It Is NOT: “It Is What It Is”!

I have a new least favorite phrase. One so overused it now belongs in the “Overused Cliché – That Means Nothing Hall of Fame” along with inane silence killers like “at the end of the day” and “It’s not Rocket Science” (I’m actually married to a real rocket scientist, so I hear this one in every possible social situation…).

My new least favorite set of words all used together:

“It is what is is…”

When one says “It is what it is…” – this is what I hear:

  • I don’t care
  • I don’t want to care
  • I can’t change it anyway
  • I don’t want to change it anyway
  • I’m not in control of that, so it’s not worth my effort
  • I don’t want to take control of it, so I’m not going to make any effort
  • Now, I’m going back to complaining that politicians suck, that the economy sucks and that I can’t find a job – because employers suck

Here’s a news flash…

“IT” is whatever you make it out to be. “IT” can be changed, if you care enough. “IT” is your life – and no one is accountable or more in control of your life… than you.

No matter what you think of downsized VPs now spooning foam on your caffeinated drink at Starbucks, groups of people doing silly/creative things on social media to build their personal brand and find work, or – no matter what side of the debate we’re on – movements like Occupy Wall Street, at least we know one thing… They didn’t just sit around, in a passive version of a hissy fit, blaming the economy and their bad fortune on “It is what is is…”

In each one of these examples, there are people doing what they think they have to do to change their personal “it” – or the digital “it” – or the global “it”.

Next time someone around you utters “It is what it is…” please join me in challenging them:

  • Does this mean that you don’t care, don’t want to care, or just aren’t interested helping make a change?
  • If you did care, what would you do – and how could you motivate others – to change “it”?
  • Could you not stand the thought of a moment of silence, and just had to regurgitate those useless, negative, passive words?

No more “It is what it is…” for me.

I care too much. And I want to surround myself with those… who care too much.



About the Author: A passionate supporter of Gen Y talent, CEO and Founder of YouTern Mark Babbitt is a serial entrepreneur and mentor. Mark has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Forbes and Under30CEO regarding internships, higher education’s role in preparing emerging talent for the workforce and career development. Recently, Mark was honored to be named to GenJuice’s list of “Top 100 Most Desirable Mentors”. You can contact Mark via email or on Twitter: @YouTernMark.

This entry was posted in Job Search, Personal Branding and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

  • Claire

    I’m sitting in the sun on this beautiful day; I should turn off my bberry and just sit quitely but I read this first and had to comment! Fantastic post and wonderful thinking for my week ahead; together, we have a lot of work to do if we want to impact change but I agree, we have no excuse not to and if only we all “cared too much,” we can!

    Thank you … Have a great week!!

  • I promise to never utter this phrase ever again, even jokingly! It really isn’t what IT is, and I know that. I love how you described it as passive acceptance, which is basically accepting mediocrity. I agree that it’s great to care too much! I guess I’m guilty of that, even to the point where people make fun of me for caring so much, but it’s only because they don’t. And they’re not used to actually seeing someone care. Great post!

  • Good stuff Mark!

    I am big on this one: you do, or don’t. Either way, it’s on you. Things are, as they are, until you decide to change things. A choice, that’s it. A choice, to change things, and the choice comes from within. Thanks for sharing!


  • Hssheppard

    I agree completely.  This statement is an inane excuse for laziness to change a bad situation.  Funny- I never hear it used things are good!

  • Hssheppard

    I agree completely.  This statement is an inane excuse for laziness.  Funny- I never hear it used when people like a situation.

  • Mark-

    I am going to offer some friendly disagreement as a coach! I often work with clients to understand that certain situations are exactly what that phrase says. Understanding “it is what it is” is a powerful tool in letting things go before you move on. For example, I am working on a client on her debt. Too much of her energy was spent on beating herself up on how it had accumulated so that she was paralyzed. Until she realized that her current debt was something that she had to deal with (it was what it was), and that she can’t go back in time so focusing on the past wasn’t going anywhere, she could not focus on the future and how she was going to change her habits and make a plan for repayment. Once she had peace, than we had action.  

    The issue is when you stop at the phrase and don’t make change, but I think people fail when they don’t take that intermediate step to accept their present. I see that too often. Change is a real process.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

    • Tracy… great comment, as usual. I completely agree: denial helps no one (long-term anyway) and you must understand, embrace and learn from your current situation before moving on. Then… by all means… change it!

  • Jorge Batalla

    The “It is what it is” phrase in my opinion is a confusing/multi-dimensional phrase with more than one interpretation.  While most of the feedback of this phrase is accurate in that individuals often use this phrase to mean and have a negative connotation, I feel that this phrase also has a powerful and poignant message when used in certain social situations.
    I recall a movie from some time ago that had a similar phrase that was used to evoke the dramatic point in the film that in my opinion what designed to evoke the emotion that Robert DeNiro’s character (Michael) was cutting ties with the ultra-needy and often unprepared John CazoIe character (Stan).  More importantly,  in my opinion, I feel that Michael felt the need to delve to a deeper and higher plane because of his impending and upcoming tour in Vietnam.  Michael was obviously functioning from this higher plane of consciousness and self-realization where his actions and reasons for being were far more elevated than Stan’s more trivial point of view.
    The scene was:  Out on a deer hunting expedition where (Stan) asked (Michael) for his boots and Michael opened up and let Stan know, in no uncertain terms, that this was the end of the road regarding his constantly being unprepared and taking for granted that others would bail him out.  In this classic scene the phrase “This is this” was used.  Michael looked Stan in the eyes and said ‘This is this” and John erupted in a fit of “What are you talking about” and “What does that even mean?  Michael in my opinion was telling Stan that the reality of the situation was not what Stan desired, willed, or perceived it to be, but Michael using this phrase simply pulled Stan into a reality check and said, while you may simply view this as a hunting expedition where you are unprepared, Michael used this moment to illustrate a life lesson by using this phrase to illustrate that his life and his reality were heavily weighed down by his upcoming ‘Nam tour of duty.  In that exchange it seemed that Michael was trying to elevate Stan’s consciousness and overall perception of reality.
    In this example, the phrase “This is this” is used in the exact same way that the phrase “It is what it is” could be used.   In this example, I offer a look into where this phrase could be used to offer a poignant and powerful message about altering ones’ perception and view of reality when their view may be somewhat obscured by self imposed perceptions, limitations, and limited mental vision.

  • Mike

    Well, at the end of the day rocket science is what it is, you know? But if we bring our A-game it will be taken to the next level.

  • Ellenbremen

    Agree 1000%, Mark! WE are what it is… and owning our role in “what it is” makes all the difference in our success, or lack thereof. Wonderful! Ellen @chattyprof:disqus 

  • I had to laugh when I saw this post because of the intro “new least favorite phrase”.  New?  That phrase is as old as the hills, and I have been addressing those who flippantly state it for years now.

    • Lisachinmin

      Earlier Mark had some other phrase that was his least favorite phrase. Now he has this phrase as his least favorite phrase. So, “new” is appropriate here. And, no, the phrase is not as old as hills – you are just too full of yourself

      • Guest

        You better check yourself, Lisachinmin, before stating others are too full of themselves, and get a life while you’re at it.

  • Shanda Lynn Carlsen

    I love this, I absolutely hate when I hear anyone say it!