The Lessons that Shape Your Life

If you wanted the simplest framework for today’s post, I would call it: Learning to Pay Attention.

More than fifteen years ago someone challenged me to write down the lessons I am learning about life and leadership. My friend’s convicting message was, “unless you develop a system for writing down the discoveries and observations you make, you will forget them. You’ve probably already forgotten more than you have yet to learn.” (For the larger story see my June 1, 2020 post, “Launch Day for AboutLEADING.")


I bought a journal on the way home from that providential appointment and started writing things down. In the years since then, I’ve captured hundreds of personal discoveries. They aren’t all worthy of prime time, but I made the decision to write down any that seemed to be of value in the moment. It’s easier to toss out an idea than articulate one you can’t remember. (The journals in the picture above are a few of those I’ve filled up.)

Like me, you are also learning new things every day. Leadership is a lifelong learning curve. You learn some things through trial and error. Other things you learn by what you observe in other people. There are books you’ll read, TED talks you’ll hear, and seminars you’ll attend that spawn insights far beyond the intended content of those experiences. In every way, you will continue growing as a leader every day of your life. It’s time to start capturing those personalized lessons, even if the only person who benefits is you.

My challenge to you is the same one given to me. Start paying attention. Look for those moments when the light bulb of insight goes off. Capture them. Write them down.


DO NOT try to be fancy or clever. While you could type things out and store them in a file on your computer, I personally suggest buying a cheap journal and handwriting them. Do what works for you. I find something inherently freeing and unbounded about hand writing vs. the illusion of polish on a typed Word doc.

To make it easy for you to get started, here is the outline I have used to capture those leadership insights all these years. It helps me use my energies for reflection and remembering instead of on trying to be clever. It also provides just enough information so that it all makes sense when I look at it later.

Give it a try. Let me know how it goes.

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© 2020 by Gary Mayes