Semantic satiation or what is the secret to success

Snezana Djurisic
4 min readMay 21, 2020


Try saying a word! Like for example “believe”, and now repeat it many times…

Believe! Be-lieve! Be-lie-ve! B-e-l-i-e-v-e!

Eventually, it will lose its meaning! Something so important after repeating it many times will turn into meaningless sound! This, in psychology, is called semantic satiation! What happens is that basically our brain takes more and more time to respond to the word, as the repetition of the same increase! Every time we say the same word, the brain needs more energy and time to react to it! In the end, it takes so much time, that word temporarily loses the meaning and just sounds gibberish!

Probably that is the reason why terms like disruption, entrepreneurship, empowerment start losing their meaning because they´ve been worn out and eventually they start meaning everything and nothing at the same time!

Another tired phrase that we hear a lot is “Believe in yourself!” and just recently had a conversation with a friend where we concluded that this has been repeated so many times (by coaches and motivational speakers and such) that it became a cliché. What does it really mean?! It´s just something we say when… well, we don´t know what to say!

How many times have you heard — “You need to believe in yourself!” and you need to change your habits and you need to read these books and you need to practice these sports… How many times you caught yourself checking the five habits of highly successful people, and you were not able to check a single one! How many times you check what is the recipe for being successful?!

Yeah! Me too!

Photo by Eileen Pan on Unsplash

So let´s think about it for a minute or two!

When you think about highly successful people — apart from those habits, they probably also hold a degree from a university like Harvard or Stanford, they have a network of mentors with whom they learned, tons of books on their shelves that they actually read.

And the rule of being successful is that there is no universal one! What worked for Bill, probably wouldn’t for Steve, and most likely will not for you either. Waking up at 4 am, hitting up the gym, replying to emails, and engineering new feature for the product by 8 am is not for everyone. And if this is not your modus operandi from an early age, you probably will not cope with it very well.

I actually know more successful people, that not only do not wake up early but have to take a few power naps throughout the day. Yes, because — and this stays between us — they are only humans! I know, hard to believe! It always felt that Stephen Hawking was one of those extraterrestrials who came here to still our women and set the earth on fire. But, no — he as well — is just a human! Highly intelligent one, but still very much homo sapiens.

And all of those successful people probably believed in themselves, or in something else for that matter! But what made them successful are two essential things (among many others):

  1. Definition of success — for you, success means earning 150k per year, for someone else it means being a good parent and for me it means being healthy (and not risking having another aneurism). Success means this to one person, perhaps, and that to another. You need to learn that each person´s world is different, and your only job is to figure out what your best world can be.
  2. Key to success! The secret to success is one thing!
    That’s what you’ve got to figure out!

Yep! Just like you need to define what success is for you, you also need to design the map on how you will get there. And it might be a dead-end at first, and you will need to design another one, and so on because this is were repetition and persistence in your action are crucial! And don't worry it will not lose its meaning as words do, as long as you — wait for it — believe in what you are doing!

And if you ask what do I believe in its simple…

I believe that only small things bring real happiness, I believe that action conquers fear, that heart knows the best, I believe that magic hides in the most unexpected places and that love more than anything else requires courage…

And somewhere in between, I do believe in myself…



Snezana Djurisic

Sne has a background in psychology and experience in multiple sectors HR, Talent, Product and Tech Community management, writing, brewing beer and baking