All Hail

“The discipline of sharing something daily is priceless.” That quotation comes from what I’m sharing today: Seth Godin’s 7000th blog post.

I’m not sharing this post because I think I’m going to introduce you to Seth Godin’s work (although that would certainly be a good day’s work); you’ve most likely heard of him and learned from him already.

I’m sharing this post, instead, to simply say a very public thank you to an author who has made a high art of generosity, connectivity, discipline, and gratitude.  I honestly can’t even count the number of times when one of his sentences has helped me to approach a problem from a new angle, to get unstuck, or to stumble upon a new flavor of joy, purpose, or potential.

Art.  Work.  Seth.  Godin.

Late October / Early November, as Usual

Late October / Early November, as usual, has been a bear, and I’ve forgotten, as I often do, the one piece of wisdom that I’ve picked up in the past decade — sometimes, when your plate is completely full, the best thing to do is to add something to it.

I’m not talking about any kind of something.  I’m not suggesting that you spend more time emailing or on the phone or in meetings; I’m not suggesting that you rake more leaves or spend more time sweeping the pine needles off your driveway.  Those are the activities that are grinding your gears in the first place.  I’m talking about any of the following.

  1. Spend a few minutes actively reflecting on your life.  That is, write in a journal, write a letter, draw a picture.  The act of writing about disparate elements can often help you to make meaning of things, which makes them feel less disparate.  Three unconnected things equals three things; three connected things equals one thing.
  2. Walk, run, or bike . . . flushing the system makes the system work better.
  3. Attend a performance or sporting event that features a family member or friend.  Turn off your phone and leave your calendar behind.  Focus on the event and your family members / friend’s role in it.  Go for whatever ride — physical, emotional, spiritual — they seem to be going on.  When they are breathless, be breathless, etc.
  4. Help someone else with something.  It doesn’t matter if you fully understand the problem — just role up your sleeves and shrink someone else’s burden, get tangled up in their tangle, leave them a notch or two lighter and looser.

I’m not sure why, but these activities feel additive in the purest way possible.  Though they take up time, though they stretch your available resources, they ultimately add energy, time, meaning, and life to your days.  Expanding the day, they make the day a little bit easier.  I’m not sure why, but I just tried a few of them — #1 and # 4 — and they worked.

“Quotation Marks.” Period.

While editing this month’s Klingbrief, I looked up a rule about quotation marks. I frequently encounter very insightful, bright writers who approach end punctuation very differently when they are using quotations.  Today, I finally decided to do some research.

It turns out, both camps are right, and one’s geographical orientation matters in resolving such disputes.

The Grammar Girl website adds a wonderful note to settle the debate; I offer it to you today as an example of (1) how an initial decision can lead to a profound domino effect and (2) the ways in which thoughtful interventions can (sometimes) halt or redirect habits.

Compositors―people who layout printed material with type―made the original rule that placed periods and commas inside quotation marks to protect the small metal pieces of type from breaking off the end of the sentence. The quotation marks protected the commas and periods. In the early 1900s, it appears that the Fowler brothers (who wrote a famous British style guide called The King’s English) began lobbying to make the rules more about logic and less about the mechanics of typesetting. They won the British battle, but Americans didn’t adopt the change. That’s why we have different styles.

According to this interpretation, American-style punctuation at the ends of quoted sentences reflects a choice made during the days of metal type, while British-style punctuation at the ends of quoted sentences reflects an intervention based on logic.

So I guess the next time a student challenges me by saying that some grammar rules seem to be arbitrary and even illogical, I will have to be honest and reply, “that’s true, but only in America!”

Dailyo Discipline

Add Ray Dalio to the list of people who write (or blog) everyday.  In his new book, Principles, he talks about his process and the rationale behind it.

In the late 1970s, I began sending my observations about the markets to clients via telex.  The genesis of these Daily Observations was pretty simple.  While our primary business was in managing risk exposures, our clients also called to pick my brain about the markets.  Taking those calls became time-consuming, so I decided it would be more efficient to write down my thoughts every day so others could understand my logic and help improve it.  It was a good discipline since it forced me to research and reflect every day.  It also became a key channel of communication for our business.  Today, almost forty years and ten thousand publications later, our Daily Observations are read, reflected on, and argued about by clients and policymakers around the world.

What’s Your School’s Thesis?

Today on his blog, Fred Wilson defined a venture capital firm as follows:

A venture capital firm, at least our venture capital firm, is at its core, a group of like-minded investors who come together around a shared investment thesis to work collaboratively to help entrepreneurs build companies.

When I was reading the definition, I found myself replacing certain words to see if the definition would apply equally well to schools.

A school is, at its core, a group of like-minded educators who come together around a shared educational thesis to work collaboratively to help students build skills and knowledge.

I think this definition does apply to schools — but only those schools that have really done a lot of work to articulate their educational thesis.  So maybe it doesn’t apply to that many schools after all.

OESIS, Pt. 1

I’m about to jump on a plane home from the OESIS Boston conference.  I liked this conference a lot (and will explain more about that impression later this week).  For now, I want to share one artifact from a talk I gave about my creative and collaborative process: