5 Quotes That Haunt & Inspire #mission #purpose #why

I’m a collector…a collector of books, ideas, and quotes. I have notebooks with random quotes scribbled on pages from books, articles, lectures and presentations, even some movies. Out of all the quotes, some seem to come to mind almost weekly. These are ones that haunt me.

“Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?”

These are the alleged words spoken by Steve Jobs to John Scully, the words that convinced Scully to leave a top position at Pepsi Cola to join a 4-year startup called Apple. Each time I read, hear or remember this quote; I am drawn into a reflection about my own life’s work. Am I selling sugar water right now, or am I doing something that can change the world? The quote is a humbling and inspiring reminder to take seriously how we choose to spend our time and energy. The answer will vary from person to person depending upon talents, abilities, passions and interests, opportunities, life circumstances and the events around us.

‘I wish it would not happen when I was alive’ said Frodo. ‘So do I’ Said Gandalf, ‘and so do all those who live in hard times. But they can’t choose what time they are born in. All we can choose is what to do with that time.

From the Lord of the Rings, this short exchange between Gandalf and Frodo speaks to what we can’t change. We don’t choose the times or places in which we are born. We don’t choose many of the challenges, troubles or world events that will occur during our lives. All we can choose is how we will live in those times, how we will or will not respond to them.

For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?

From the Book of Esther, this quote comes at a time when Queen Esther must decide whether she will stand by silent while her people are massacred, or whether she will speak to the king on their behalf, even at the risk of her life. This statement calls me to consider the opportunity and purpose behind the circumstances in my life. Regardless of the life circumstance, it drives me to ask ask, “Could it be that I am here for such a time as this?”

 “Most revolutions end with the people still oppressed by the same or a different cruel master.”

This was a quote shared by Jim Shelton at the 2012 Education Innovation Summit, and it sticks with me. It was mentioned in the context of educational innovation, a reminder that we may seek to bring about an educational revolution with our work, but there is a very real risk that that our solutions to one problem/oppressor only create a new one problem/oppressor. And I am humbled by the fact that it is often difficult for us to foresee such things.

 “Whoever marries the spirit of this age will find himself a widower in the next.”

Stated by William Inge, this quote is also a humbling reminder to not cling our lean into those things that are fleeting; but rather to seek after those things that matter across time and generations. I do not interpret this to mean that I ignore trends and innovations, but it does drive me to strive from a clear and compelling “why” behind each one. What is the larger goal, purpose or value?

7 Reasons Why I Blog: Out of 181 Million Options, Thank You for Reading This

I am honored. There are over 3.5 billion web pages, more than 181 million blogs, over 10,000 digital versions of newspapers on the web, 129 million different books in print, and the average person sends and receives over 110 emails every day. With all of that available text, you found your way to this article.

Why are you reading it? It might be that you know me in some capacity, that you saw a catchy title on Twitter or LinkedIn and followed the link to this page. You may have read something that I published elsewhere, read a quote by me in article, or listened to me speak at a conference or workshop.  Perhaps a friend or colleague shared the link. You may have even come across this article through an online search about reasons for blogging.

Whatever the case, out of all the text that is available to you today, you are reading this page.  In the big picture, you are among the minority in doing so.  The last I checked, you are part of a group of less than 25,000 people to visit my blog over the last few months, a very small number compared to some of the most visited educational blogs.

The subtitle for this blog is, “musings about life, learning and leadership in the digital age.” These articles are mostly just musings, rough draft thoughts and reflections that sometimes end here.  Other times, they serve as a starting point for an essay that shows up in a traditional publication, part of a keynote presentation, part of a lesson in a course that I teach, a starting point for a conversation with a colleague, or even a source that I use as a discussion starter with a small group. Largely, this is public learning journal and a digital idea book.  It is not peer-reviewed or carefully edited. It is a mix of rough draft ideas and more carefully researched subjects…over 200 articles in the last six months.

