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Thursday, March 25, 2010

He never spoke merely to be heard

"All his oratorical efforts were made for practical effect. He never spoke merely to be heard." Abraham Lincoln, in his eulogy on Henry Clay.

We could literally starve to death eating  cotton candy - well, at least that is what I've heard. It is sweet, it is very fluffy, but there is just not much there. You know the 1980's were a time where we had "big everything" - hair, cars, spending... then we moved into the 1990's where we went faster.

Now, I think partially because of our economy and society today, we are drowning in meaningless fluff.  We are still of the abundance mentality where we measure people by how many followers they have, how many readers, how many hits, and how many tweets - but what about the quality there?

Nothing is free. Nothing!  I mean, Twitter is free, but it costs you time! Blogger is free but this blog is my life's work.

I've been lectured how this blog couldn't survive with just one writer (but the best blogs have to be updated 2-3 times  a day, Vicki - you've going to have guests posts, etc. to get that kind of traffic.)  Well, certainly when I post more often, the stats go up -- but why should I blog just to be heard? If I don't have meaning, then am I lessening the blog posts when I do.

It is sort of like Tiger Woods - his vow to his wife means less because he wasted something meaningful on people who didn't mean anything to him!

Resist the fluff!
I think that our students and we are hungry for meaning. We don't need yet another app, another movie, another American Idol to vote upon and talk about - what we need is a little moderation.  I think it is certainly time to back up and go for quality over quantity.  Would Twitter mean more if those with the "cotton candy posts" -- lots of sweet stuff but not much substance were to back off a bit.  Certainly, it is their choice to post and it is also my choice to unfollow those who hog my timeline with their STUFF.  Their fluff.

What is fluff?
This is an answer that each of us have to examine for ourselves.  But I learned some valuable lessons from Marla Ciley, known as "The Fly Lady" when I went from total clutter to a much improved system of housekeeping (I'm still getting there!) -- she says that clutter takes away from our lives.

So, to me, fluff items are items that take up room but don't add meaning - don't add sustenance to my life.  They are the things I'll wish I had spent less time on when I reach the end of this life.

When I ask people if they have a blog, usually, they start off apologizing:

"I have a blog but I haven't updated it in a while..."

You know what - you have a blog! Why do you have to apologize for updating once every three months?  It is YOUR BLOG.  Be YOU!  I'd a lot rather follow 30 blogs that post 4 times a year with real, honest, good down-to earth posts full of meaning than a blog which spits out a lot of fluff out of the cotton candy machine.  More links, more stuff, more things that don't really add value to my life.

Yes, I wish most people had blogs, but we all have different callings in life.  I find it disconcerting that some top bloggers would rather leave blogging altogether than to decide to blog less and watch themselves catapult from the top rankings of blog super-star-dom!  Why not have less blog posts with more meaning?

So, as I was reading my new book by Brian Tracey, Speak to Win, and came across the quote from Abraham Lincoln about the great orator Henry Clay - I was struck.  Struck that many of the greatest people in history have been people of great purpose.

People who didn't just throw words out like spaghetti onto a wall and hoping something would stick, but people who intentionally walked up to the wall with a hammer, nail, and tretise of words to nail into the history of mankind.

Oh, to be the kind of person who doesn't get lost in all the stuff! Like ET hiding in the closet of stuffed animals. A really cool, amazing, fascinating one of a kind thing was hiding in the closet and the little girl played by Drew Barrymore almost missed it because of all of the "stuff."

How many nuggets of truth that could improve our lives are hiding amidst the stuff -- the Facebook updates, Friend Feeds, RSS updates, and emails?

So, my challenge to you and myself today is to be like Henry Clay. Let's let all of our efforts be for PURPOSE and not just to hear ourselves post, tweet, blog, or anything.  Your best writing may come after a hiatus.

But what if people forget you?  
If you're in it for the long haul -- they won't because you have become part of something and have a network of friends.  I haven't commented and "talked" with my dear friend Karyn Romeis in a while, we've never met and yet I don't forget her because she made a poignant post about singing into a hairbrush very early on in my blogging life. She took the time to leave a very meaningful post.

The Spam commenters make me almost want to turn off commenting, however, the great comments from the heart as I get 3-4 times a week compel me to go through the stuff - the drivel, the spam.  The gems are worth it!

As we head into spring in North America, it is tempting to say, "I don't have time for ___ or for ___."  When instead we should be saying, "because of limited time I will have less time to ___ or to ___."  Why must it be all or nothing? Isn't checking your RSS reader every two weeks better than not checking it at all? Isn't reading the newspaper on Sundays better than never opening the pages again?

We should look at the "fluff" and truly drop it -- cull it out of our lives as much as we can. But we should also realize that there is a certain beauty and joy to having less but more quality.  As I'm working still on my weight, I ask myself this all the time -- is it worth it?  Is it worth the calories?

So, my friends, let's read that quote again, and I'd encourage you to read it aloud and perhaps even replace the word "oratorical" with "blogging" or "tweeting" or "reading" or "Facebook-ing."  Make it fit whatever you tend to "overdo" and challenge yourself to have meaning and quality in what you do.

Don't give up a good thing when what perhaps you should do is condense that good into a more potent greatness!

"All his oratorical efforts were made for practical effect. He never spoke merely to be heard." Abraham Lincoln, in his eulogy on Henry Clay.

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