Whatever sage advice you impart to someone, make it short and memorable

To me, it’s all the more valuable if a person passing along some advice puts it into a short, memorable phrase.

This month’s Uniquely Cleveland focuses on the The Northern Ohio Italian American Foundation, its 20-year history and its philanthropy, including an annual gala, which this year will honor Tommy LiPuma. A Cleveland native and record producer, LiPuma has earned 18 gold and platinum records and 30 Grammy nominations in his 40-year career.

LiPuma has described the phrase he uses for what he looks for in an artist as the “chill factor.” In an interview, he gave this explanation of the nerve-tingling result of a perfect combination of song, voice and style: “I can’t always put my finger on why I know something will work. It’s more the ‘chill factor’ I look for, honing in on that artist whose music reaches inside you and takes you somewhere.”

With that phrase, the “chill factor,” you have all that’s necessary to realize how LiPuma makes his decision and perhaps how you can consider what gives you the “chill factor” when you have to evaluate a performance or product.

Decisive moment

Another phrase that says it all in a few words is the “decisive moment.” Henri Cartier-Bresson, a French photographer who is widely considered the father of photojournalism, coined this phrase, which has come to mean the perfect second to press the shutter.

To quote Cartier-Bresson, the decisive moment is “In the span of a fraction of a second, the simultaneous acknowledgement of the meaning of a fact on one hand, and on the other, of a rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that express this fact.”

So when you push the shutter on your decision, you might want to consider if it is the decisive moment.

Leap of faith

Still a third phrase that communicates so much in so few words is “leap of faith,” attributed to 19th century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. While he originally used it in a religious sense, it has been applied more broadly to indicate taking a risk and believing it will go well.

Both “leap” and “faith” are critical to the phrase’s meaning. If you change it to a “movement of little doubt,” it doesn’t convey the message nearly as well.

I first heard this used by someone I was interviewing for a position who said she left her job before she had a new one lined up. She was taking a leap of faith, she said.

I don’t know how it worked out for her but I was impressed both that she left her job without having a new one and that she called it a leap of faith — that by doing so, it was setting forces into play that would help ensure a positive outcome.

What’s your phrase? If you don’t have one at hand, give it some thought. You never know when you’ll be asked for some advice.

Dennis Seeds is editor-at-large for Smart Business Network. He is interested in the people and businesses making a difference in Cleveland.