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    Magic Words at Work

    Excerpted from
    Magic Words at Work: Powerful Phrases to Help You Conquer the Working World
    By Howard Kaminsky, Alexandra Penney

    Martyrs Are Revered (But Rarely Rewarded)

    It was hard not to dismiss Peggy as a drudge. With a doctorate in English literature, she was overqualified for the job she took proofreading press releases and catalogues for a Washington, D.C., museum. She thought that the job was a starter position and that her diligence would soon be rewarded.

    Peggy didn't see herself as others saw her-an unimaginative woman wearing ancient, pleated plaid skirts and tailored white blouses, who was always bent over her desk, pencil in hand, making little scratch marks on paper. When others in the office asked her to join them in the cafeteria for lunch, Peggy would shake her head, pointing to the waiting manuscripts. Then she would open the bottom drawer of her desk, take out a brown paper bag, and, reaching inside, extract the inevitable tuna-fish sandwich. Peggy's manner tagged her as someone you could always count on and, though no one ever actually said it, someone you could take advantage of. But while her co-workers dismissed her as a woman who was dedicating her life to cleaning up others' grammatical mistakes, Peggy was living in a fantasy. She was not just making scratch marks on paper, she was conceiving and arranging exhibits of her own. Someday soon, instead of correcting catalogues, she would be writing them.

    This dream drove Peggy to arrive at work an hour early each morning. By the time her boss turned up at nine, her desk held a neat pile of corrected proofs. As is the way in most offices, the more Peggy got done, the more she was given to do. Peggy acknowledges that she might have gone on like that for years, uncomplaining, convinced that people's admiration for her hard work would eventually lift her to another level.

    Then, one day, she had an early-morning dentist appointment. By the time she arrived at the museum, her mouth still numb from novocaine, it was nine o'clock, and Peggy found herself riding up in the elevator with her boss. His "Good morning" was chilly, but Peggy wasn't prepared for the call she received from his secretary saying the boss wanted to see her, or for the reprimand she received for coming in "late."

    "It was my own fault," Peggy admitted to Alexandra when they met at an opening at the museum and Peggy told Alexandra the source of her own Magic Words. "No one asked me to work all those hours. I should have used that time to advance myself in other ways-thinking up new ideas. It took me almost a year to wipe out the image I'd created of the automaton. But I did, and eventually I was offered a better job. A friend who'd listened to my woes did a little two-sided drawing for me. On one side there's a woman standing up against a wall, her arms crossed over her breasts while a lion approaches. It says 'Martyrs Are Revered.' On the flip side it says, 'But Rarely Rewarded,' and there's the lion, trotting off with the woman in his mouth. Believe me, those are Magic Words."

    Your Ship Can't Come In If It Hasn't Set Sail

    Alexandra has a friend who's always thinking about what to do when he wins the lottery. Several years after she had first begun hearing of these fabulous plans, Alexandra discovered by chance that the future millionaire had never actually bought a lottery ticket. "It's too much trouble," the friend explained. "You have to wait for them to have the drawing to find out if you won."

    When it comes to lottery tickets, the friend was probably right. He had the pleasure of fantasizing, and only a little less chance of winning than those who actually bought a ticket. But in most of life's endeavors, "Your Ship Can't Come In If It Hasn't Set Sail."

    Erie is a prime example of a man standing on the dock watching an empty horizon. His dream is to move out of middle management, where he is currently stalled, and into the upper echelons of his company. Eric seems to feel that this event will happen by magic.

    Last year, his company selected half a dozen people to take a weeklong course at a prestigious business school. Eric's boss approached him to see if he'd be interested. Absolutely, said Eric, but not that week. That's when he'd planned to take several days off to go ice fishing up north. Needless to say, this year no one approached Eric about taking the course that might boost him into a more responsible job.

    Lily is also stuck on the dock. When she inherited money from her grandmother, she decided to start her own business. So far, she has done intensive studies on the risks and rewards of opening a restaurant, a bookstore, a specialty-food store, a gallery' selling crafts, and a frame shop. There are risks to everything, a friend has pointed out, and though it's sensible to evaluate a business before setting out, Lily's fear is likely to keep her ship on its mooring.

    In the great days of the sailing ships, people knew that a voyage might bring a fortune or the ship might founder. A sound ship, a competent crew, and knowledge of the seas could reduce the risk, but the only way to ensure that a ship never sank was to keep it in dry dock. For those who took the risks, there were huge rewards; many New England families still rest on fortunes earned in the era when the ships came in. Taking a chance is part of life. Whether it is extending yourself at the job in hopes of improving your position, or taking a risk on a relationship that may not work out, these Magic Words will give you the courage to start your voyage.

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