One of my favorite bloggers, David Altshuler, wrote a blog explaining why he writes blogs in the first place. As I read it, I realized I couldn’t have said it better myself. So I asked David for permission to reissue his blog, only changing the specific details that pertained to me and my blog. David was generous enough to say yes. A few weeks ago an erudite reader responded to my column Physician, Heal Thyself: “One question: Do people respond to your requests for comments and answers? It seems your call to action should be a bit higher up in the post and set apart rather than at the end and as part of another paragraph. Thoughts?”
“Do people respond?” The question got me thinking. “Do people respond?” is a subset of “Why do I write these blogs?” OK, so why do I write these?
The reason people go to therapy is not so they can listen to someone suggest solutions to their issues. The reason people go to therapy is so they can get someone to listen to their issues.
Because, in a typical day, no one listens. “But enough about me, what do you think about me?” isn’t the most popular joke of the past year because every one of us has experienced that same boor. “What do you think about me?” is popular because so few of us have the time, inclination or experience to be open to listening.
In this culture, there is information overload. “57 Channels And Nothing On” sings Springsteen. Everyone has something to say, most have something to sell. No one is listening. Why are customer service lines so annoying? Because the caller can’t make himself heard, can’t express his needs, can’t get his request acknowledged, let alone resolved. Why are robo-calls so maddening? Because no one is listening. Hang up, sign up for the Do Not Call list or go jump in the lake. Your response will not be acknowledged. That’s why you are mad as hell and don’t want to take it anymore.
Just a few generations ago we were desperate for information. Charles Dickens sent his novels in installments to the States and people crowded the docks shouting, “What happened to Little Nell?” In the western states, a week-old newspaper had great value. Travelers were bombarded for information about “back East.” Today — to the contrary — there is too much information. No one can take it all in. (Not that anyone would want to, mind you. But if even one percent of one percent of the billion web pages were worth knowing about, well, you do the math.)
So why do I write these posts? Because I want to be heard. Why do I ask you to respond? Because (unless I’m very much mistaken) you want to be heard as well.
I want to have a forum for my ideas. Rather than addressing one person at a time in my office, or 3,000 at a time in a speech, I want to reach out to my 11,250 email addresses each week. I’ve been thinking about branding, marketing, advertising, communication, and design full time now for well over 30 years. I want you to know what I’m thinking about and I want to know if what I’m thinking is way off base. I want you to have the opportunity to say what’s on your mind as well. There’s a reason people place their over-turned soap boxes in crowded parks.
Admittedly, I’m more pleased with the “Atta-boys” and the “Yes, Bruce, you’re so right, I never thought of that before, I’m going to change the whole way I build my brand” than I am with the responses that begin “Bruce, you ignorant slut.” But the dissent has been inspiring as well. I’ve been called out a few times and I have learned from my (blatantly public) mistakes.
What else do I get out of these blogs? Discipline. And if there’s one thing my little ADD brain (SQUIRREL!) needs, it’s discipline. Discipline is good for me. I run six hours a week. Surely I can write and think for at least three hours out of the 162 others that I am allotted every seven days.
Emerson said that “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds,” (many thanks to Howard Goldman for that correction) yet here I am with my 495th consecutive Wednesday morning at 10:00 am and I haven’t had one response from Ralph Waldo. Although, to be fair, the possibility that Emerson is having computer problems cannot be discounted.
Another reason I write these blog posts is so that I can quote Emerson, Shakespeare, Groucho Marx, Simon & Garfunkel, and (today) Shelley. There is something to be said for the transmission of ideas over the generations. Socrates without listeners has no Socratic method. So with as little irony as possible, here is what Percy Bysshe had to say on the subject of how long I can expect to have my thoughts talked about and responded to.
I met a traveller from an antique land who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone stand in the desert. Near them on the sand, half sunk, shattered visage lies, whose frown and wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command tell that its sculptor well those passions read which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, the hand that mocked them and the heart that fed. And on the pedestal, these words appear: “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!” Nothing beside remains. Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away.
Pretty good, huh?
Poor guy, that Ozymandias. He conquered a bunch of folks, employed some sculptors, just wanted to be remembered.