03/28/2008 02:48 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

"Headwinds" Jumps The Shark

Stanley Bing is a columnist for FORTUNE Magazine and may also be read on a daily basis at

The Wall Street Journal starts our week with one of its classic observational front page stories. This one notes the prevalence of a new metaphor that is now running like grain through a goose through the CEO community. It seems impossible to describe the current business environment without using the word "headwinds".

For instance, the paper quotes Rick Wagoner, CEO of General Motors, telling auto analysts on January 17: "As we look out, we've got to be realistic that we are facing some tough headwinds, particularly here in the U.S., with a relatively weak industry." Jerry Yang of Yahoo and G. Kennedy Thompson of Wachovia are also invoked, among others.

Business does this. I remember when I started out in business, you had to have excellence. Everybody had to have a (usually pristine and unread) copy of Tom Peters and Robert Waterman's lengthy, repetitive, preachy tome on the subject, In Search of Excellence, on proud display on their desktop. No meeting was complete without a segment in which people talked about excellence, the drive to achieve excellence, and a lot of cheering and hand-clapping in recognition of those who had in some way quantified or demonstrated extreme excellence.

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