Think about the last time you put a training or development session together. Did you find changes you wished you’d made? Back when I taught High School I was covering the Cold War and put a lesson plan together about something I knew well. A few hours the night before class and I was good to go for the next day. I didn’t have more time than that anyway. Everyone is “busy”, but trainers and managers even more so than most. We don’t have time to pour over something repeatedly, right? We concentrate, get it right the first time, and move on.
Certainly the greatest writers do this too: write it, a quick touch up, and they are done. Amazing masters of their craft. Or maybe not. Consider this:
Ernest Hemingway rewrote the last page of Farewell to Arms 39 times before “the words were right.”
In an interview in June of 2005, John Irving said “There’s no reason you shouldn’t, as a writer, not be aware of the necessity to revise yourself constantly. More than a half, maybe as much as two-thirds of my life as a writer is rewriting. I wouldn’t say I have a talent that’s special. It strikes me that I have an unusual kind of stamina. I can rewrite sentences over and over again, and I do. . . . And I think what I’ve always recognized about writing is that I don’t put much value in so-called inspiration. The value is in how many times you can redo something.”
Robert Louis Stevenson said “The swiftly done work of the journalist, and the cheap finish and ready-made methods to which it leads, you must try to counteract in private by writing with the most considerate slowness and on the most ambitious models. And when I say “writing”–O believe me, it is rewriting that I have chiefly in mind.”
Even Stephen King said “to write is human, to edit is divine.”
You see, its not about how quickly you put the course together claiming efficiency, nor is it about getting ten things done today and pushing them out the door. Education in any form is first about quality. Bad education is not better than no education at all. The first draft is never your best work.
Dave Ramsey (@daveramsey,) known world-wide for his bestselling book and training program Total Money Makeover, tells an interesting story in his newest book EntreLeadership. He describes how the first version of Total Money Makeover was actually a class he started called Life After Debt. He announced it on the radio, set the room for 135 people, made special binders, and got ready for the big in-rush of people. Six showed up. Six months and many customers later he had rewritten the course to become what we now know as Total Money Makeover. Right now the book has over 740 reviews on Amazon.com rating it 4.5 out of 5 stars and has sold over 6 million copies. Good thing he rewrote it isn’t it?
So here is the challenge: next time you plan training, a presentation, a speech, or anything else that others will see, put it together and then walk away for a day or two. Come back to it prepared to rip it to shreds and redo most of it. I promise you it will be better when you finish. (Oh, and the Cold War lesson – totally flopped. I reviewed it and saw huge holes that needed to be filled. Unfortunately I never got to teach it again.)