Taking notes and journaling are two things that many of the greats throughout history did, and here’s why you should grab a pen and pad too.
Read time: 7 minutes
Becoming someone that diligently writes down everything sounds like a pain in the ass.
You have to carry a pen and paper with you and be ready to bust it out and jot down things that come to your mind.
You have to sit down, kill distractions, and go into your mind and reflect.
You also have to dig deep, think, and search for ideas, thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
Tough life, right?
But I do it.
I have hundreds of pieces of paper laying around with notes scribbled all over them, notebooks filled with notes, and even napkins and receipts with notes on them.
I also have notebooks full of past workout routines, sets, reps, weights, and the most random thoughts on training and workouts.
I’ll sometimes write long form in a spiral notebook or on the notepad feature on my phone if I have a bigger idea.
These notes might as well be gold, and there just may be a billion dollar idea hidden in there somewhere, just waiting for me to discover it and bring it into the world.
The biggest, best, most valuable, most actionable or most humorous ideas that I have get published here on this website, to the email list (join here if you haven’t already!), and on Facebook and Twitter.
So why do I do this?
Because if I don’t I’ll forget all these good ideas I have, and they will be lost in the deep chasm of my mind forever! Inspiration strikes at weird times.
We really have to be ready for that thought train when it comes along.
YOU Have Good Ideas
We ALL have good ideas, ideas that could change the world that we forgot and we never thought about ever again, never put into action, and never made an impact.
What a shame.
Don’t let that happen.
Please don’t let that happen!
Now, some out there will say ideas mean nothing, which is somewhat true if you take no action on them. Remember that EVERYTHING started as an idea. Writing it down is the first step to taking action on it! Great men and women take action, but also need an idea to start with, and they also need to remember that idea.
Thomas Edison took over five million pages of notes in his lifetime, and it’s no doubt that many of these ideas written down became some of his most successful when actioned upon. Without his obsessive tendency to take notes, Edison might have forgotten to invent the light bulb. All the more reason to take lights out notes, baby.
Thomas Edison. Inventor, Businessman, Badass. Also a diligent note-taker. Painting by Abraham Archibald Anderson
Note-taking also helps you understand yourself and your own psychology.
It’s good to look back and think over why you were feeling a certain way, a certain day.
Those who don’t learn from the past and understand it are doomed to repeat it.
This is why they try to teach history in school (we’ll leave out how good of a job is actually being done), to attempt to figure out the past and how it will relate to the future.
Understand your past feelings, thoughts, urges, impulses, and ideas so that in the future you can make better choices.
Excuses be Damned
Pens and notebooks are cheap.
You probably have a note app on your phone.
You probably have a voice recorder on your phone.
Now, you don’t have to start a website or blog (although I do believe everyone should have some internet real estate), write a book, have an email list, or be active on social media to see the benefits of note-taking.
Keep a journal, they’re not just for 12 year old girls!
Teddy Roosevelt Journaled voraciously along with reading like it was going out of style.
Mark Twain had his own personal notebooks custom-made for him and wrote down tons of funny observations and one-liners.
George S. Patton, when he wasn’t being a total General badass, wrote down his thoughts on how to become the ultimate soldier.
Ludwig van Beethoven would carry around a pen and pad while out and about and jot down things that struck him.
Check out Teddy Roosevelt’s journal entries: Why Every Man Should Keep a Handwritten Journal (wolfandiron.com)
Read more about the pocketbooks of the powerful: The Pocket Notebooks of 20 Famous Men (artofmanliness.com)
There’s just no excuse.
The Benefits of Taking Diligent Notes and Journaling
Let’s dive into the numerous benefits of taking notes and journaling. Here are the most important ones:
It cements the idea and makes it more tangible.
I once had a teacher that MADE us take notes.
Why? Because writing it down cements it in your brain better than just reading it or hearing it.
It frees up brainpower.
You don’t have to actively remember things. Once it’s written down it’s out. It frees your brain from it. Plus you can’t forget it now!
It provides something you can look back on and reflect.
You will have a tangible asset to look back on and learn from.
