From the Archives: Why I Blog. Why You Should, Too.

I presented on a blogger panel yesterday and made reference to this post.  I’m reposting today for those who might have been there and would like to read it, or for anyone thinking about getting into blogging in general.

For anyone who knows me, finding me at the keyboard isn’t a surprise.  Despite my current position in Human Resources, I grew up in IT with a sprinkle of social services thrown in.  I spent many a formative year hunkered down in front of my Apple IIc playing Zork.  I ran tech support, taught an A+ certification class and started a side business building computers, all of which I was, at the time, completely unqualified to do.  So to find me engrossed in my laptop at all hours of the day is not out of the ordinary.

What does surprise some people is the blog.  I write a lot, and some of it I share.  My blog is LeanHRBlog.com, so if you don’t work in HR or with Lean, there wouldn’t seem to be much to read, right?  So people are surprised when they check it out and see posts about poor customer service, grocery self-checkout lines, comic book characters in the workplace, or my stereo issues.  I usually tie it all back to HR, but how many times can you write “So what does this have to do with…” before you sound like a tool?  So I let my inner geek run free, and just assume that no one reads it or no one cares.

But there is, to me, still value in this tiny display of egoism.  Blogging makes me think.  It makes me consider my feelings on topics, crystallize them, and commit to them in a way that simple pondering never would.  There is power in the written word, including the power to make you commit to opinions you didn’t even know you had.  There is also power in knowing that once you hit the publish button, you might be asked to defend your thoughts to strangers.  It’s rare we are asked to do these things in the workplace, so the act of blogging can push you to develop yourself and your outlook in new and interesting ways.

There is also the social aspect of blogging, of course.  I’ve met some wonderful and smart people through this hobby of mine.  I read their work, they read mine (or say they do), and we converse across time and space on a myriad of topics.  I’ve learned a lot about my chosen profession, and I think I am better in my job for it.  My network is far wider than it would have been, and I have a large group of people upon whom I can call for help.

That’s great, right?  But what if you aren’t that excited about your job, have nothing to say, or just aren’t comfortable saying it?  No worries.  That’s the beauty of starting a blog.  See, while I assume no one reads my work, I can promise you no one will read yours.  Not for a while, anyway, especially if you don’t promote it.  Mike Birbiglia, the wonderful comic, talks about his “Secret Public Journal.”  That is, in effect, every blog that is started.  Unless you are a captain of industry, a celebrity or guest blogging for someone else, your work won’t be seen for months.  That’s a good thing.  You’ll have time to find your voice, find your topic, and find out what you believe in.  You can play around, learn the tools, and learn yourself.  Where else can you get that kind of personal development for free?

The other good news is that bloggers are generally pretty social.  If you need help, ask.  There are lots of bloggers out there that are happy to help you get started, offer tips, and critique your work.  Be prepared for the feedback, though.  It may not be pretty.  But bloggers generally like to see other good content shared, so we’re all for more voices being heard.

The down side is that you will be putting yourself out there for criticism in a way you’ve likely not experienced before.  But sometimes growth requires pushing through the soil.  If you aren’t sure you are ready for that level of growth, start small and write anonymously.  Sharpen your skills first, and then deal with the public eye later.

My advice to anyone who is thinking of getting started is to pick up your keyboard and get started.  There are several free hosting sites that can walk you through setting up your very own blog in a matter of minutes.  Fuss with the layout, set up feeds, post a picture of yourself, or do none of those things.  Take your pick.  But start.  Post once a week, once a month, once a day, or whatever works for your schedule.  But get started.  We need more smart people contributing to the world.  Be one of them.

Why I Blog. Why You Should, Too.

For anyone who knows me, finding me at the keyboard isn’t a surprise.  Despite my current position in Human Resources, I grew up in IT with a sprinkle of social services thrown in.  I spent many a formative year hunkered down in front of my Apple IIc playing Zork.  I ran tech support, taught an A+ certification class and started a side business building computers, all of which I was, at the time, completely unqualified to do.  So to find me engrossed in my laptop at all hours of the day is not out of the ordinary.

What does surprise some people is the blog.  I write a lot, and some of it I share.  My blog is LeanHRBlog.com, so if you don’t work in HR or with Lean, there wouldn’t seem to be much to read, right?  So people are surprised when they check it out and see posts about poor customer service, grocery self-checkout lines, comic book characters in the workplace, or my stereo issues.  I usually tie it all back to HR, but how many times can you write “So what does this have to do with…” before you sound like a tool?  So I let my inner geek run free, and just assume that no one reads it or no one cares.

