When I was a kid, I remember begging my parents to buy me a journal. I really wanted that journal; I had dreams of capturing all sorts of private thoughts, and I wanted to be able to to lock it! I was relentless, deploying every trick in the book to convince my parents to buy one for me, and sure enough, it worked! My parents bought me a beautiful, almost real leather covered journal, with a strap that slid into a lock, and it had a key that locked it up! After spending more time playing with the lock than actually writing in it, I never touched it again. And that was the end of my brush with journaling… until…
One day many years later, I was telling one my many tales from a recent business trip I had taken. A friend of mine suggested I write these stories down. I thought to myself, “What I wouldn’t give to read my father’s thoughts when he was in the wheelhouse of his career! Perhaps this will give me a chance to offer these pages to my children someday. Besides, if I’m so blessed, perhaps someday when I’m retired, I can sit in a rocking chair, read these entries, and reminisce about a career I’m proud of.” The next day, while sitting on a plane heading out on a business trip, I pulled out my laptop, opened up a new document, and I began writing. Unlike my initial failure as a child, I spent the next 25 years writing in my journal.
My system was simple:
- Each flight I went on, the moment the pilot allowed us to bring down our tray tables and turn on our laptops, I’d start with the date, time, and location and start writing.
- Sometimes I had a strong idea of what I wanted to say, and other times, I had no clue as to what I wanted to say. It didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was that I would write.
- Strangely enough, usually when I thought I had a lot to say, my writing was a little stiff, my entries were shorter than I expected, and what I wrote lacked creativity. When I had no idea what I would write about, my entries tended to be longer than I expected, and my creativity was high.
- At the end of each year, I’d print and bind three copies of that year’s journal. One copy I would give to my wife, one copy I would send to my parents, and one copy I would put in a file to save for that mythical reading in my rocking chair time.
Interestingly enough, I had one more rule that I took seriously: no editing! I took this message so seriously, I’d kick off each journal with this sentence: “These stories were recorded as they happened, and you may notice segments with poor grammar and occasional sections that won’t make sense. I write what I feel; I do not believe that I should, at some later date, go back and make changes.”
For that reason, I would never go back and read one story I had written. Pretty good decision, right? Wrong. I missed out on the most important parts of journaling. By methodically not looking over what I had written, I was capturing stories, but inadvertently missing their messages. At this point, I’d like to share one of my own, humble definitions of wisdom, and it goes like this:
Wisdom consists of three things; success, failure, and a conscious knowledge of the lessons learned from each.
Well, I was writing about success and I was writing about failure, but I had mistakenly built a process that was keeping me from learning anything from my own lessons. Twelve years after I had begun writing in my journals, I finally woke up. I went back and read through every page, and not with an eye to edit or to reminisce. I wanted to learn… and I learned plenty. I had inadvertently captured stories with messages teaching me about so many things. Please take a deep breath before you read the following sentence. I learned about ethics, integrity, business bullies, associations with others, customer service, professional challenges, the temptations to quit, working hard, hustling, timing, doubt, cultural differences, socioeconomic differences, hidden agendas, personal growth, confidence, courage, arrogance, life’s ups and downs, self-control, kindness, winning with dignity, loyalty, complimenting others, failure, sickness, depression, defeat, accepting change, when to shut up, how to neutralize the negatives, the value or an apology, perseverance, compassion, discipline, fear, pain, destruction, and the biggest one of all; surviving the addictive nature of too much travel away from our loved ones, and the road to recovery.
I learned an enormous amount from unearthing the morals of my own stories. In fact, I learned so much that I put the best stories in a book called, The Way of the Road Warrior. Fun Fact: I was on track to be on the Oprah Winfrey Show as a guest to discuss it, but unfortunately, she retired while I was in the process of being booked.
So, you now know that I’m a fan of journaling. I am also hoping that I may have inspired you to become a fan too, because this is where you’ll find your path to wisdom.
Here are a few guidelines that might help you as you begin to do this:
- Don’t wait for “the right time to write.” Much like the time we might protect for working out or reading, protect the time you set aside to write in your journal.
- Don’t worry about what to say, or how to say it; just say it!
- Don’t worry if you write two sentences, two paragraphs, or two pages; just do it! If you’re like me, your best writing will come when you think you have little to say.
- Don’t keep it a secret. Consider sharing your thoughts with others, and that means when you put those fingers on the keyboard, write as if you’re narrating a story for others to read.
- Don’t edit while you write, just write it! Editing will slow you down, and dramatically cut into your creativity.
Finally, perhaps the most important message of this Blarticle is this: Don’t forget, at the end of each year, to go back and read what you’ve written. Find a nice hammock, and give yourself a chance to figure out what you’ve learned. To me, this sounds like a nice process for self-discovery, and perhaps a new wonderful holiday tradition. By doing this, you’ll find your thoughts and teachings will lead you to your own path to wisdom.
Related: The Power Of Failure