Why do I do it? I have given presentations on the benefits and limitations of blogging in school, on the power of the social web, and on all sorts of topics related to education in the digital world. And yet, I never really thought to articulate why I blog. Here is my first attempt at answering that question.

1. I blog to think and to refine my ideas.

When I write, I see my ideas, and I find it easier to notice connections, inconsistencies, and patterns. It also gives me a chance to organize and document my thinking.  As stated in this article on how writing helps students learn to think about a given discipline, “Writing and thinking are closely intertwined, and we can help students develop their ability to think within a discipline not only by assigning formal papers, but also by having them write informally, and frequently, in and out of class.” That is much of what compels me to write.

2. I blog to explore and experiment with ideas.

Many of us have dozens of new ideas each day, and we let most of them go without further reflection or deeper exploration. When I have those ideas, I jot down a quick statement or question, and that often becomes my next blog post. I use this as a starting point for further reflection, reading and experimentation.  In time, I document that learning journey by putting together the thoughts in the form of a blog post.

3. I blog to connect with others.

I could do all of this writing in private as well, and there are many writing projects that I do not publish on the web.  However, sharing my ideas on this blog serves as an invitation for feedback, an open door to discuss ideas with diverse people from around the world, and a starting point for potential connections with people who have common interests.  We are social beings, and I find great joy in connecting with others around shared goals and common interests.  From this perspective, everything that I write is an invitation to connect.

I have many stories of wonderful connections that emerged from this blog. This sometimes becomes the first contact for invited speaking and consulting engagements. It serves as a tool for writers to interview me as part of an upcoming project. Others contact me with a request for help on a personal or professional project related to my writing. If I did not put my ideas out on the web, I would have missed out on many rewarding opportunities to connect with and learning from amazing educators, social critics, netizens, innovators, and organizations around the world.

4. I write to share and teach.

I am teacher. Teachers share, learn, model, mentor, guide, question, and explore.  That it is their calling.  For me, that calling is not bound to formal classrooms or organizations.  Even if I never stepped into another school or learning organization, I’m not sure that I could stop teaching. I am compelled to do it. With that said, I do not presume that all of my articles have value to everyone. And yet, I do get emails from people who share a quick word of thanks or a request for permission to share or use something that I wrote. I take those messages as affirmations that my blogging has value for some.

5. I write to test my ideas with the public.

Some things that I publish on this blog get read by less than a hundred people.  Others are read by thousands in a matter of a week or two. This serves as a fascinating experiment in understanding what sorts of topics do and do not capture the interest of the public.  This is not the sole reason in choosing where to devote my work and energy, but if there is strong interest in a given topic and I see a gap in the existing literature on the web, I often see that as an area while I might have something to contribute.

Similarly, I learn how people respond to certain rough draft ideas. What types of people resonate with a given article?  How does an idea evoke strong agreement or disagreement?  Often I find that disagreement comes from how I framed a given idea and not from the idea itself.  That gives me a chance to consider other illustrations, metaphors or examples that might be more effective when I speak, write the next article, or teach a given group of people.

6. I blog to create.

For me, writing is a creative exercise.  I love to design and create, although I am not particularly artistic in the traditional sense.  Creating a new approach to communicating an idea, however, is something that I find personally rewarding. I like to think that I am a designer or artist, but that my medium is words. 

7. I blog to stay motivated in my writing.

For one reason or another, writing in an online public space motivates me to write. I suspect that it has something to do with the immediacy combined with the fact that I know that I am writing for an actual audience.  This, by the way, aligns closely with research and promising practices with blogging and project-based learning in the classroom.  Informing students that their product will be presented to or shared with an audience outside of the classroom serves as a strong motivator, and many reporting getting higher quality student products.

These are my reasons for blogging.  I’m sure that there are others that I’ve yet to surface.  As I think about this list, it also parallels many of the benefits for inviting students to blog. It motivates, helps teach thinking skills, allows one to experiment with thoughts and ideas, serves as a means of getting feedback on one’s writing, and it serve real needs or interests of actual people.