Student reflection: Advice in 500 words or less

by Simon Tam

What if you only had 500 words of wisdom to share with your community, your children, or tomorrow’s leaders? This is what I’d tell them:

Make every word count.

I once heard that “language is the primary moral choice in our life”. The words we choose can build communities, reunite loved ones, and inspire others. They can be a catalyst for change. However, our words also have the power to destroy and divide: they can start a war, reduce a lifelong relationship to a collection of memories, or end a life.

If there is anything in life worthy of consideration, it should be the way that we use words. In nearly every creation story, life begins from words. In every civilization, it has been the storytellers, the oracles, the writers, and the masters of language that have ruled.

It is often said to live every day as if it were the last. The words that you use should be considered with equal weight. If your life could only be judged by your words, how would you be remembered?

Would your good intentions be overshadowed by negativity, gossip, sarcasm, and bitterness? Would your words be remembered as inspirational, loving, full of hope, and treasured by the community around you?

Your life becomes better only when you become better. Begin with the words that you choose to shape the world around you. Everything that we know and believe in this life depends on the context of the words that we allow into our lives and the words that we share with others.

With only a single life to live, there is no excuse to waste time by creating more negativity and dejection in our world.

There’s a passage in Success One Day at a Time by John C. Maxwell that reads:


More to improve and fewer to disapprove… more to say it can be done and fewer to say it’s impossible.

More to inspire others and fewer to throw cold water on them.

More to get into the thick of things and fewer to sit on the sidelines.

More to point out what’s right and fewer to show what’s wrong.

More to light a candle and fewer to curse the darkness.

-Author Unknown

Let’s renounce cynicism as the primary vehicle for change in the world.

If you only had a limited number of words to share with others, what would you say? If you are only going to be remembered by your final words, what would you say? Say it.

Beginning right now, make every word count.

Simon Tam is a musician, author, marketer and social justice activist. He is currently pursuing an MBA at Marylhurst University and can be found at and Twitter @SimonTheTam.

Photo: Fey Ilyas via Flickr, Creative Commons license