Entrepreneurial Learning Journey: My Moleskine

I started a new Moleskine notebook last week, always a special event. I’ve kept a notebook for nearly a decade now, a habit I picked up from an inspiring entrepreneur I met. It’s a journal for private scribblings and I was delighted to open a new one and start a relationship with a trusted companion.

The Moleskine notebook is the legendary notebook used by artists and thinkers over the past two centuries, among them van Gogh, Picasso, Hemingway, and Matisse. They became famous in the Montmartre district of Paris with the Impressionists, the entrepreneurial flair of the people, the place and the notebooks synonymous with creative thinking.

A simple black rectangle with rounded corners, an elastic page-holder, and an internal expandable pocket, the Moleskine was produced for over a century by a small French bookbinder that supplied the stationery shops of Paris, where the artistic and literary avant-gardes lived. A trusted and handy travel companion, the notebook held invaluable sketches, notes, stories, and ideas that would one day become famous paintings or the pages of books.

In the 1980s, the Moleskin became increasingly scarce, and then vanished entirely, the manufacturer, a small family-owned company in the French city of Tours, went out of business. Le vrai moleskine n’est plus, were the lapidary words from the mouth of the owner of the stationery shop in the Rue de l’Ancienne Comédie, where artists usually purchased them.

In 1997, Modo & Modo, a small Milanese publisher, brought the legendary notebook back to life, and resurrected the name with a literary pedigree to revive an extraordinary tradition. Today, Moleskine notebooks have resumed their travels, providing an indispensable counterpart to the new portable technologies that pervade our lives.

Capturing reality in writing from glimpsing and recording details, inscribing the unique nature of experiences on paper that stores ideas and feelings, releasing its energy over time, is far more intimate than digital recording. While Evernote enhances my work productivity and scheduling, my Moleskin enhances my thinking and creativity.

I’m a huge advocate of the Moleskine as a tool for ubiquitous capture of thoughts, jotting down ideas whenever and wherever they occur to me. I also use it as a conversation log, to take notes about all my conversations – or even ones that I overhear – that give me new ideas or insights, stimulating my thinking. It becomes a ‘mind atlas’, a book of mind-maps.

A new, blank notebook is full of promise. It’s an opportunity to reflect, to create, and to express yourself. I’ve kept all my old notebooks for the last decade, so I have a record of my journey, my thinking, my conversations and my inspirations.

My notebooks are of no consequence to anyone other than myself, unlike the collection of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks, probably the most valuable notebooks ever created, which are beautiful works of art in themselves. Leonardo’s notebooks are a fascinating insight into his mind, they encompass all the interests and experiments of this self-taught entrepreneurial thinker, from mathematics to flying machines to art.

Da Vinci’s notebooks span most of his life as an artist, engineer and philosopher. He wrote in them daily, finishing with around 13,000 pages. His notebooks reflected his artistic innovations and natural philosophy based on his careful observation and precise scientific analysis. They are a tumultuous, sprawling feast of words and images, covering the astonishing range of his mind as he moves from problems of mechanics to art.

I’ve found that self-exploratory writing done on a regular basis into a personal journal has contributed to my emotional well-being and created a strong sense of self-knowledge, self-trust, contentment and sense of self. I find it therapeutic, it gives insight and perspective into finding your authentic voice, a practice that consists of listening to your own thinking and slowing down the thought process to the time it takes to write down a reflective and honest exploration of your thoughts.

Think of yourself as an archaeologist on a dig, curiously scrutinising and examining each thought, without judgment. At the end you can read what you wrote out loud to yourself so that you can hear your thoughts again in your own voice. This practice helps to remove the mental clutter or debris that builds up daily and often stands in the way of our creative potential.

Studies conducted by psychologists have traced many benefits to the practice of writing things down on a regular basis, and I’ve tried to copy da Vinci’s habit of always having a notebook with me. I often start with ‘note to self’, recording interesting conversations I overhear, capturing ideas for blog posts, jotting down one-liners I come up with – or just to capture random thoughts and insights.

