Well, according to Joe Carter at First Things, anyway. He posted a funny little column called “Lessons of an Influence-Seeker” on the First Things “On the Square” page. In it, he suggests six lessons for those who want to “become more effective at being effectual.” They are, in brief:
- Lesson #1: Know your “great objects”
- Lesson #2: Media coverage is not the same as influence
- Lesson #3: Keep your pride in check
- Lesson #4: If you want to have a bigger influence, start by thinking smaller
- Lesson #5: Think long-term
- Lesson #6: Ultimately, it’s not about you or your message
The bits that interested me most were his comments under Lesson #1 and Lesson #4. The latter included the following advice:
How do you get started? Here’s what you do: (1) start a blog, (2) write at least five days a week, (3) build an audience of 150 readers.
As Malcolm Gladwell argues in his book The Tipping Point, the maximum number of individuals with whom we can have a genuinely social relationship is about 150. In blogging terms, this means that when your readership grows, your ability to have a truly influential connection with them decreases significantly. This is not to say that you should attempt to limit your readership to 150 readers. But if you want to maximize your personal influence, focus on establishing strong bonds and deep interaction with a core group.
Consider what might happen if each of these 150 readers read and thought about what you wrote on your blog for five minutes every day. Five minutes may seem insignificant, but it can have an exponential effect. With only five minutes every day, five days a week, you will have the reader’s attention for almost an entire day—22 hours—every year. That’s an astounding opportunity for influence.
The question then becomes how you’ll use this opportunity. Your audience is giving you two of their most precious possessions—their time and their attention. What are you doing with this gift?
Some—even perhaps most—of your time should be spent building rapport with your audience. If all you ever write about is related to your great objects, it will be a challenge to hold their attention. But if you rarely—or never—mention your core message, then you have squandered your opportunity. Find the right balance for your message and your audience.
Well, that’s very encouraging indeed for this ‘ere blogger on this ‘ere blog. According to my statistics, there are about 150 of you sitting around the table. Actually, I have about 500 people registered as commentators, but the stats (of late anyway) show that I only have about 180 readers a day. Not very many, in the greater scheme of things, and the reason for that is clear: a) I have been avoiding all the really controversial issues in the blogosphere and trying to concentrate on the important ones, and b) I haven’t been posting five days a week. I do think you can post too often on a blog. For eg. Fr Z’s blog is really hard to keep up with. You have to leave your readers with time to read other stuff! But admittedly, there has been a bit of a drought on SCE of late. That is because I am not a professional blogger. I have other callings that have greater demands upon my time and abilities.
But the first reason for my drop in statistics – that I avoid the really controversial issues and try to concentrate on the important ones – makes me stop and think a bit about Carter’s “lesson #1” – the need to be clear about one’s “great objects”. He writes:
When the British politician William Wilberforce sensed a call from God, he wrote in a journal entry that “God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the Slave Trade and the Reformation of Manners [moral values].” These became the twin lodestars that guided his ambitions as an influencer.
Wilberforce inspired me to write out my own version: The restoration of the family as the basic unit of society and the recognition of the intrinsic dignity of all members of the human family. Unless you can clarify to yourself what you want to affect, you can’t make it clear to anyone else.
What are your great objects, the key themes that God has set before you?
I think it hilarious that Wilberforce equated “suppressing the Slave Trade” with “the Reformation of Manners” (did he really mean “moral values”, as Carter interpolates?). We can, indeed, have “great objects” in our lives that are not equally serious.
If I had to pick two “lodestars” in my life it would be 1) to encourage all people to “think with the Church”, 2) to find for myself and to bring to others true joy in living. As Carter says: “What about you?” I would be interested.