Psst! WANT TO BECOME FAMOUS?
What regular daily activity did Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, Harry Truman, and General George Patton all share? The answer is that along with many other distinguished men and women, these leaders all kept diaries.
If you consider it a coincidence that many famous people happen to have kept diaries, you’d be wrong. It is not that eminent personalities keep diaries. It is that ordinary people who keep diaries often become notable. All the diarists listed above started keeping diaries long before they became famous.
Let me explain with a nugget of ancient Jewish wisdom.
Upon leaving Egypt, the Israelites were directed to count formally each passing day for seven entire weeks until the fiftieth day which would be the holyday of Shavuot or Pentecost. This is the day on which God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. (Leviticus 23:15-16) Thus, fifty days after acquiring physical freedom, they would acquire spiritual freedom by accepting God’s message to mankind, the Torah.
People often mistakenly assume that their counting reflected their eagerness to reach Mount Sinai and receive the Torah. However, had this been so, the counting would be in descending order, just the way school children count down to summer vacation. On the day after the Exodus, they would have said “Today there are 49 days left,” and thus day by day they would have counted down to zero. In reality, the Israelites counted in ascending order, starting with one and ending with forty-nine on the eve of Shavuot, just as we do today.
There can be only one explanation and ancient Jewish wisdom confirms it. We are not counting how many days remain; we are counting how many have passed. The seven weeks separating Passover and Shavuot are meant to be 49 days of spiritual growth and the first step in authentic self-development is to recognize the passage of time and the value of each and every day. There is no better way to do this than engage in a formalized daily ritual that marks each passing day.
In Judaism, the days of the week are numbered not named. Sunday is day one, Monday is day two, and so on. In the Torah, the months are also numbered rather than named. These are further examples of the stress placed on keeping ourselves aware of time’s passage.
Through old French and Latin, both the words “journal” and “diary” are derived from the word day. Even the word “journalist” used to apply to someone who wrote for a daily newspaper. It follows that the entire purpose of a diary or a personal journal is to record things on a daily basis.
Most of us would take no more than ten seconds to think of three actions we could take that would utterly ruin our lives. What is more, each of those three ways to destruction could be accomplished in just a few hours, at most. However, if I asked you to think of three things you could undertake that would significantly improve your life, it would be much harder, wouldn’t it? What is more, once you did think of three life-enhancing actions, you’d notice that all of them would take considerable time and require long term commitment.
That is one of the permanent principles of ancient Jewish wisdom: building things up takes more time and effort than breaking them down.
Well, one of the most valuable actions you could undertake to enhance your life dramatically is to start keeping a daily journal and adhere to the discipline meticulously. Each evening without fail, on a computer or on a pad of paper, write down the date and record a few lines or paragraphs describing your reactions to things you experienced and things you yourself said or did that day. Remember, it is private so write naturally and honestly and don’t be afraid to be self-critical or self-congratulatory. Therein lies the path to real growth.
Keeping a diary will not change your life overnight, but it most certainly will change it. It is not that those who become well-known just happen to keep diaries; it is that those who review their daily actions and keep aware of the importance of each day become well-known.