I’m also a squirrel for capturing writing and thinking of others in newspapers or magazines, weekly and monthly publications. I tear the pages out, I love the physicality of having other peoples’ thinking with me on scraps of paper stuffed into my Moleskine and taken along for reading wherever I may be. I’m a digital magpie too with more bookmarks and printed web articles and blogs than I know what to do with.

I find the experience of keeping a journal much more creative on paper than on a computer. I’ve tried to do it on various digital devices but it has no authenticity and seems to lack purpose. When I write, I’m physically immersed in my own thinking and slow down, whereas on screen, I use my senses in a less engaged way – and I skim more, and I’ve got concrete fingers which don’t help with efficiency and flow of the keyboard.

Something different happens to my brain when I put pen to paper, the pace of writing or drawing diagrams slows you down and gives you more time for thoughts to come in, creating richer pictures. Learning never exhausts the mind, and simplicity of thinking in a journal is the ultimate sophistication, all our knowledge has its origin in perceptions, so let the journaling begin.

So for me, my Moleskin is a constant companion on my entrepreneurial learning journey, here’s a summary of what the habit brings to me, and how I use it.

Don’t fear the blank page You don’t need to create a masterpiece, you just need to write or draw something in the journal every day, you’ll realise how much you see each day. Give yourself permission to experiment, play around with material and make a mess.

Above all, stop caring about the outcome. It doesn’t have to be great, but exists as something that caught your attention that day. The whole point is getting stuff on the page. Once it’s out there, it can become a catalyst for other ideas related to your venturing endeavours.

Brings clarity to your thinking Writing every day logs your experiences and sparks new ideas. Writing is thinking. It forces you to examine your thoughts more critically and provides an opportunity to work through and gain clarity on the ideas, giving them some structure by having second or third thoughts about an original idea, that might otherwise sit as rolling tumbleweed in your head.

By noting those spur-of-the-moment ideas and random insights that you want to remember later, your racing thoughts become recorded and not lost on the hamster wheel of everyday stuff.

You get to know yourself My journal is a record of personal reflection. Taking time to shut out the loudness of the outside world and reconnect with your own thoughts in silence can lead to incredible self-discovery. The process of pouring out your unadulterated conversations in your head onto a blank page is both satisfying and motivating.

Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable. Fine ideas can pop up at the strangest times but they tend not to stay for long in your head, so you need to capture them or they are gone in the wind.

I do my best thinking when in my ‘note to self’ mode jotting down in the rough that would otherwise have been swept out the door with the ordinary dust of the filtered mind. Social psychologist James Pennebaker has proven, writing expressively can uplift both your mind and body.

It improves your memory My memory is like a leaking bucket. Writing expressively improves working memory, like replaying a film from our mental archives. Recording the ins and outs of your thinking gives more permanence to an often fleeting moment, as journaling is not for posterity but for future signposting, a way to keep sight of what happened behind you that has given you a sense of direction and momentum.

The beauty of journaling is that it can be messy, and that’s okay, you don’t have to follow any pattern or rules, you can just write what comes into your head. The more free we allow our thoughts to be, the more effective the process of journaling becomes, and a better record to refer to for stimulating future thoughts.

Unlocks your creativity My Moleskin enables me to capture the often random stream-of-consciousness to get a great idea out into the light, you can nurture what was a small seedling into a sequoia of brilliance. It frees up thinking space to gain clarity on what to do next. By becoming mindful with what you are thinking, you can move yourself from knowing into a doing state.

Because you’re in a direct and unfiltered dialogue with your own thinking when you write in a journal, it can be both a clearing-house and incubator where you tap into your imagination and unleash your creativity and ideas. a jumping ground to transform from the light bulb brain sketch into reality.

Content is yours Find a quote you’ve come across and write it down, hear someone say something – a one liner – that has meaning, learn something new from an online course you are enrolled in and write it down. However you are learning or searching for ways to grow as an individual, being able to write down reinforces the concept.

