Success and tenacity go hand in hand.
Dave Cunningham / December 1, 2008
“Only” is a word that generally means, it’s not happening to me. For example, He only has the flu or it only costs $100. If you don’t have the flu or you don’t have to spend $100 of your own money, “only” seems and sounds plausible. If, on the other hand, you’re having a difficult time breathing at night because your sinuses are blocked or have to buy a new pair of shoes, it is more than only. It’s your reality.
“If only” is also misleading because when the words are spoken, it sounds as if something might happen, as in, if only it I had the time, I’d call my mother. Again, reality says that there will not be enough time. So you may as well have said, I don’t have time to call my mother. It’s a nice way of letting ourselves off the hook for neglecting to do something we know we should do.
Consulting my dictionary, I found the following to describe “only”: Were it not that / except that / but. Of course, “only” can also mean exclusive or one of a kind, as in the Hope diamond is the only one of its kind.
I was taught early in life to pay close attention to words. They are powerful and carry meaning. Only, as an exclusive is very powerful. Unfortunately, it becomes watered down when used in the other forms of you will pay only or if only.
Sometimes the word is used deliberately to imply that the situation is less important than it might if compared to a far worse situation. The American automotive bailout request is a case in point. We are told that this request for twenty five billion dollars is another “only” situation because it is a small amount when compared to the much larger multi-billion dollar figure being given to the bankers who have run the world economy into the ground. Call me crazy, but I think that any number with nine zeros after it exceeds the legitimacy of the word, “only.” It makes me think that “if only” I had kept my savings under my mattress instead of entrusting it to the knuckleheads that we hold up as business gurus, I would have a lot more of it than I do after the calamity of the past two months.
So the next time someone offers you solace, beware of the word only. The reality is that if only they had acted more responsibly and less greedily, I would not be left with only half of what I had before this all happened. My home is now worth only half of what it was. My savings are only two thirds of what they were worth three months ago. My chances of recouping my losses are only as good as the judgment of the guys responsible for fixing this whole mess who are (switching to the other definition) the only ones responsible for causing it to begin with. So, if only we can all be patient, things might turn out all right, and we will lose only a small fraction of our savings – this compared to the far worse possibility of losing everything we have worked for all of our working lives. If only things were different . . .