If you look at a sampling of my blog posts over the years (here's an organized list), you'll notice that I went through a phase of believing that every blog post needed an image (here are some examples). Eventually, I gave the practice up, deciding to stop spending time — small though it was — on making title images. Doing this was a departure from what is commonly believed by bloggers: namely, that on today's Internet, you need to have nice title images so as to maximize shareability on social media. Surely not having these images would diminish the blog's readership.
But here is what actually happened when I stopped doing the title images:
- I started publishing blog posts more regularly.
- I started enjoying the writing and publishing process more as it became more streamlined and straightforward.
- People kept reading, and they kept sharing the work as they saw fit.
In other words, it was an important shift for me away from doing something just to do it and toward honing in on the work I suspected was most important — in my case, consistent and enjoyable publication. In other words, I began caring less about the flash and more about the work.
The same shift is important in our teaching careers. Initially, it's all important — the fancy bulletin boards, the well-designed documents, the color-coordinated class folders. But eventually, we make a shift:
- doing things because of the way they make us feel,
- because someone said they are important, or
- because we always envisioned that we'd be teaching like this
- doing things because of the results they yield,
- because we have strong evidence to support that they are important, and
- because we're now after the long-term flourishing at the root of what we always envisioned that we'd be doing.
The shift from the flash to the work is critical.
Have you made it?
Three people helped bring this home to me recently. First, John is a high school teacher in Flint, MI, and I watched him deliver a zero-flash, super-effective world history lesson not that long ago. It was inspiring. Second, Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway is one of the largest and most successful companies in the world, but its website is remarkably unimpressive — zero flash on top of an incredible company. Third, Seth Godin is the author of 18 NYT best-selling books and his writing has shaped the marketing industry. His blog, however, probably hasn't changed its look in over a decade.