If you’re anything like me, we often have a hard time juggling so many thoughts throughout our day, and end up forgetting some of the stuff that was important in the moment, overwhelmed or simply unable to process the jumble of inputs, floating thoughts and ideas.

Provides perspective Sometimes our perception of a situation can blindspot us. Journaling helps to provide perspective on a situation, and assists our brains in properly processing it in a way that fosters a healthy outlook. This allows us to function better and get more done.

To write things down, you have to think a little bit to find the words or to figure out what it means.  Right off the bat, the act of trying to write something down shapes your thoughts.   Once it’s down on paper, you can now list things in a way that helps you think.   Whether it’s because you cross things off, or prioritise them, or shuffle them to make you feel good, you are in control.

Build your sense of purpose When you start to write about the things that have caught your eye and are important to your thinking, you gain the ability to start to process them against your own sense of purpose. Not only can a journal be a place where we store ideas, information, quotes or sayings that move us, but it’s also a wonderful tool to help us analyse where we are at and where we want to go.

Journaling, I believe, is a practice that teaches us better than any other the elusive art of solitude, how to be present with our own selves, bear witness to our inner voice and personal experiences, and fully inhabit our inner lives. It translates the inner to the outer.

At its heart, journaling with my Moleskine is simply taking the experiences, reflections, and ideas that I engage with and are in my head, and writing them down for mindfulness. Few of us can write one thought and think another at the same time. As Jim Rohn said, A life worth living is a life worth recording.

This helps stuff to sink in better by creating more of an experience and at the same time, calms your mind. The Zeigarnik Effect says we tend to hang on to things in our mind, if we don’t finish what we start. If you write things down, you free up your mind from worrying about what you forgot or what you need to remember.

Now you have a bird’s-eye view, you can decide what matters and what doesn’t and you can rehydrate your ideas later on as you need them. For me, it’s a pivotal element in capturing the living moments in my entrepreneurial learning journey.

Of these the most important is naturalness and spontaneity. These elements sprung, I observed, from my freedom of selection: in the Moleskine I only wrote of what interested me genuinely, what I felt at the moment, and I found this fervour, this enthusiasm produced a vividness. I never travel without my Moleskin. One should always have something sensational to read on the train.

 

 

 

Cake Solutions: the magic of the Moleskine and the ‘art of possible’

It was a great day at Cake Solutions (www.cakesolutions.net) last week, when a box arrived and everyone received a Moleskine notebook. I’ve always kept a notebook or journal, for work and private scribblings, but not owned a Moleskine for years, so I was delighted to receive a new one and resurrect my relationship with a trusted companion!

It all started many years ago, with a pocket-sized black object, the product of a great tradition. The Moleskine notebook is the heir and successor to the legendary notebook used by artists and thinkers over the past two centuries, among them Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, and Henri Matisse.

A simple black rectangle with rounded corners, an elastic page-holder, and an internal expandable pocket, the Moleskine was produced for over a century by a small French bookbinder that supplied the stationery shops of Paris, where the artistic and literary avant-gardes of the world browsed and bought them. A trusted and handy travel companion, the notebook held invaluable sketches, notes, stories, and ideas that would one day become famous paintings or the pages of beloved books.

In the 1980s, these notebooks became increasingly scarce, and then vanished entirely, the manufacturer, a small family-owned company in the French city of Tours, went out of business. Le vrai moleskine n’est plus, were the lapidary words from the mouth of the owner of the stationery shop in the Rue de l’Ancienne Comédie, where artists usually purchased them.

In 1997, Modo & Modo, a small Milanese publisher, brought the legendary notebook back to life, and resurrected the name with a literary pedigree to revive an extraordinary tradition. Today, Moleskine notebooks have resumed their travels, providing an indispensable counterpart to the new portable technology. Capturing reality in writing from movement, glimpsing and recording details, inscribing the unique nature of experience on paper, that stores ideas and feelings, releasing its energy over time, is far more intimate than digital recording.

