Talk Less, Write More

Recently, I attended a dinner party where the host regaled his guests with stories of his successes, stories that were entertaining and engaging, even impressive–at first. But, after about twenty minutes, I realized that every other word out of his mouth was “I” and the only words anyone else got to say was “oh, really? hmmm….”. Honestly? It was #teamtoomuch. Eventually, I drifted…found something more important to do–anything was more important than this!

Unfortunately, though, this is not a rare occurrence. I often have to retreat to a quiet corner to escape this rising epidemic. There seems to be an increasing number of people with an apparently insatiable need to talk–about themselves!

While their conversation may cover many topics, one way or another they find a way to turn everyone’s attention back to one person:

“I’m not bragging” she says just before launching into a long litany of her achievements.

“I’m an amazing writer,” he says, jumping head first into a detailed description of his process and procedure. (By the way, truly “amazing writers” never say this.)

“Some wonder how I project such a calm and cool demeanor when I stand up to speak,” she says sailing seamlessly into a sermon on style.

It’s unbelievable! Mind-numbing and pervasive– heavily promoted in our “selfie”-centered culture.

Certain people simply enjoy the sound of their own voice, whether or not they have something of substance to say, and they seem to think that their audience will enjoy the sound of their voice in spite of the dearth.

Why? A wise person I know has said that the excessive focus on self is actually a cry for help. Perhaps there is actually something lacking that the person is attempting to mask with his overly boisterous bragging. What could it be?

If you like to talk about yourself all the time, what is it that you lack and how can we–your audience–help you?

Aaron Burr, Sir

One of my favorite lines from my FAVORITE stage play, Hamilton, is from Aaron Burr (not my favorite character, but nonetheless) to the young Hamilton. He says, “Can I offer you some free advice? Talk less, smile more. Don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for.”

Of course, Burr is a scoundrel but, although his advice is off base, there is a nugget of truth buried there. Hamilton and Burr were two sides of the same coin. Both orphans, both ambitious, and both on an upward trajectory. The difference between them is what made all the difference in how their stories ended. A crucial lesson for Hamilton was knowing when to speak and when to keep silent. A crucial lesson for Burr was knowing when to speak up for his beliefs.

What distinguished Hamilton, though, was his ability to write! He did not necessarily talk less, as Burr advised, but he did write more and, unlike Burr, Hamilton spoke up for what he believed, writing his way from obscurity right into our history books!

So, the lesson is this: Burr was right about one thing, people who are truly noteworthy don’t have to tell their audience how great they are. Their success speaks for itself. What we know about Alexander Hamilton we’ve learned from his writings and what was written about him.

So, maybe you have something important to say. Maybe you aspire to be great and happen to enjoy the sound of your own voice–can I offer you some free advice? Talk less. Write more.

Before launching into a diatribe with an unwitting audience, put it down on paper. Work it out in a journal, start a blog! Writing is a powerful tool for processing thought, expressing ideas and creating knowledge.

You never know, something you write could end up in a history book. Maybe someday we’ll be watching a stage play about your life! It could happen. Just let someone else tell your story. Then, not only will your words have a lasting impact, they will probably be more interesting too!

Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?

Mayhem Monday: No Need to Plan?

It’s New Year’s Eve–so, how did you fare?  How did you score on the scale of success this year? Did you rack up? Achieve big dreams in 2018? Or, as you tally up your points, do you find that, like me, some of your plans are still “loading”?

I don’t know what it is, but it seems to me that the more plans I make, the more those plans fall apart! I wonder if it’s better not to plan. Perhaps I should just fly by the seat of my pants and see what happens! But, ancient wisdom says “those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” As I flip through old notebooks and scribbled notes, I see great ideas that have fallen by the wayside.  I sigh as slips of paper slip off of my night stand, symbolic of dreams deferred.  Who can deny the rough realities, ideals that intersect with conflicting interests and desires that drag on but don’t deliver?  I have yet to discover the secret to seeing them through—how to push plans from ideation to three dimension. I get close, but no cigar…

Nicole Walters, entrepreneur

Or, at least, that’s been my mantra. Then a friend sent me a link to Nicole Walters talking about her new podcast. I love Nicole Walters. I’ve been following her off and on for a while now. Some call her “ScOprah”–the successful entrepreneur who quit her 6-figure corporate job live on Periscope and launched her own (now) 7-figure company. She’s a force to be reckoned with, let me tell you! She’s such an amazing, confident, fearless woman who doesn’t waste too much time planning. I mean, she plans, but she doesn’t. What I love about Nicole is that she’s successful because she doesn’t allow planning to keep her stuck in one place. She moves forward with her plans and lets God do the rest. And you know what? She’s found AMAZING success as a result.  Her story is not new, though. 

