Brevity

We all live fairly busy lives…juggling the constant pushes and pulls of living…family, work, research, teaching, mentoring, and leadership roles.

In these busy times, brevity may sometimes the need of the hour. On the one hand, brevity forces us to distill a message to its very core. But, the tradeoff with brevity is that it can make things overly simplistic and reductionist and in doing so sacrifice much. For research, we have long papers, short papers, paper abstracts and paper titles. Then we have hour-long talks, short talks and the cocktail party or elevator versions of talks. 

In his Lettres Provinciales, the French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal famously wrote:

I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.

Similarly, the German theologian Martin Luther, the guiding light of the Reformation movement in Europe attributed said:

If I had my time to go over again, I would make my sermons much shorter, for I am conscious they have been too wordy.

According to an anecdote published in 1918 Woodrow Wilson was asked about the amount of time he spent preparing speeches, and his response was illuminating: 

“That depends on the length of the speech,” answered the President. “If it is a ten-minute speech it takes me all of two weeks to prepare it; if it is a half-hour speech it takes me a week; if I can talk as long as I want to it requires no preparation at all. I am ready now.”

The ascendancy of Twitter is a true testament to this longing and urgent need among people for brevity.

Here are some exercises in brevity to convey powerful thoughts

: all from @jackbutcher; @visualizevalue

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If you want extraordinary results, you need to narrow your focus.
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Opportunities multiply as they are seized— Sun Tzu
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The first rule of compounding is to never interrupt it unnecessarily — Charlie Munger
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Life is trying things to see if they work— Ray Bradbury
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Less is better
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The best time to start is now
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Not only is example the best way to teach, it is the only way— Albert Schweitzer
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When making plans, think big. When making progress, think small- James Clear
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Day by day, what you do is who you become — Heraclitus
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Ask
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It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it— Seneca
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Reduce options. Increase focus. Multiply results
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keep going
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Same event different perspectives
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Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else— Margaret Mead
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I was the sum total of the obstacles I’d overcome— David Goggins
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The reward for good work is more work — Tom Sachs
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Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly — Charles Addams
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The shortcut is to stop taking shortcuts.
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There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self — Aldous Huxley
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Practice
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The correct lesson to learn from surprises: the world is surprising— Daniel Kahneman
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Shoot
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Failure is success in progression- Einstein
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“Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most.” — Abraham Lincoln
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“Never mistake motion for action.” — Ernest Hemingway
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Success, failure, experience
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“Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.”
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“We must not allow other people’s limited perceptions to define us.” — Virginia Satir
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How everything works.
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“No one ever made a decision because of a number. They need a story.” — Daniel Kahneman
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Trial and Error
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Progress is deciding what to stop doing.
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“All skills attenuate with disuse.” — Tren Griffin
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“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” — Edmund Hillary
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“Don’t tell people your plans. Show them your results.” — Unknown
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True color of tea is only when it is in hot water-
“Adversity reveals genius, prosperity conceals it.” — Horace
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Patience
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“Smart people learn from everything and everyone, average people from their experiences, stupid people already have all the answers.” — Socrates
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Science is progress, not a result
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What is behind you, does not matter- Enzo
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No one owns you anything, figure it out
Ekalo chalo- Rabindernath Tagore
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“We cannot be more sensitive to pleasure without being more sensitive to pain.” — Alan Watts
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“The truth always carries the ambiguity of the words used to express it.” — Frank Herbert

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