I’m a huge advocate of the Moleskine as a tool for ubiquitous capture of thoughts, jotting down ideas whenever and wherever they occur to me. I kept my Moleskine for brainstorming ideas, trying to emulate the original great thinkers who used the notebook. I also used it as a conversation log, to take notes about all my conversations – or even ones that I overhear – that give me new ideas or insights, stimulating my thinking. It becomes a ‘mind atlas’, a book of mind-maps.

Many of us have a notebook obsession. I know I do. A blank notebook is full of promise. It’s an opportunity to reflect, to create, and to express yourself. I’ve kept all my old notebooks since I started work, so I have a record of my journey, my thinking, my conversations and my inspirations.

My notebooks and Moleskins are of no consequence to anyone other than myself, unlike the collection of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks, probably the most valuable notebooks ever created, which are beautiful works of art in themselves. Leonardo’s notebooks are a fascinating insight into his mind, they encompass all the interests and experiments of this self-taught polymath, from mathematics to flying machines to art.

Da Vinci’s notebooks span most of his life as an artist, engineer and philosopher, he wrote in them daily, finishing with around 13,000 pages of work. However, because Renaissance humanities did not care to mix art and science, most of Da Vinci’s findings were left unrecognised until his death.

Most of Da Vinci’s work as a scientist also went unnoticed by scholars because of his lack of formal education in Latin and mathematics. Even more interesting is that Da Vinci wrote mostly in code, or backwards lettering to throw off those who read his work, as protection from thieves and those who could use this work for wrong doing, although many of his ideas and inventions went without notice during his life.

Given the time and place of his existence, the contents of his notebooks are quite a marvel. Many of his inventions were ideas thought up far before their time, such as helicopters, gliders and parachutes, all realised hundreds of years before they were actually created. Anatomical studies are also very plentiful in Da Vinci’s notebooks.

The diagrams and illustrations in Da Vinci’s notebooks are not only extremely accurate for their time, they are also far ahead of their time. Da Vinci truly embodied the term Renaissance. Not only did he make lasting contributions to the world of art, but also to the world of engineering. Although the world had not awoken to Da Vinci’s new methods of science, he translated his findings into his paintings, bringing his findings into the light, and subsequently furthering the greatest revolution in time.

Modern inventions such as tanks, water pumps and other machines can be traced back to Da Vinci’s notebooks. His dissection methods and diagrams were so well done and accurate that they are still used by students today. The cultural influences Da Vinci and his secret notebooks had on the world lasted for generations and will most likely continue to inspire generations to come. His notebooks reflected his artistic innovations and natural philosophy based on his careful observation and precise scientific analysis.

The richness and vividness of Da Vinci’s vocabulary are the result of intense self-study and represent a significant contribution to the evolution of scientific thinking, thousands of closely written pages abundantly illustrated with sketches, they represent the most voluminous literary legacy any one has ever left behind. Through his notebooks we can get an insight into Leonardo’s thoughts, and his approach to work and life.

His notebooks are a tumultuous, sprawling feast of words and images, covering the astonishing range of his mind as he moves from problems of mechanics to art. These really are working notes, not a manuscript being readied for publication, and Leonardo has no hesitation in adding a personal reminder or practical memo right in the middle of a sheet of mathematical studies.

Anyone can study the mind of Leonardo through his notebooks. The digitised British Library collection is just one more step in a process that started in the C19th when JP Richter transcribed and translated a broad selection of Da Vinci’s notebooks.

I’ve found that writing, especially self-exploratory writing done on a regular basis into a personal journal, has contributed to my emotional well-being and created a strong sense of self-knowledge and self-trust. I find that writing is therapeutic, it helps to release tension, and it can even be used as a form of experimentation. Writing gives insight, it gives perspective, it’s a problem-solving technique, and it can serve as an outlet for bottled up emotions or for creative expression. Journaling is a great way to introduce self-exploratory writing into your life.

