Mindset

Lessons from a pencil

Early on in my journaling, I learnt the famous story of the Pencil from Paulo Cohello. The Pencil’s story can help us develop greater clarity and confidence

Pradip Gajjar

Learning and Development Consultant

A recent spring clean in my office was distracted by a stack of notebooks I found on the bottom shelf of one of my bookshelves. The batch looked worn and dogeared. Admittedly some dust had gathered on them. Flicking through them though was revealing. Pages and pages had witnessed my experiences, insights and challenges. They revealed situations I struggled with, the advice received, and the victories I bagged. These were my journals. The pages, my learning. Not academic or formal. Learning from my daily reflections and my aspiration to make the next day a better opportunity – to grow and develop and tackle my goals.

Early on in my journaling, I learnt the famous story of the Pencil from Paulo Cohello. Here’s my adaptation of the five lessons the Pencil’s story teaches us and how it has helped me develop my journaling:

1.    Gratitude. Starting our daily journal with an expression of gratitude for the day is very powerful. The ability, time, colleagues, friends, and opportunity guide me every day like the hand that guides a pencil. There is at least one thing to be grateful for, let’s capture it.

2.    Challenges. A pencil must face the challenge of being sharpened. We are faced with challenges that can help make us stronger. What challenges did we face? How did we deal with them? What skill, knowledge or attribute did we engage to overcome the challenge? Writing about this embeds it into our space of habit. We will remember it and develop it with the next challenge.

3.    Mistakes. A pencil mark can be erased. We will make mistakes and it's ok to correct them. Daily think about what we can learn from our mistakes. There are many quotes aboutthe glory of mistakes. Capture the learning they bring – it makes us sharper and removes the negative emotions we might associate with the them.

4.    Feelings. A pencil has a hard-wooden exterior yet it's the soft graphite interior that does the job.We have feelings and thoughts that guide our actions. Daily note the feelings we experience. Our ability to identify our feelings is a big strength in the context of a busy, uncertain world in which we must live and work.

5.    Well done! A pencil leaves a mark for others to remember. We consciously can-do things that matter and add value. Daily celebrate what we have done well. I think of it as a humble pride. Acknowledging I have a talent to do good and expressing my gratitude for those who nurtured me, is humility. I can be proud of what I do well.


I find journaling a useful technique for gaining valuable self-knowledge and encouraging my growth mindset. It’s also a great tool for solving problems.It’s easier for me to think through and come up with solutions on paper. I also find journaling helps me to unplug from the distractions of a device – all I need is a pen and pad. Journaling helps me clarify my thoughts and create a focus.


Reflect, write, learn, destress as a daily experience. Why not use the five lessons and write something about each today? Or just begin with Gratitude.There is no specific rule to journaling. You can start with just one sentence a day. You will feel the difference.

Check out our workshops under the solutions Inner resilience and Self-confidence to learn more about journaling as a personal growth strategy.

Pradip Gajjar

 is just one of Lotus Leadership's excellent accredited coaches.

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