Over the years, I was privileged to hear the late, great Charlie “Tremendous” Jones speak dozens of times. One of the most valuable lessons I learned from him came the first time I heard him speak. “Don’t take notes on what a speaker says,” he advised. “Take notes on the thoughts you get from what you hear. You must learn to listen less and think more, because the more you listen, the more you memorize, and try to be smarter. The more you think, the more you realize it doesn’t do you any good to be smart. It’s better to be plain and simple and real.”
That simple bit of advice has proven invaluable to me thousands and thousands of time, while reading books and listening to sermons and speeches, and even in casual conversation.
In a similar vein, another friend once introduced me to what he called “the hot pen technique,” for recording ideas which interrupt our sleep in the middle of the night. All that’s required is a pen with a built-in light (yes, they’re available) and a small notepad, so you can capture that brilliant thought without getting out of bed.
Here’s what the late Earl Nightingale had to say on that subject: “Ideas are elusive, slippery things. Best to keep a pad of paper and a pencil at your bedside, so you can stab them during the night before they get away.” I’ve also found them handy to have within reach during late night visits to the commode.
Centuries ago, British philosopher Francis Bacon offered this advice: “Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable.” Contemporary American author Stewart O’Nan put it even more succinctly: “If you don’t write it down, it’s gone.”