I love sailing. Wait, let me rephrase that. I am obsessed with sailing. There is something magical about the combination of art and science that takes place when you're out on the water, making your way with nothing but mother nature for propulsion.
As a result of this obsession, I've stumbled upon a book called Captain James Cook's Journal During the First Voyage Round the World (available free from Project Gutenberg), which is a daily account of the happenings aboard the H.M.S. Endeavour during the years 1768 -1771. While it may bore the pants off of the average reader, I find it completely fascinating to see into the mind of a seasoned sailor, and leader. Cook details everything from the mundane ship inventory to the tactics employed to survive a major storm.
In this excerpt, Cook records the days events in a single paragraph, but this single entry leaves one with so much to think about.
Friday, 16th. The most part fine, Clear weather. Punished Henry Stevens, Seaman, and Thomas Dunster, Marine, with 12 lashes each, for refusing to take their allowance of Fresh Beef. Employed taking on board Wine and Water. Wind Easterly.
Punished for refusing to eat their rations of food? At first I was repulsed at how heavy-handed Cook seemed to be. But then, considering the enormity of what they were attempting—a trip around the world in a sailing ship—I understood why he needed to discipline his men in such a way. A leader with his experience knows intimately the importance of a strong, healthy crew, without which he would not be able to achieve the mission. A crew member refusing to eat puts the entire crew at risk because that one crew member may lose strength or focus from lack of proper nutrients and protein, thus putting all other crew members—including the Captain himself—at risk of injury or death.
Hidden within each of Cook's entries is a little nugget of wisdom to be gleaned for anyone in a leadership role. Every ship has a log, and every captain honors the tradition of updating the log. One may wonder why? For what purpose? Who will read these logs, if anyone? These hand written logs serve many purposes.
Learning from ourselves
The process of writing our thoughts is a magical process. It converts ideas, images and emotions that exist in our minds to a physical artifact. While recording our thoughts, it's as if the memory becomes strengthened in the transcoding process that takes place from thought to letter form, through the medium of the hand and ink.
Allowing others to learn from us
Once committed to paper (or to blog), our thoughts live on beyond our personal experiences and can be read by others in the future. Total strangers can learn from our successes and failures quite far into the future. What may seem mundane at the time might be just the thing someone else needs to think through a problem, or avoid it in the first place.
Keep a journal!
You may not be the captain of a ship setting out to sail around the world in a primitive vessel, but I'd bet you're the caption of something—be it your own business, or as the leader of a team of any size. Even if the writing never sees the light of day, it will help you become a better thinker, a better speaker, and you'll get to know yourself in a way you've never imagined. But keep in mind, there is someone out there that might need that little nugget of wisdom you might not even realize is sitting there in front of your face. Write it down, then share it.
Do you keep a journal? What benefit do you get from the process?