There are two writing techniques or journaling methods which I’ve adopted to make my writing more satisfying, efficient, and effective. These two methods are:

  • Proprioceptive Writing
  • Morning Pages

Proprioceptive Writing is a writing practice created by Linda Metcalf. Her book, Writing the Mind Alive: The Proprioceptive Method for Finding Your Authentic Voice, provides for a writing practice that consists of listening to your thoughts and slowing down the thought process to the time it takes to write down what you’re thinking. It involves inner listening and an honest exploration of your thoughts. In addition, it connects your mind with your emotions, and it strengthens your sense of self.

Although you’re asked to listen to yourself and to reflect on what you’re thinking, you’re not to judge or critique what you’re writing down. Think of yourself as an archaeologist on a dig, curiously scrutinising and examining each thought, without judgment. At the end you can read what you wrote out loud to yourself so that you can hear your thoughts again in your own voice. This practice helps to explore your mind, reconnect with your inner self and with your emotions, and find your authentic voice. I use it with mind-mapping to layout some madcap thinking, and it works a treat.

Mental clutter or debris stands in the way of our creative potential. ‘Morning Pages’ is a tool to help you clear out this debris. As the name suggests, ‘Morning Pages are to be done in the morning; the waking mind is more open to free-form writing and can more easily jump from one subject to another without the constraints set by reason.

When writing your ‘Morning Pages’ there is no time limit, instead, you write until you’ve filled three pages in long hand. This takes me from twenty minutes some mornings, to forty-five minutes, and it often depends how patient the dog is as to when I get the time to complete – before or after that first walk of the day. I simply write down anything that comes to mind for three pages and then stop. I think of them as a holding spot for my thoughts, feelings, and ideas. In addition, it’s a place for inspirations to emerge. Some days I can do good stuff, some days less so, but it’s a technique that is firmly established as a 6am routine. I’m finding Twitter offers some value to me at this time of day, as a way of finding and sharing my thoughts in a complimentary digital format.

Studies conducted by psychologists have traced many benefits to the practice of writing things down on a regular basis, and I’ve tried to copy Leonardo da Vinci’s habit of always taking a notebook with me. The simple act of writing down ideas allows me to dwell on them and to improve them over time. I often start with ‘note to self:’ recording interesting conversations I overhear, capturing ideas for blog posts, jotting down one-liners I come up with – or just to capture random thoughts and insights.

I’m also a squirrel for capturing writing and thinking of others in newspapers or magazines, weekly and monthly publications. I tear the pages out, I love the physicality of having their thinking with me on scraps of paper stuffed into my journal and taken along for reading wherever I may be. I’m a digital magpie too with more bookmarks than I know what to do with.

I don’t fear the blank page. I find the experience of keeping a journal much more creative on paper than on a computer. I’ve tried to do it on various digital devices but it has no authenticity and seems to lack purpose. When I write, I’m physically immersed in my own thinking and slow down, whereas on screen, I use my senses in a less engaged way – and I skim more, and I’ve got concrete fingers which don’t help with efficiency and flow of the keyboard. Something different happens to my brain when I put pen to paper, the pace of writing or drawing diagrams slows you down and gives you more time for thoughts to come in, creating richer pictures.

The whole point is getting stuff on the blank page, and with Cake Solutions’ core values being ‘the art of possible’, the Moleskine is the best tool for us to create some disruptive thinking. I use a lot of ‘let’s see where this could go’ style of thinking in my own work, and consequently I just drop stuff onto the page and see what happens. I think we’ll all benefit at Cake from the magic of the Moleskine.

So with my new Moleskin, I’m off up and running, moving from an ordinary bound journal to a special journal once again, with heritage and meaning, standing on the shoulders of giants. Often, we don’t try things, because we think we know what’s going to happen: we make assumptions about outcomes. When you keep a Moleskine, you realise that the really interesting thing is not knowing what will happen, and discovering an unexpected result, and you live and breathe ‘the art of possible’.

So, great thinking times lie ahead for everyone at Cake with our new Moleskines. Learning never exhausts the mind, and simplicity of thinking in a journal is the ultimate sophistication, all our knowledge has its origin in perceptions, so let the journaling begin!