Capturing Wisdom: Write to Life
Posted on 08 April 2018
The past few weeks I’ve had several events happen that reinforced the necessity of the written word. This past weekend, I saw the movie, Paul the Apostle. The story depicts Luke traveling to Rome to visit Paul, where he is held in solitary confinement until his execution. Before Paul’s death sentence can be enacted, Luke resolves to write another book, one that details the beginnings of "The Way" and the birth of what will come to be known as the church. The opening words on the screen before the action commenced was Capturing Wisdom. Our right to life carries with it a responsibility that we leave a legacy. A legacy can be found in our businesses, our acts, our children, our charitable giving. It can also be found in the written words that remain long after our bodies have left this earth.
One of my father's heroes was Oswald Chambers. Many of us begin our day with one of the most important devotionals of all time, My Utmost for His Highest. My father made a point to let others know about the importance of capturing wisdom from his speech, Excellence Through Humor:
“I'd like to talk to you all day about books, but I would be remiss if I talked about excellence, and perspective, and my experience, and my management if I didn't mention Oswald Chambers. Every word for 30-some years now, every word has been flavored by this man, Oswald Chambers. You say, "I've never heard of him." Well, it's no small wonder because Chambers died in 1917 at age 43. He never wrote a book. Well, how can you have 30 of his books if he never wrote a book? He married the Prime Minister of England's secretary, and when he went to work with the YMCA to work in Cairo, the time of Gallipoli, she went with him and took her talent and made shorthand notes of everything he ever said. Now, when he died in 1917, she lived for years and wrote all the books from the things she had made notes of what he said. I tell my wife, "Honey, the world will never know how great a man I am. You haven't written down one lousy word I've said."
I recently shared with a group of hopeful authors that they had an obligation to bring their experiences to the world’s attention by putting them in print. We have a write to life so that others may learn from our experiences. It’s shared wisdom and its incumbent on all of us to leave something behind worth reading. As Benjamin Franklin so succinctly stated, “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
As a speaker, you get to stand in front of an audience and dispense knowledge. You also get to observe what every person is doing. When I see participants taking notes and writing down thoughts and ideas, I know great things are going to happen for them. How do I know this? Simple, it’s science. When we write down with pen and paper, we create spatial relations between the various bits of information we are recording. Research has shown students who had taken notes remembered a higher proportion of critical facts. When we write something down, research suggests that as far as our brain is concerned, it’s as if we were doing that thing.
Every time you sit down and listen, you should have paper and pen handy. You are sitting before an expert on some topic. Therefore, anything you hear you must write to life so you can apply immediately. I once had to scribble notes with a brow liner on a cocktail napkin in a pitch-black conference center. Please don’t ever go to a meeting and listen to the speaker to be entertained. Listening is an active sport. You must work at it. And you must be ready for the endless epiphanies that emerge from your subconscious to your conscious at a moment’s notice and catch them on paper. You might only get one chance, so stay focused! Here’s some more tremendous wisdom from my father on the fine art of note taking from his speech Excellence Through Humor:
“When you read a book, when you hear a speaker, when you hear a sermon, always take your pen and read or listen with the pen to cultivate the habit of making notes of things you think, rather than what you thought you heard. Now, today make a few notes. As you hear speaking, make notes of what you think. Listen, but listen just enough to get your mind in motion and start those thought process.”