It’s like having your own history book, and the whole point of history is to learn from it, which we sometimes forget and make the same mistakes over and over.
It gets you better at writing.
You will pick up the intricacies of writing quick by doing it every day.
Writing is a very marketable skill, and by honing it by note-taking and journaling you’re sharpening it.
It helps you summarize your thoughts into important points.
We often wonder why we are thinking what we are thinking, and getting to the important points helps you understand this.
Thinking things out is the best way to boil it all down.
It can be soothing and meditative.
If you haven’t gotten lost in writing, you’re missing out!
Writing is the most soothing and meditative things I do (besides run and walk in nature).
When you let go and just let it flow, you enter a flow state (being “in the zone”) and are totally in the present moment.
This is an incredible place to be.
Have a cup of good coffee and take some L-Theanine, or have some Yerba Mate tea. Sit down in a comfortable place with a pen and pad. Let the ideas flow.
It helps you remember important quotes by influential people, and build upon them with your own thoughts.
Write down anything you find interesting… even things others have said.
I write down any quotes I hear and like, and build upon them with my own thoughts.
Some of the greatest knowledge can be passed along in quotes.
It could turn into something more.
You could start a blog, build up a social media following, or even write a book based on your unique thoughts.
People love to read about the ways others see the world.
Everyone has interesting thoughts, an these thoughts will be lost in the void if you don’t get them on paper.
Fitness-wise, recording your workout sessions and keeping tabs on how you feel will help you train better and make better progress.
I record every workout session, everyday, and I note how I feel, what it felt like, tempo, pace, time, day, etc. just so I know for the next time.
I know Arnold Schwarzenegger (have you read my review of his book?) was big on this, and it helped him understand himself and his own unique body so he could reach the upper echelon of bodybuilding.
Remember: nature works in cycles, and therefore so does human behavior. Ever wonder why you always seem to end up back where you started like going in a circle? Ever wonder why you end up gaining fat back after losing it? How about getting weaker after you’ve gotten stronger? Or how you’ve lost all the muscle you’ve worked to build? Because you didn’t learn from the past, and you forgot where you came from. Note-taking and journaling helps (among other things like goals, programs, and systems) break this cycle and gives you a tangible point to build off of. Don’t be the person that’s always starting over and going in circles.
Taking Notes on Books and Podcasts
This is an incredible way to better understand what you’re reading or listening to.
What this does is force you to understand what you’re reading or listening to and put it into your own words.
I highly suggest taking notes on life-changing books and podcasts (don’t take notes while driving, please!).
This will help you remember what you’ve read and help you take action on the advice given!
Some life-changing books that everyone should read (and take notes on):
How to Win friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie
This book WILL change your life. Take notes, and put those notes into action!
Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill
This is actually how you get rich, you must also put this into action. Bust out the pen and pad and forget everything you’ve ever read, heard, or learned about getting rich.
Gorilla Mindset – Mike Cernovich
Excellent book on creating a strong-as-steel mindset, this is a book everyone just needs to read (and take notes on).
The MAX Muscle Plan – Brad Schoenfield
The best book on building muscle I have read so far. I actually have a half notebook full of notes from this book.
Life-changing podcasts to check out (and take notes on):
The Joe Rogan Experience – One of the best podcasts out, Joe Rogan has rock-star guests on that will school you in every aspect of life.
The Tim Ferriss Show – Ferriss is an entrepreneur, author, investor, and I’m also convinced he’s a genius. This podcast has tons of great nuggets of knowledge and advice.
Note: Check out more books and podcasts on the resources page.
Start Note-taking and Journaling Today
Get your thoughts out of your head.
My recommendation is getting a pocket sized notepad and pen and carrying it everywhere, along with a book.
When inspiration strikes, take advantage and write!
You can also use your phone or tablet note feature, or the voice recorder.
Another cool thing to do is get out in nature or find a cool spot in civilization with no distraction, gizmos or gadgets and just let your mind wonder, and write it down.
I do this regularly and the ideas just flow.
Writing is something lost in today’s world, let’s bring it back.
Stay legendary, my friends.
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