The hardest part about keeping a diary is that you have to read it once in a while.
My long-time mentor Alan Weiss says, “I’m constantly surprised at how stupid I was two weeks ago.” It is so true, isn’t it? I spent this weekend going over some articles that I published for an online media outlet a long, long time ago. The content is solid and still relevant today; however, it reflects a very different version of me—one that is not as wise and not as pazzo.
I turn fifty-four today. It’s not a birthday that ends in zero, but a birthday nonetheless. I reflect every year around this time, like most people do when they turn a year older. In some respects, I wish I was seventeen again when I knew everything. It seems as time marches on, I get a little bit wiser, I know a little bit less, and I go a little more nuts.
You really have to be a crazy to do what I do, for as long as I have done it. Honestly, I didn’t go looking to become a management consultant—it found me. Then it just stuck around, like a stray cat with a suit and tie that randomly spouts out phrases like, “Can we put a pin in that for the moment?” So, before the voices in the darkness scream away my mental health, I thought I would jot a few things down.
I think everyone should keep a journal. It’s a great way to capture fleeting thoughts, keep priorities top-of-mind, and supply a zettelkasten if you have one. It is also a terrific way to regulate your emotions when you are in a threat state. Writing is a way of labelling, a concept in neuroscience that suggests merely naming a limiting emotion to reduce its internal intensity. That said, be careful to mind the security of your journal when articulating thoughts you would rather not share with the rest of the world. Otherwise, that email that you didn’t hit “send” on, might make its way your boss anyway!
My journal has served me well over the years. I installed Evernote in 2008 as an attempt to go paperless, and that’s where I currently do most of my journaling today. But, I have notes that date all the way back to 1992 when I started consulting. My friend Nicole and I were just talking about the wild experience of revisiting your old writings. There is such a panoply of emotions involved, but the ones that always strike me hardest are relief and fear. I am relieved that this information has re-entered my short-term memory and I fear the capacitor in my grey matter holding this information will soon dissipate, never to hold this particular charge again.
That is why I cherish my diary, regardless of the different forms it has taken throughout the years. It houses a lifetime of crazy ideas, senseless rants, and fond memories—the soil that holds the roots for who I am today.
I’m not sure when I will go completely mad. But when I do, I am sure it will be hard—but also pleasant—to reflect on the day I turned fifty-four.