Fuck you. I just farted.  

“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”...And for saying that we can know who the real fucking problem is here.  

“Raise your game.”This is not fucking poker you stupid douchebag. It isn’t basketball, football or fucking rugby either. It’s running. Riding. Swimming. None of those is called a fucking game. 

“Hang in there….” Fuck you. I’ve got balls but I’m not a set of testicles.

“Be proactive!”…Fuck that…what do you think I am, a running zit? 

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”Fine. Now I am going to use your fucking nose as a lemon squeezer. 

Kind of angry

Wall drainOkay. We’ll admit those responses all sound kind of angry. But that’s what cliches do to us. I mean, it should make you want to scream when you hear dismissive cliches like this one: “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”

That is a fucking lie. Guns kill people every day. They make it easy to kill. So if you say that, you’re a lying sack of shit.

Same goes for a host of other banal phrases that are cliched euphemisms that imitate the truth without truly caring about it.

“Fair and balanced” is one such phrase that comes to mind. The very fact that Fox News feels compelled to label their opinions that way proves that the statement is not true.

Patronizing bullshit

My own son at the age of 11 once turned to me and said, “Dad, have you ever noticed when people say the words ‘good for you’ they really don’t mean it? They’re just being patronizing.”

This kid starting talking at six months old, so he learned the power of language early on. He was spot on by recognizing that some people speak those words “good for you” in a patronizing way. They’re pretending to be nice when in fact they are either jealous or dismissive of your accomplishments.  “Good for you” is one of those tarsnakes that can be taken either way.

That fact of language had not occurred to me before that moment. But yes, people give faint praise out of jealousy all the time. They smile when they don’t really mean it. They’re nice to you when they really don’t like you. They pretend they don’t care that splits on the bike or pace in a 10K was faster than them in the last race. But they really do care and they quietly hate you for every ounce of goodness you seem to exude that they cannot identify in themselves. But the cliche thing to do is pretend that isn’t true.

Competitive bitches and bastards

We’re all competitive bastards and bitches pretending to be nice when in reality the thought that goes through our heads when someone beats us at anything is, “FUCK YOU!”

That’s how we all secretly roll in this competitive world. We’re not projecting anything on anyone that they don’t already know. Better to come clean and deal with it honestly than congratulate yourself falsely for being a Mean Girl inside and a Nice Girl or Boy outside. Sooner or later, people see through that too.

What you actually need right now is a dose of catharsis. So let’s take some inspiration from the Frank Slade character played by Al Pacino in the movie Scent of a Woman. He really lets fly in this clip. It is worth a view.

Here’s the actual dialogue:

I’d take a…FLAMETHROWER to this place! Out of order? Who the hell do ya think you’re talking to? I’ve been around, ya know? There was a time I could see. And I have seen. Boys like these, younger than these. Their arms torn out, their legs ripped off. But there is nothing like the sight of an amputated spirit. There’s no prosthetic for that. You think you’re merely sending this splendid foot solder back home to Oregon with his tail between his legs, but I say you are executing his SOUL! And why? Because he’s not a Baird man. Baird man. You hurt this boy, you’re gonna be Baird bums, the lot of ya. And Harry, Jimmy, Trent, wherever you are, fuck you too!

Wall of bananas


So here’s wishing you all a Happy Fuck You Day. (HFYD…hell yeah, let’s make this an Internet Meme.) Rotten bananas would be a helluva good image for HFYD.

Perhaps the day after Columbus Day would be a good time. Old Columbus was the worldwide traveling King of Fuck You, if you ask me. He took no prisoners and he gave no quarter. Is that an admirable trait? Maybe so. He’s got a fucking day named after him despite being a murderous bastard.

Don’t settle

The real lesson here is to not settle for the cliches, people. As far as this writer is concerned, your weakest link fucking rocks no matter what it is. Just ask Jesus about that one, for he once said that the “meek shall inherit the earth.”

So how do you nicely say “fuck you” without really saying it? You look up at the guy who made the “weakest link” statement and tell him, “That’s not really helpful. Do you know anyone who knows about achilles tendons?”

Wall IceOr, you respond to the patronizingly false compliment when someone blurts a halfhearted “good for you” by looking them right in the eye and saying “Thank you. I really worked hard to make that happen.” Call their bluff. Make it real.

But just in case someone calls you the weakest link, take it to heart if there’s an element of truth or revelation in it. Then set out to prove them wrong any way you can. Wield your weakness like a fucking badge. Celebrate your humility. Be honest, and be bold. Take the lead on the next group ride and pull until you drop like a rock. Fail greatly, but test yourself and your soul. Then quietly go about the business of getting better. Because you know you can, once you get the cliched bullshit of trying to always be a leader out of the way. Or acting enthusiastic when you’re in pain and suffering. Or fucking squeezing lemons when someone promised you oranges.

Our advice is to start with a quick fuck you spoken under your breath…or when you’re out of range. Fuck you is always a great place to start when it comes to motivation. It cuts right through the cliches, for one thing. They’re the only thing actually holding you back.


About Christopher Cudworth

Christopher Cudworth is a content producer, writer and blogger with more than 25 years’ experience in B2B and B2C marketing, journalism, public relations and social media. Connect with Christopher on Twitter: @genesisfix07 and blogs at werunandride.com, therightkindofpride.com and genesisfix.wordpress.com Online portfolio: http://www.behance.net/christophercudworth
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3 Responses to What to do when you run or ride into a wall of cliches

  1. bgddyjim says:

    At the beginning of your post I could see why a HFYD might be necessary. If anyone ripped off a BS cliché on a somber occasion, as you described, a quick ‘fuck you’ would not only be in order, it would be tossed out like a hand grenade, immediately (in the context of the Achilles heel). Clichés can be great, when used properly, but in many of the cases you described they were not. I’ll help you promote HFYD…

  2. Great piece.
    At the ripe old age of 50 it finally dawned on me that even when people are smiling at you they may still be saying “Fuck you.” They may be pissed or up set, but still smiling as they nod in agreement with you.
    How did I miss that all of these years?

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