What’s the best length for a blog post? Mine are usually between 500 to 800 words.
However, through the discipline of writing tweets, I have discovered that it is quite possible to communicate an important concept in 160 characters or less.
A Talmudic Tweet
There is a story from the 1st century BCE that tells of a non-Jew who came to the rabbinic sage Hillel. He said that he would convert if the rabbi would teach him the Torah while standing on one leg. Rabbi Hillel replied, “That which is hateful to you, do not unto another: This is the whole of Torah. The rest is commentary. Now go study.”
In less than 120 characters (a tweet!), Rabbi Hillel explained the essence of a profound teaching. And he showed that the commentary is the path to deeper understanding.
In other words, a tweet can capture our attention and point us in the right direction. A good blog post provides commentary; a good series of posts or a good book provides even more.
What is the essence of your message? – an interesting exercise.
I reviewed some of my favorite blog posts and pulled out quotes that conveyed the central message of that post. I discovered that each tweet is the essence of a teaching. Together they show the themes and a commentary on what I teach.
Some Quotes and Tweets
A real vision is lived, not framed.
Vision can start anywhere. It’s not an excuse to say, “My company doesn’t have a vision so my team can’t have one.”
Focus on what you want to create, not what you want to get rid of.
Leadership is about going somewhere. If you don’t have a vision, how do you know where you’re going?
On Taking Action
You don’t have to see the whole path. Stay focused on your vision and take a step.
The worst choice you can make is no choice at all.
Your challenges may be fraught with risk, but doing nothing can be just as risky.
On Personal Mastery
Slow down. It is only in the present moment that we experience real happiness, love and wisdom.
Just because technology makes it possible to be always available, doesn’t mean you should be.
Don’t limit your possibilities. Aerodynamically the bumblebee shouldn’t be able to fly, but it doesn’t know that.
Worse than failure is succeeding at something that doesn’t matter.
Accepting help when you need it is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Even if people want to help you, they can’t if you are vague about what you want.
Be curious. A good question can take you a lot farther than a quick answer.
On Leadership Development
If you don’t see development as a key management responsibility, you will lose some of your best people before you even notice them.
Help is not always helpful…When someone can help themself, it interrupts their opportunity for growth and keeps them dependent.
Curiosity opens doors. Blame closes them.
The greatest gratification comes when the student outgrows the teacher.
When we collaborate we find creative win-win solutions. You don’t have to compromise or give up something.
Dialogue is about discussion with the intent to understand – not debate with the intent to win.
If you are so sure you’re right that you can’t even listen to another view, you are probably wrong.
If you’re at one end of a pole blaming “them” for being unreasonable, remember: in the view from the other end, YOU are “them.”
If we only discuss issues with people who agree with us, we stop learning and become self-righteous.
Distrust will not create trust. Hatred will not breed respect. Violence will not protect us from violence.
On Being in Control
When you shift from authority-based to collaborative leadership, you are not in control…truth is you never were.
People follow leaders by choice. Otherwise at best, they get compliance.
We can’t control what happens to us, but we do have a choice about what we do next.
When we let go of our expectations, we open the door for the unexpected.
If you are a writer, I encourage you to try this exercise – read through what you have written over time and pull out 140-160 character tweets. It’s a fascinating exercise to see your central themes emerge. And then, please share them with the rest of us!
Awesome. You have given me a totally new perspective to Twitter. What wisdom!
Thanks, Kimunya. Blogging has challenged me to get my message across in as few words as possible without compromising my message. Through Twitter, I’ve learned to do it in as few CHARACTERS as possible. As a book author, I come from a background of using as many words as I think I need to convey my points. I’ve learned to parse words carefully. The challenge is to condense but not dilute.
This is such a good exercise. I need to try it.
I hope you do, Karin. And if you do, please let me know.
What a brilliant idea! This is a great way to capture personal life themes, values, etc. Thanks for sharing. I appreciate your posts.
That’s exactly what happened. As I looked at the list after I finished it, I felt a sense of self-recognition. Laid out in front of me were the ideas and values I am most passionate about. Thanks for your reflection, Samantha.
Jesse, I’d like to do this. Maybe I can even make a post like this and include some Click to Tweet links to see if any of it catches on 🙂
Great idea, Nathan. Thanks for sharing it here.
What a wonderful exercise! Thanks, Jesse. Here’s one: Every successful leader starts with an unshakeable core set of beliefs, born of deep reflection.
And a link to the blog post: Not afraid to say the toughest things
That’s a great example, Larry. Thanks for sharing it.
Excellent post indeed! I have this habit of reading quotes and aphorisms (from various sources) and try my hand in coining my own and put my initial against it (J2M). Enclosing a few of these here (with the topic/theme name)
Humour: It is about ‘hum’ming to the tune of the universe with ‘our’ very own composition.~ J2M
Brevity: It can be a bit of rarity, as one has to defy the gravity! ~J2M
Perfection: It is definitely worth of our affection but NOT a total infection ~ J2M
Hypocrisy: Between the mediocrity and meritocracy one has to cross very wide chasm called hypocrisy ~ J2M
Patience: Having patience for important things in life is what can prevent one from turning into a patient. ~ J2M
Friendship: The real one is like the ship that sails easier, as the seas get choppier. ~ J2M
Clever. Not easy to do.