What I realize is that what God is doing in Nicole’s life He’s been doing for ages.  You see, He has this habit of showing up in ways that can’t be explained in human terms.  Throughout the Bible there are examples of Him demonstrating His power in just the opposite way and at just the opposite time than people expected. In Genesis, he gave Joseph a dream, then sent him into exile. In Exodus, the Hebrews endured oppression for 400 years only to be dragged into the desert by an 80 year old shepherd! During the time of the Judges, he chose a woman, rather than a king, to defeat the Canaanites and a boy, Samuel, to be his prophet! Over and over again God turned the plans the people had upside down, then did something completely unbelievable just to show them who was really in charge. Yet, in every situation, he also turned what looked like defeat into amazing success!

So, as I think about the many plans that I’ve begun, then abandoned, and the many ideas that I’ve been too afraid to pursue, I realize that it’s because I’ve been relying on my own abilities. I’ve been waiting until the perfect time, until I had the perfect resources, and until everything was perfect in my estimation. But I think I’ve been looking at it all wrong. The better question is what do I need to be doing, regardless of whether my planning is perfect?

Plans or no plans, 2019 may be the year to move ahead in faith and see what amazing thing God wants to show us that you and I could have never imagined!

What do you think?

Proverbs 19:21

Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash

FIRST MONDAY: Do What You Can!

Last night I had dinner with a woman whose 9-year-old niece has a best-seller on Amazon!

As I listened in polite amazement I was thinking back over the past 20 years
of my own life and wondering where did I go wrong? 

·      How many TV shows did I watch instead of sitting
down to write?

·      How many dishes did I wash instead of sitting down
to write?

·      How many papers did I grade instead of sitting
down to write?

·      How many days did I spend doubting instead of sitting
and writing?

What did this little girl figure out in her few short years that I haven’t yet in my long life?

And here I am at the end of another year with an unfinished manuscript on my night stand. What is wrong with me if a 9-year-old can write a best-seller and I can’t even finish a manuscript?

It’s easy to get discouraged, isn’t it?

I work with students all the time who start out strong, then get lost somewhere
along the way.  The first few weeks of the semester they’re smiling and engaged. They tell me they made straight A’s in high school and plan to be doctors, lawyers or computer engineers. They sit in the front row and turn in their assignments on time, but then just before the mid-term their attendance gets a little sketchy. They become less engaged in class discussions and start turning in late work! By the time the semester skids to a close the A student is clinging to a C and bargaining for bonus points.  While their appearance on the first day was clean-cut, by the last day they’re wearing tattered sweats
and sunglasses to hide the dark circles–too many sleepless nights—maybe spent studying not partying—it just depends if the A student is still striving or if she’s given up.

I get it.  There are a thousand and one reasons why that thing you were hoping to accomplish didn’t pan out—it turned out to be harder than you thought, required a bit more time and effort than you anticipated. Now you have to regroup and decide whether you want to invest that much of yourself to get it.

How bad do you want it?

Sometimes unforeseen circumstances derail you, take you off course and the thing you’re going for gets pushed farther from your reach. Now you have to wait. But the same question applies: 

 How bad do you want it?

If the goal that we’re after is worth having, there shouldn’t be anything strong enough to keep us from attaining it.  Here we are at the end of another year, but this is not the time to wallow.  This is the time to do what you can. 

If you’re a college student, recognize that this is not high school. There are different expectations, different study habits, different responsibilities. You may have to re-group and try again, but do what you can.

If you’re an adult pursuing a dream, recognize that failure is not the end. There are many pathways to success and myriad ways to accomplish your goals. Fear less. Trust more, but do what you can.

It’s amazing that a 9-year-old could write a bestselling book, but you know how she did it?  By following directions for a class assignment.  She began by simply doing what she could and she did her best. I believe if I just did what I could there’d be room enough for her talent and mine on Amazon’s best seller list. 

I won’t stop pushing. What about you?

Phillipians 4:13

 

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash