The expression is the pen is mightier than the sword. (Typesetters of old remember being very careful about the placement of the words “pen” and “is.”)
What about the mighty pencil?
From day one of operating under the work-from-home policies during this pandemic, I put aside the pen and have been exclusively using pencils. Somehow as things went from surreal to unreal, I became anchored to the thought that this is temporary, so a pencil felt comforting. It made every note look a little different. It made me a student again.
James Joyce said, “Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” What business leader isn’t learning from the uncertainty and the unknowns — and making mistakes? Mistakes are how we learn and grow. My pencil means I can erase mistakes.
And my pencil quickly goes from sharp to dull, which is another level of symbolism.
Each morning to start my workday, I sharpen my pile of pencils. Now on day #20 of working from home, many of the #2 pencils have become quite short and stubby. I know this might seem trivial but standing up to go sharpen a pencil makes you take a pause. And with the world is on pause, my own little pauses really help me clear my head.
The ability to stay connected to the SMZ team and our clients has only been possible because of the astonishing digital toolkit we have including Zoom, Teams, Basecamp and Google Hangouts. Yet, I find it something refreshing that the lowly analog pencil has been a balanced constant companion.