One of the benefits ofstarting a company is that you get to meet a lot of interesting people. If you're smart, you make the most of this benefit by asking them for advice. I've found that most people jump at the chance to share their knowledge and wisdom if given the chance.
Sometimes, even the most casual exchanges can lead to life-changing realizations. One story I tell to anyone who will listen is about how I got into writing. The suggestion came from Ellen McGirt, one of my favorite journalists. Although our interaction was brief, her insights and recommendations had a tremendous impact on my life.
I met Ellen at a dinner party hosted by Fast Company magazine back in late 2012. I have no idea how I ended up getting an invite, but I jumped at the opportunity to attend. Ellen was incredibly friendly and generous with her time. When I asked her for advice, she didn't hesitate.
She told me to keep a journal about my experiences starting BodeTree and to write every day without fail. It didn't matter how much I wrote or how good it was; the only thing that mattered was that I consistently put words to paper. I took her advice to heart and soon found that the act of writing every day had a transformative effect on my life and my business.
Writing is therapeutic
Entrepreneurship can be a stressful, terrifying, and lonely journey. Even for individuals with great support networks and co-founders, it can still be difficult to find an outlet to vent. After all, spouses can get concerned about the how your challenges will affect their lives, and fellow entrepreneurs are often too wrapped up in their difficulties to listen to yours.
Writing, however, is the perfect outlet for explaining, exploring, and digesting everything that you face as an entrepreneur. I've found that after I write, my challenges seem smaller, and the future looks brighter. It's only when I trap negative thoughts in my mind that they fester into anxiety and depression.
Writing sharpens the mind
Writing is a lot like exercise; the more you do it, the easier it becomes. When writing about a topic, you have to wrestle with it in your mind, identifying the key points and arriving at conclusions. This increase in mental clarity has been the most important benefit I've taken away from my writing.
It has helped me develop the ability to absorb quickly the most important aspects of a given situation, synthesize them into a narrative, and draw a well-supported conclusion. This has become an invaluable skill as a leader because it increases confidence in the decision-making process. It isn't a skill that can be acquired overnight. Rather, it's one that must be nurtured over time through disciplined daily writing.
Writing promotes introspection
Far too many people are oblivious to their shortcomings. Perhaps we're conditioned by society to ignore any negative aspects of ourselves, or maybe people just don't take time for deep introspection anymore.
Regardless, I've found that the act of writing forces one to be introspective. I know that my writing, both personally and professionally, has helped me to identify my weaknesses, understand them, and learn how they impact those around me.
The act of articulating and sharing my personal shortcomings in a public forum has become a way for me to gain control over them. For example, I've struggled in the past when it came to dealing with uncertainty and the anxiety that goes along with it. It was only after reflecting on these challenges through writing that I realized how to embrace them in order to find the strength to move forward.
The resulting shift in my perspective has been life changing and I encourage every entrepreneur I meet to take time for daily introspective writing. It not only makes you a better leader; it can make you a better person.