The Limits of Your World

Sent by Jonathan Stark on January 5th, 2020

The German philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote:

“Die Grenzen meiner Sprache bedeuten die Grenzen meiner Welt“

…which translates in English to:

“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world”

If you think about this too hard, it gets super trippy… like:

“Can I have rational thoughts about stuff for which there are no words?”

…and…

“If words are an outgrowth of shared human experience, can there be words for any experiences that are uniquely mine?”

…and…

“If there are no words for experiences that are uniquely mine, AND IF I can’t have rational thoughts about stuff for which there are no words, THEN is it even possible for me to reason about things that are uniquely me?”

I know, I know… “don’t bogart that blunt, man…”

Here’s the thing…

You don’t just use words to communicate with other people. You have conversations with yourself almost constantly. Pretty much anytime you’re awake and not moving your mouth, there’s a narrative going through your head. It’s happening right now as you read this.

What is this called? It’s called thinking. Or maybe it’d be clearer in this context to say “talking to yourself in your head”.

So…

If you don’t know the word for something, you can’t articulate the thought to yourself. In other words, you can’t communicate with yourself about the idea. Maybe you can sense it, or “feel it in your gut”, but you literally can’t think about it.

Let’s bring this into a practical business context:

Do you know what “top-line” means in a business discussion? What about “upstream” or “leverage” or “P & L”? Or the difference between “strategy” and “tactics”? Or between “marketing” and “sales”?

These are all standard terms in the business world that are distinct and well understood. Not having a clear understanding of terms like these would limit the size (i.e., growth or impact) of one’s business. 

If you feel like something’s wrong in your business but you can’t quite put your finger on it, you might just need to learn some new words.

Yours,

—J