There’s a saying in the legal world that if it wasn’t written down, it didn’t happen. I guess it’s the legal version of the philosophical question “if a tree falls in the forest…” Well, lately I’ve returned to the realization that if you want to set a goal, or you want something to happen, one of the best things you can do is write it down.
I was setting a few goals last week through a pretty intensive process on selfauthoring.com, a website developed by a group of brilliant psychologists at the University of Toronto. After writing down each goal, the program asks what I could do to monitor progress relative to the specified goal. Each time I did this, I realized that noting relevant thoughts and ideas would have a lasting positive impact on my ability to achieve my goals. The third time this happened, I realized that I needed to order a journal and a notepad (and a sweet astronaut pen that writes upside down and under water!) that I could carry with me anywhere and write down anything that I thought was important.
This is not news. Ever since we developed a written language, it has been clear that those who have mastered language have been able to control much of what surrounds them in this chaotic world. Most of what we know about ancient civilizations has been uncovered from written language, whether from the walls of caves, stone tablets, broken pots, or fragile papyrus. The late Tom Wolfe pointed out in his final controversial undertaking that most of our modern achievements have occurred because we can write, and that without a written language, we never would have sent a rocket into space, let alone put a man on the moon. Indeed, although the tongue may control a person like a rudder controls a ship, the pen has been shown to be mightier than the sword. Indeed, written language, or the rule of law, controls countries and world economies.
So, if you want to achieve something, especially something great, write it down. Putting it on the computer is fine, but I prefer old-fashioned technology that still works without electricity, doesn’t break if you drop it, and can withstand heat of about 451 degrees Fahrenheit.