To Do More, Talk Less

I remember my report cards from gradeschool, and the parent-teacher conferences that followed.

I’d get good marks, not because I was smart but because I was savvy and knew how to get good grades. There’s a difference.

Anyways, my parents would dress up a little and sit down with my home room teacher.

My palms would sweat.

My teacher, year after year, would begin: “John is doing well in school.”

Then, year after year, she’d end: “But he talks too much.”

My dad, who talks very little, would talk to me afterwards: “Son, learn to control when you speak.”

My palms continued to sweat.

Over the years, I watched as my dad could command entire rooms of very smart—and very loud—people. When he talked, people listened to him. And they trusted him. And many were slightly intimidated by him. So they listened.

I just observed.

What I saw was that I had gotten my dad wrong this entire time.

I thought he was a man of few words, but he was actually the opposite. He was a man of many words, but a speaker of only a few choice words.

Social media makes it easier—and more public—than ever to say more and do less. Ironically, people can “say more” just by posting more, even without actually saying anything at all. People make announcements about who they are and what they’re going to do.

Some of those people are inspiring, but not because of what they say. Because of what they actually do.

Then there are the people who just talk, but do very little of impact.

I think I’d rather spend more time making an impact than talking about it.

The work will speak for itself.

There’s a caveat to all of this “talk less” talk, though.

If you want people to listen to you more, I think you’ve got to listen more.

I’m not advocating for the old-school maxim of “speak only when spoken to.” That’s just a power play for impatient people.

What I AM saying is that you will “talk better” if you listen more. Then, you’ll be more worth listening to.

And when people listen to you, then you begin to really discover how to do more by talking less.