Twitter gets so much criticism for “watering” down ideas and communication, but it takes a far better writer to write a pithy statement than a rambling paragraph. Bill Clinton apologized for the length of his memoir and said, “If I’d had more time, it would have been much shorter.”
Thanks, LaRae. You sum it up well. The virtues of blogging have been extolled by Tom Peters, Seth Godin and others enough that it is taken seriously now. And indeed, blogging has absolutely changed the way I write. I have to stay focused and crisp to keep my thoughts to 600 words and get my point across. But the potential of Twitter has not been fully communicated or realized. I’ve been astounded by the power of some of the tweets I read. And I am delighted when I am able to construct one that “says it all.”
What a great idea; I definitely will have to try this.
I love also how you demonstrate that the kernal of the idea can give us the direction and then what grows from that seed becomes the depth of knowledge we need to overcome the inevitable challenges to achieve our shared goals.
Thanks for sharing this inspiring exercise.
Hi Tanveer, I hope you do try it. It’s fun to see the pattern that emerges. It tells you a lot about yourself.
Your comments started me thinking that it would also be an interesting exercise to start with a tweet and build a blog post around it.
Loved it! I have a reminder set at work to spend 3 minutes “journaling” each day. There are days that I don’t get to it, but I do really try. This would be a good way to do that especially on days that I don’t feel like I have anything to write and on days when I feel very full of what to write! Boiling down to the essence means finding just the right word to pare down the insignificant words and at the same time fill ideas and thoughts to overflowing with exact clear meaning. Thought-provoking.
Please let me know how it goes for you, Peg.
It was exciting then almost overwhelming to find so many pearls of wisdom rolling my way in one go 🙂
Usually being one to commit insightful quotes like these to memory as I come across them, I am sure that it is a very respectful compliment that I had to copy and paste by the end so I didn’t lose track of any for the future.
Looking forward to pondering on them all and sharing many as my “Quote4Today” on Twitter in weeks to come. Thanks!
Thanks so much, Cherie. I’m glad you found my writing inspiring and delighted that you want to share it with others. You are welcome to use either Jesse Stoner or Jesse Lyn Stoner when you quote me.
Great idea Jesse. Inspiration often comes in small doses. On another communityI am part of we are talking about Haikus – part of the same though process I think. As someone who is constantly reminded that ‘less is more’, I definitely need to practise!
Great analogy to Haiku – it seems simple but take practice to do it well. Less can be more, but it can also be less. 🙂
Wonderful exercise, Jesse! What an exceptional way to get to the pithy interior about the subjects that count the most for us. Fabulous!
Thanks, Dan. I like that description – the pithy interior of what counts the most
Thanks for sharing this, Jesse. It’s very helpful!
I think Steve Roesler at All Things Workplace is a master of short, impactful posts. I also love challenging myself with “6 words” (as in “Six Word Memoir”). Finally, having just returned from a writer’s retreat, I was reminded of Ernest Hemingway’s novel in six words: For Sale: baby shoes, never worn”. All additional examples of finding the kernel, which you’ve described so well.
Hemmingway’s 6 word novel gave me chills. Thanks so much for sharing that. I, too, enjoy Steve Roseler’s posts. Another excellent example are Tanmay Vora’s “In 100 Words” posts. And of course, I always appreciate yours, no matter what the length is. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, MJ.
Hi Jesse, thanks for pointing to my 100 Words post. My posts are usually 250 to 300 words and I keep important messages or core lessons in bold or italics to provide emphasis. Having written my first book in tweets (140 messages in 140 characters or less), I have a first hand feedback from my readers that tweets can be profound. The challenge, however, is to frame tweets in such a way that it provokes lateral thinking.
Tweets can sometimes be too short and a blog post can be too long for an online reader. 100 word post fills this gap and helps me be more creative.
Your tweets messages in this post are profound!
Good advice here, Tanmay. You are a master at framing a post, as well as a picture.
You are my Twitter master. You tweet I listen. Great idea!
Thanks, Kate! 🙂
I practice everyday. I simply think this way. I tend to compress everything down to the shortest way it can be explained clearly. That leads me to creating LOTS of quotes that are seldom longer than a tweet.
Hi Jack, It’s an excellent practice that can help in everyday communications, where the challenge is to be succinct and also clear enough to be easily understood.
What a creative idea for an exercise. As a professor for more than 30 years, one of the biggest compliments I get is when former students send me an email quoting ME. When they remember something that you said–or a theme from a course–then you know something is “sticking.” Makes me smile. And also a reminder that what we say and do matters both at work and at home.
I will do this exercise. Thanks for sharing the idea. Jann
Glad to hear from you Jann. What we say and do does matter!