But there is, to me, still value in this tiny display of egoism.  Blogging makes me think.  It makes me consider my feelings on topics, crystallize them, and commit to them in a way that simple pondering never would.  There is power in the written word, including the power to make you commit to opinions you didn’t even know you had.  There is also power in knowing that once you hit the publish button, you might be asked to defend your thoughts to strangers.  It’s rare we are asked to do these things in the workplace, so the act of blogging can push you to develop yourself and your outlook in new and interesting ways.

There is also the social aspect of blogging, of course.  I’ve met some wonderful and smart people through this hobby of mine.  I read their work, they read mine (or say they do), and we converse across time and space on a myriad of topics.  I’ve learned a lot about my chosen profession, and I think I am better in my job for it.  My network is far wider than it would have been, and I have a large group of people upon whom I can call for help.

That’s great, right?  But what if you aren’t that excited about your job, have nothing to say, or just aren’t comfortable saying it?  No worries.  That’s the beauty of starting a blog.  See, while I assume no one reads my work, I can promise you no one will read yours.  Not for a while, anyway, especially if you don’t promote it.  Mike Birbiglia, the wonderful comic, talks about his “Secret Public Journal.”  That is, in effect, every blog that is started.  Unless you are a captain of industry, a celebrity or guest blogging for someone else, your work won’t be seen for months.  That’s a good thing.  You’ll have time to find your voice, find your topic, and find out what you believe in.  You can play around, learn the tools, and learn yourself.  Where else can you get that kind of personal development for free?

The other good news is that bloggers are generally pretty social.  If you need help, ask.  There are lots of bloggers out there that are happy to help you get started, offer tips, and critique your work.  Be prepared for the feedback, though.  It may not be pretty.  But bloggers generally like to see other good content shared, so we’re all for more voices being heard.

The down side is that you will be putting yourself out there for criticism in a way you’ve likely not experienced before.  But sometimes growth requires pushing through the soil.  If you aren’t sure you are ready for that level of growth, start small and write anonymously.  Sharpen your skills first, and then deal with the public eye later.

My advice to anyone who is thinking of getting started is to pick up your keyboard and get started.  There are several free hosting sites that can walk you through setting up your very own blog in a matter of minutes.  Fuss with the layout, set up feeds, post a picture of yourself, or do none of those things.  Take your pick.  But start.  Post once a week, once a month, once a day, or whatever works for your schedule.  But get started.  We need more smart people contributing to the world.  Be one of them.

TL, DNR

Don’t go scurrying off to Urban Dictionary if you don’t know this one.  It’s “too long, did not read.”  And it is the scourge of bloggers everywhere.

Bloggers like to write, and often have some really interesting things to say.  Not all of those things will fit on an 3×5 card, or even allow you to read without scrolling.  Brevity is the soul of wit, or something like that, but sometimes it takes time to introduce, develop and deliver a point.  I try to read a lot of posts each day, but I struggle to get through some of the long ones.  I blame Headline News for conditioning me to live in the world of factoids instead of investigative journalism.

Here’s the bad news.  Those long posts?  They are usually the ones you really need to read.  Very little of value is said in 50 words or less.  So get used to it.  The world would be a better place if people had longer attention spans, anyway.

And in the interest of said brevity, that’s all I have to say about that.

What Inspires Me.

A list.  I capture it not only to share my passions, but because my faulty memory can use all the help it can get.  By putting it here, I can always look back to it for help later.  Feel free to browse and take anything you like.

Family.  They just won’t leave me alone.

Friends.  I just won’t leave them alone.

Work.  I spend a lot of time there, and so it has a lot of influence.  I think of it as my lab for trying out ideas and seeing what really works.

Strangers.  More often than not when I’m out in public.  It’s hard to understand the motivation of other people, so it always starts me thinking.

Failure, two types.  First the past.  I’m a perfectionist (when it suits me), and tend to obsess over failure.  Even if it wasn’t my fault.  I have failure from years ago that I still occasionally pull out and relive.  Not in an unhealthy way, I don’t think.  But our failures are what prepare us for our success.

The second type is future failure.  Thinking about how things can go wrong, and how to course correct before it happens.

Reading.  I’ve spent more time lately with biographies.  I find it fascinating to read about the seminal figures of our history.  They were all shaped by their own past, most of them with some pretty significant failures of their own.

Writing.  While I wouldn’t go so far as to call it automatic writing, I do find that I can sit down and knock out a report, blog post, letter or email with very little specific thought as to the wording.  As long as I have the general direction, the keyboard seems to fill in the gaps.

Speaking.  Maybe I inherited my father’s sales genes, but I sometimes get my best ideas when someone asks me a question, and I have no idea how to answer but charge on anyway.

Really smart people.  They usually fall into one of the previous categories (family, friends, strangers) but deserve a special mention.  Dumb people surround themselves with smart people.  Smart people surround themselves with other smart people whose opinions differ from theirs.

I appreciated the contributions each of these inspirations have made.  So glad to have them around.

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