Word Evolution: 11 Words that Mean Something Different to Entrepreneurs

Have you ever really thought about how terms take on new meaning over time? When I was a kid, the word "sick" actually meant sick. Today "sick" can also mean "amazing". Words and phrases evolve over time--especially in the business world. Leaders and entrepreneurs grow and change over time too as creativity and innovation dictate. The recent "Back to the Future" craze got me thinking about words and meanings, and how they've evolved. Check out this fun list of terms that used to mean one thing, but now mean another for many emerging or established leaders and entrepreneurs. Let me know if you have more to add!

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Hustle: No longer just a groovy dance, "to hustle" means to work hard. Like, really hard. It means to go after something with passion and tenacity. Remember the coach in high school? "Hustle, kid, hustle!" Hustle may also be used as a noun. "What's your hustle this week?" In other words, what's your focus? What are you chasing? Find your hustle and work for it!

Side hustle: Many emerging entrepreneurs still have a day job but they have hustles outside their typical 9-5, so they have what's called a "side hustle". An entrepreneur may also have multiple interests or businesses. They may have one or two primary hustles, and then additional side hustles. Writing and speaking is actually my very own side hustle!

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Mastermind: Nope, I'm not talking about evil villains here. In fact, there's nothing evil at all about a mastermind. A mastermind is a group of people working together either to learn something new or supporting each other in their personal hustles. Most entrepreneurs have been a part of a mastermind at one time or another, and often remain a part of that mastermind community and others. They know the importance of surrounding themselves with experts, supporters, and resources. Mastermind communities come in many forms. Some hold regular meetings in person, but most exist online. You should join one!

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Branding: Put away those branding irons. Entrepreneurs see branding quite differently. Branding is crucial to business success and is more than just marketing and logos. Branding is the coherent, consistent message you send when people see your images or products combined with that lasting emotion people feel when they experience or think of your brand. Consider it as the professional reputation of your products or even yourself.

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Hack: No traumatic bludgeoning thriller here. No computer thieves either. "Hack" is no longer a negative, scary, or criminal term. The new hack is a solution, sometimes a simple one. Many entrepreneurs market "hacks" they've developed or discovered on their own, for example they may advertise a webinar or Google Hangout designed to help amateurs or newbies break into a professional business. Creative people develop hacks of all kinds to help slay the competition.

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Toolbox: For some, the word toolbox might conjure up literal images of their grandpa's old wooden toolbox or their parent's tool chest. But for leaders and entrepreneurs it's less about Craftsman and more about craft. What skills have you honed or developed to reach your potential clients? Your toolbox should be packed with everything you need to solve problems or bring value to people. It may be literal things like a handy book, software, or an app, but your toolbox may also include intangibles, like the gift of persuasion, or a little bit of grace. Nothing throws a wrench in an entrepreneur's toolbox more than procrastination, lack of follow-through, or a bad attitude. Take stock of your toolbox. What do you bring to the table to make things happen for your clients or stakeholders? Figure it out, and BRING IT! (As an aside, these days, some people can also "be" a "tool". Don't be one. It's bad for business.

Thought Leader
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Thought Leader: There's nothing hypnotic or cultish about today's thought leaders. It may sound like science fiction but it's thought leaders are real true genuine leaders in their niche. They're respected and have a following.

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Ok, so this term is not hot off the presses, but it still has nothing to do with produce. People often work in silos, and don't see the relevance of their participation as part of a team, so they function on their own--or they think they do. It's still trendy to stop flying solo, get out of the silo, and be a part of something greater. Everyone has value and everyone contributes to the team's success.

Social Proof

Social Proof: At one time, people considered passports, driver's licenses, and birth certificates as proof of who you are and where you're coming from. For entrepreneurs and influencers, social proof is of paramount importance and generally means people can easily find out more about your expertise and message by checking you out online or elsewhere. Just about anything can serve as social proof. Social proof is a tangible professional footprint that includes everything from articles you've written, courses you've completed or taught, interviews, research, projects, books, awards or recognition, or even your years in the trenches. Social proof presents to others that you have "been there and done that" -whatever it is you have accomplished.


Tribe: Nope, I'm not talking about a beautiful or mysterious indigenous people group. I'm talking about your followers! A leader has to have followers and the term tribe indicates those fans, followers, or stalkers within your special niche.


Community used to refer to your next door neighbors, friends from school, church or other social organizations. Some of that of course, remains true and anyone in your sphere of influence could be your community. You are most certainly a part of other communities, but these days the "community" has never been more accessible, and communication with your community has never been easier. Don't squander or ignore the entrepreneurial community that lies at your fingertips! Community is at the heart of success.


To "Opt-In" used to mean a lot of things and typically referred to finances, but now we know that "opting in" is an action taken by those who see value in what you're doing! Some people see an "opt-in" function on websites as pesky, but the research shows it works for entrepreneurs, bloggers, and businesses in all sorts of diverse niches.

Don't stay in your silo. Hustle. Join a mastermind. Establish a brand, some social proof, and unique hacks. Build your tribe and don't neglect your community, and keep a little grace in your toolbox. You'll be surprised how many people from around the world will support you and opt in!

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