Jay Shirley

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The Daily Practice

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Just one thing.

Published: 23 Jul 2012

My wife and I were having a discussion about the book Outliers. She was trying to explain a point and I wasn’t getting it. Her thoughts were disjointed, trying to draw together several parallels and I struggled to keep up. I ended up drawing my own lines, dancing around her ideas and forming my own. I didn’t understand what she wanted to convey.

Lyndon B. Johnson performed what was called “The Treatment”. He barraged the poor listener with a steady stream of high intensity words and ideas. He would convince the other person through fear and inundation. He was very successful using this technique.

Lyndon Johnson giving The Treatment to Richard Russell

Lyndon Johnson giving “The Treatment” to Richard Russel

But he didn’t educate anybody with it. A barrage of information that nobody can keep up with. You can quickly and easily overload someone by providing too much information at a time. Too many ideas. They don’t learn, they give up.

But it’s just one thing.

Instead, I have a new technique to work towards. It will be hard for me. I get excited and passionate when I explain an idea. I need to remember that it’s an idea. A single piece, on a tower, that deserves to stand on its own. Everything else is merely supporting it. Nothing else deserves the spotlight.

When I explain something, I’m trying to focus on the one, single thing I want the person to walk away with. I want them to be able to explain that and justify their time listening. But just that one thing. Everything else is optional.

We think in parallel.

As we go through life and think, we get into a habit of multi-tasking and competing thoughts. We learn to learn in this way. We may be focused on a single idea, but in between thoughts we drift. At least I do. I think it’s normal.

In most cases, this is how people convey ideas. I know it’s how I convey ideas. It isn’t helpful. The imaginary thought lines that bring me between concepts don’t exist in any other minds. The associations are mine and mine alone.

Every time I jump between concepts I’m making it harder for the other person to keep up. I may think and believe it’s a great way of explaining some other related concept, but chances are it isn’t. Chances are it’s not helping.

Single file, please.

Each idea deserves the utmost attention until we’re certain the other person has received and accepted delivery of that idea. I don’t mean they have to agree with it, but they should understand.

If they haven’t understood yet, continue on that one single idea. Do not jump to other concepts, metaphors or ideas even if I think they’re supportive.

The burden is not on the recipient.

It’s hard for me to talk to other people and not assume they understood. However, often times it becomes clear that I flooded them with information and the piece that I really wanted them to leave with was left on the floor. Oops.

It’s my duty to guarantee delivery. I am the postman for my ideas, responsible for delivery. It’s ok if they’re not home, my job is to get it to their house.

If I’m struggling and juggling with several ideas at once, I’m going to fail delivering the understanding.

It’s my job to deliver the message, no excuses.