The Palest Ink

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There’s a saying that the palest ink is stronger than the strongest memory. You’ve got a better shot at becoming a great leader if you write things down accurately. Then you can refer to them when you need to. That’s why many leaders and other people keep a journal. The written record is indeed stronger than your memory.

The Trickster That Lives in Your Head

When you write things down, the palest ink helps you remember and remember accurately. Memory, you see, is not just weak, it’s fickle.

Your memory today is actually the memory of your last retelling of the incident or idea. Writing things down gives you a record you can go back to, to check your memory.

We human beings kid ourselves all the time. Ask anyone who kept a time log to compare with their idea of how they used their time. Or talk to bodybuilders and weightlifters about the value of keeping records of what you do so you don’t kid yourself.

These are two strong benefits of writing things down. But they only work if you write things down soon after the incident or soon after you get the idea. If you don’t, your fickle memory takes hold and starts distorting stuff.

Einstein’s Phone Number

There’s a story that a newspaper reporter interviewed Einstein for an article. When the interview was over, the reporter asked Einstein for his phone number. When Einstein went to an address book to look up the number, the reporter was nonplussed. He asked Einstein why he didn’t know his own phone number. Einstein told him it was written down, so he didn’t need to remember it.

That’s a big benefit. Once you write something down, like your phone number, you don’t have to remember it anymore. That frees up your mind for other things, probably more creative things.

The Neural Net Versus Your Journal

When you have an idea in your head, it almost always seems to make sense. An idea in your head is connected through billions of connections to an unimaginable number of other ideas. Writing things down forces you to be selective about what you choose to remember. It forces you to put ideas and events in order.

When you do that, you see connections that aren’t apparent when you’re only thinking about ideas. You can sharpen your thinking by writing down the ideas you had and the ideas they sparked.

Your journal is a great place to write down things you want to remember. It’s a great place to sharpen your thinking so that you make better decisions. It’s a great place to keep records that keep you from fooling yourself.


Your memory is fickle and untrustworthy.

Writing things down frees your brain for other things.

Writing things down can keep you from fooling yourself.

Writing things down helps you sharpen your thinking so you make better decisions.

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What People Are Saying

Russell Hornfisher   |   10 Aug 2020   |   Reply

The older I become the better high school athlete I was.

Wally Bock   |   10 Aug 2020   |   Reply

Yes. I know how that works. Shakespeare had it right (from Henry V)

“Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day:”

Thanks for adding to the conversation.