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Books, notes, tweets and the change (your change)

March 19, 2011
by seth godin

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My friend Fred Wilson (one of the great VCs of all time) did a talk at Harvard Business School. In his post on it, he said that he was thrilled that the professor encouraged the class to tweet their notes.

I confess to being fascinated, mystified and horrified by people who tweet notes in real time. I mean, here is one of the giants of his industry, and the best the students can do with their attention is tweet short sentences, out of context, to an unknown audience of busy people who are reading hundreds of other out of context abbreviated notes at the same time? Waste a wasted opportunity.

From the point of view of the person reading these tweets, it’s hard to see how you’re actually going to learn enough and be moved enough to change your point of view about something.

From the sender’s point of view, (the student in that room with Fred) what if you sat quietly and actually gulped in all that was being said and displayed and communicated? What if you were there, right there, not halfway there and halfway (mentally) across the world? What if you were interrupting Fred with questions, preparing counter arguments and actually engaging with him?

I get the flux, the flow, the connective power of social media. It’s incredible to be able to widen your circle, to be aware of so many people and so many inputs. I wonder though… Is one status update enough to get you to alter a habit or make a better decision?

This is why books matter. Books, used properly, immerse us in a single idea. Books bring a voice into our head, create a different brain chemistry, open doors to a more powerful lever, a learning that can yes, change us. Dozens (perhaps hundreds) of times in my life, a book has changed my mind. So have some powerful lectures or direct engagements with teachers or mentors. These are the moments of true change, times when we are entrained with the message, when we feel the learning happening in real time.

Yes, tweet. Yes, stay in sync. Yes, absorb the lessons that come from many inputs, over time.

The quiet enjoyment that books (and great teachers) bring, the uncomfortable place they bring us when we’re open enough to let them in and to be honest with ourselves… this is precious.

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