Today I stumbled upon another fantastic blog post by the inimitable Kathy Sierra. It may contain the single best piece of advice for teachers of any kind: center the experience around the students, not yourself. Check it out.

But the concept doesn’t just apply to teaching. I often find myself, likely due to my personality, in situations where I’m thinking “are you really still talking about that? This conversation should’ve ended 15 minutes ago.” This is especially apparent in business settings, where underlying political agendas can so easily derail (or make interminable) the original topic of discussion. Does what so-and-so said really need to be repeated slightly paraphrased by half the meeting’s participants? What benefit is your contribution providing to your audience? Why should anyone care? Everybody’s busy. Perhaps the most effective means of paying respect is by respecting one’s time.

Why stop with teaching and conversing? The best writing employs the same techniques: conciseness and a central focus on a target audience. This blog is probably not the best example, since it was originally a way to let people know of my travels abroad. It’s since had to morph into something different, but I’ve been noticing recently an inverse relationship between a post’s popularity and how much it’s about me. Shouldn’t have really come as a surprise, but strangely, it did. Not that I’ll stop discussing my adventures, of course, but I’ll try to make each more relevant to my (miniscule) audience.

Paying close attention to your audience and their desires is essential. It’s not about you. It’s about them.