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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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Alfred Thompson March 25, 2010 - 9:27 pm

I had a friend from China who once told me that the difference between Chinese people and Americans is that “when Chinese people have nothing to say they say nothing.” It is a piece of wisdom I have remembered for several decades now. I still sometimes fall into the trap of saying things just to hear myself say something but I do work at it. The other advise someone gave me that applies to many things is that when people say very little others tend to pay much more attention when they do say something. This also seems to be true. Now if only I could control myself better.

Jan North March 26, 2010 - 1:47 am

This is how I feel about CoolCatTeacher blog – most always walk away from it something valuable! This also relieves my guilt at not posting very often – I have to have something to say!

Damianne President March 26, 2010 - 4:55 pm

This is a very important message. I taught a class once where there were a few students who would disrupt the learning process but speaking out inappropriately. As a class, we came up with rules for classroom participation. When to “speak” and how to “speak” are lifelong skills.

gypsywriter March 26, 2010 - 9:07 pm

I’m happy to read this; I’ve started a blog about the world of exchange students related to education and I feel like I am just talking to myself. If I continue to follow you and learn from you, perhaps my blog will be of some value! (Wish I had had a mentor like you or Buffy Hamilton when I was working as a school librarian!!)
Thanks for your great information!!

Dianne Murray
retired in Georgia
but still active in education

gypsywriter March 26, 2010 - 9:21 pm

Me, again! I just put a link to your blog on mine. I want to make sure this is ok with you. Thanks. I’m checking out the program you use for comments; it sounds intersting and it is free. Cool.
Dianne Murray

Susanna March 27, 2010 - 4:54 pm

I agree with you Vicki. When it comes to life- you have to live it the way you want to live it- you can take the advice that others give and do what you will with it but in the end- the final decision is truly – your own. One of the best books I have ever read that have helped me get over the hurdle of the voices inside my head of telling me what to do vs. going with my gut has been the book “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell. For me- it was a lifechanging read.

gih March 31, 2010 - 1:37 pm

Wow! a Pink smoke. Where is that came from? that’s awesome.

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