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Friday, December 22, 2006

How to Create Your Circle of the Wise: How to pick the reads in your RSS.



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"The next best thing to be wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are." CS Lewis
I believe the great men and women of history would look upon us with envy as we now have the greatest opportunity in human history to immerse ourselves in a circle of the wise.

Using RSS and a free bloglines or netvibes account, you can now surround yourself with the leaders in your field and even become one yourself.

So, how do you select your circle of the wise? How do you keep from being overwhelmed? How do you fit it into your already overfull day?


How do I fit it in my day?


There is an old joke:

"How do you eat an elephant?
Answer: One bite at a time."

I read bloglines during the little "snippets" of time that are in my day. While I'm at break, an extra five minutes at the end of lunch. And if I'm too busy grading, I listen to podcasts through itunes on my computer. (Itunes is free and you don't need an iPod!)

When I'm having a tough day, I always find encouragement in my circle of the wise. Life is tough and it is great to know that I'm not in it alone.

How do you select your circle of the wise?


Character


It is very apparent that many will do anything in order to "make a buck." (a la Borat) You should be especially skeptical of just Googling and subscribing to those you find without knowing anything about them. When I began, I started with the one blogger I knew (David Warlick ) and then branched to those he knew (Will Richardson, Wes Fryer, Stephen Downes, Miguel Guhlin, Anne Davis), and then proceeded from there.

The list on the sidebar of most blogs called the "blogroll" (see mine) is a great place to find your circle of the wise. However, don't let this preclude you from finding new people to read that you've never heard of (I started blogging last December and someone had to start reading my stuff!) If you know a wise person who blogs, read their blog. They may be the world's next discovery!

Inspiration


Look for people who inspire you. Life is too tough to have real AND virtual people dragging you down.

"The people whom I have seen succeed best in life have always been cheerful and hopeful people who went about their business with a smile on their faces." Charles Kingsley
Never equate inspiration with fame (nor success for that matter.) I find inspiration in the lives of teachers who struggle with real problems but manage to teach and inspire anyway. They are my heroes.

Responsible

I look for people who understand the responsibility of blogging. They understand that "information doesn't travel in straight lines" and know that what they write today may be read by colleagues in five years. At that time, their colleagues will either view them as a pioneer or as a jerk. I prefer pioneers.

Conversationalists

I think most bloggers come in two flavors: egotists and conversationalists. The egotists just want to talk about themselves and somehow feel they have a "corner" on the market of knowledge. Conversationalists converse with those who post on their blogs and on the blogs of others than their own. Conversationalists are not stingy with their words but have joined the conversation about the topics they care about!

Learners

I like to read people who are widely read and view new knowledge not as an opportunity to dig in and resist but to learn and grow. They are always teaching me something new that I didn't know and often pick up on the real stories that no one else is talking about. They are wise not because they know it all but because they know that they don't and have adopted a mindset of lifelong learning.

Excellence


I read people who strive for excellence no matter their field. I believe it is important to read the blogs of excellent people in fields other than your own. I get many ideas for my classroom from business leaders and can understand societal trends by listening in on political or news blogs.

Excellence means that WHEN a person makes a mistake that they correct their mistake. It means that they sometimes change their minds with valid reasoning. These people have as a goal for their life to BE excellent. Not because anyone pays them but because it is what they believe in.

Searches

I had to add this on because you can do a search of Google News and subscribe to that search via your RSS reader. If you're doing a thesis or have a particular area of research or interest, this is a must do for you. Anywhere you see the little "RSS button" you can subscribe. Just be careful with doing it to many times or you could be discouraged by the thousands of results that turn up!

You become like your circle


There is a reason that we parents care so much about the friends our children choose -- we know that they become like those in their circle.

This is the time of year we like to make changes. I believe that every professional should undertake the building of their own "circle of the wise" and work to fit it in your day.

Let me ask you this: if you were able to read the writings of Abraham Lincoln, or CS Lewis, or Ghandi, or Dale Carnegie on a daily basis, would you have done it?

They are among you now. Find them and become transformed.

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