TLDR is BS

Walk before you run. Doing things right often takes time. Sometimes it can take a very long time from the beginning, foundational steps, up to the final result. I think this fact is being lost in our current, you-can-have-it-all-now culture. This has become evident for me over the years by the first four letters of this blog entry: TLDR. If you aren’t familiar with this one, it means Too Long, Didn’t Read. I’ve been seeing it with greater frequency over the years, and I find it disturbing. I know that our time comes at a premium; after all, I’m preparing to work the 60-70 hour long weeks I always wind up working during Thanksgiving through Christmas. I don’t have a lot of leisure time, and neither do many other people. But I believe the response TLDR on a website is a cop out indicative of someone just not wanting to take the time to learn another side of  a story. Most often, but not always, I see the TLDR response on websites of a political subject matter. Sadly, especially when it comes to political issues, people are so dead set in their ways to really read and learn about other sides of an issue. It’s far easier to accept the quick, sound-bite caricature delivered on a daily basis by the media and aligned interests. To truly get to know the full story takes time. There are many subtleties involved when it comes to life, and only by really looking into the details can we discern the truth from the cacophony others pronounce as the truth.

I believe it was the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell which mentioned 10,000 hours being the required amount of time to achieve mastery in a skill. (I haven’t read this book, yet, but am paraphrasing a friend who did.) I buy into that whole-heartedly. My favorite magician, Shawn Fahrquar, mentions before his trick “Shape of My Heart” that he practices 3-4 hours a day. That’s now that he’s an adult. That’s a little over ten years to get to mastery level working those hours, not even considering the hours he may have spent practicing as a child and fourth-generation magician. Need another example? Take a look at ANY top-level athlete – MLB, NFL, NBA. Regardless of their inherited physical athleticism, what you see on the field/court is merely the culmination of hours of gym time, practice, and prior play at the college, high school, pee-wee level over many years. Do you think Peyton Manning could play like that on Sunday if he sat on his couch eating potato chips the other six days of the week? Of course not. Even author George R.R. Martin, of Game of Thrones fame, has spent the last 15 years writing the story – only 5 books of which have made it to publication. To do it right, it takes time. (By the way, for those of you who haven’t read the books, it’s really called A Song of Ice and Fire.)
Getting back to politics, what would’ve happened if Americans used the TLDR excuse during that time between the Articles of Confederation and our U.S. Constitution? Imagine the greatest political PR campaign, the Federalist Papers, never being read because they were well over the 140-character limit. Our internet culture and the flow of nearly endless sources of information have given us a greater opportunity for dynamic democracy, but only if we take the time to educate ourselves.
I’m not advocating reading everything; we really and truly don’t have the time for that. But we must remember that to achieve the knowledge to improve ourselves and our world, much like attaining the necessary skills to do any job well, it takes an investment in our time. The TLDR philosophy should be used only sparingly; because it takes time to tell, and learn, the whole story. And that is time well spent.
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