Where’s Your Mojo?

I recently lost my mojo. Not to worry – I got it back. It was a feeling of blankness. More than a feeling, I was in a fog. A fog of confusion, sadness, and worry. What is mojo? How did I know I lost it? Where does it come from? How does it come back? How do you know you have it at all? And does everybody have it?

When was the first time you heard of a mojo? Was it the Doors’ L.A. Woman? In the song’s coda, Jim Morrison repeats the phrase, Mr. Mojo Risin’. Did you know it is an anagram of Jim Morrison? As far as anagrams go, this is a great one.

Word.Mojo.Doors-LAWomanWell, I just got into town about an hour ago
Took a look around, see which way the wind blow
Where the little girls in their Hollywood bungalows
Are you a lucky little lady in The City of Light
Or just another lost angel … City of Night …
Mr. Mojo Risin’, Mr. Mojo Risin’ … Got to keep on risin’
Mr. Mojo Risin’, Mr. Mojo Risin’ … gotta Mojo Risin’
Mr. Mojo Risin’, gotta keep on risin’ …

Early blues musicians referred to their mojo, as in the Muddy Waters’ song, I Got My Mojo Workin’. The older blues singers and their descendants, including Jim Morrison, used it to refer to sexual power or energy, an interpretation still used today. Which eventually evolved into its present usage meaning strength or prowess in general.

mo·jo [moh-joh] n. 1. the art or practice of casting magic spells; voodoo. 2. an object, as an amulet or charm, that carries a magic spell. 3. uncanny personal power or influence.  dictionary
Origin: 1920s, Creole, cf. Gullah moco “witchcraft,” Fula moco’o “medicine man.” etymology
Slang: n. 1. power; charisma. 2. sex appeal; sex drive. slang dictionary

Evolving from sublime sexual prowess to a universal symbol of positive currency, mojo commonly refers to talent and strength. A universal positive indicator. The emission control center oozing positive energy, it is the zone you are in where creative juices flow, where inspiration reigns, and bliss thrives. You need your mojo to set your conscious mind free so you can consider, imagine, and ultimately just do it (which is, by the way, the Three Dog Day Productions credo). It seeps into your soul and you are awash in the prospect, the hope, the potential for reward and fulfillment.

In his book, Mojo: How to Get It, How to Keep It, How to Get It Back if You Lose It, Marshall Goldsmith describes it this way:

“Mojo is that positive spirit, towards what we are doing now, that starts from the inside and radiates to the outside. Mojo is at its peak when we are experiencing both happiness and meaning in what we are doing and communicating this experience to the world around us.”

Word.Mojo.AustinPowers.TheSpyWhoShaggedMe.4.crIn the Austin Powers movies, mojo rules! It is the essence of our hero’s mythical sexual prowess and his strength. In The Spy Who Shagged Me, Austin’s mojo was stolen. With his mojo gone, he goes through an existential crisis, not only feeling less virile, but fearing he has also lost his skills – his talent – to stop Dr. Evil. Here’s how Jerry Springer explains it:

“You know, what have we learned here today? Perhaps it’s that no one can take your mojo. You can look around all you want, but what you’re really trying to find is on the inside. Take care of yourself, and each other.”

Word.Mojo.TomPetty.2The Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers album Mojo is a “record we couldn’t have made in the ’70s and ’80s because we weren’t really good enough as musicians … we’ve become better musicians.” So says Tom Petty, talking of his band’s musical evolution. And mojo is exactly what it is they have. The album’s spirited sound was made by recording the band members in the same room facing each other, playing and singing at the same time. They were in the moment. They had their mojo. And evidenced by naming their album Mojo, they knew it.

Yes, it has become popular slang. But maybe it shouldn’t even be considered as slang anymore. Maybe its use in common vernacular, its very recognition in everyday communications, renders it, well, normal. After all, companies use it to name their magazines, candies, beers, stereo systems, waters, and metal polish. Yeah, metal polish. On my marketing and trends blog, Yvette Perry’s Blog, I post a weekly Monday Marketing Mojo article. I thought this title suitably conveyed the intent of those posts.

Word.Mojo.Oz.Dorothy.2What is mojo? It’s our inner magic. That special spark that keeps us motivated and makes us believe in ourselves. What’s it for? It keeps us focused and interested in what we are doing. It allows us to persevere and grow and achieve. And if we lose it, how do we find it? I started out by telling you that I lost mine and that I got it back. Life throws us curves that may temporarily misplace our mojo. Like Dorothy and her ruby slippers, it’s always with us. And when the time is right it casts its spell and returns home.


Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions by Richard A. Spears: McGraw Hill 4th Ed. (2007).
L.A. Woman lyrics: Songwriters:  The Doors 1971 © Hal Leonard Music Publishing
Mojo: How to Get It, How to Keep It…: by Marshall Goldsmith: Hyperion (2010)
The Spy Who Shagged Me quote: IMBd.com

Tom Petty quote: Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune
The Wizard of Oz pic: MGM (1939)

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