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Thursday, December 1, 2016

My Commonplace Book... How and Why to Keep a Commonplace Book

I have been reading an article written by Ryan Holiday. The article is about keeping a Commonplace Book. As this is something I am interested in, I thought I would record some highlights. :)

"-Wisdom, not facts. We’re not just looking random pieces of information. What’s the point of that? Your commonplace book, over a lifetime (or even just several years), can accumulate a mass of true wisdom–that you can turn to in times of crisis, opportunity, depression or job."
The Commonplace Book is a collection of wisdom, not just facts. They help you to bring to mind years past and can help you in the future. But what is a Commonplace Book?
 "A commonplace book is a central resource or depository for ideas, quotes, anecdotes, observations and information you come across during your life and didactic pursuits. The purpose of the book is to record and organize these gems for later use in your life, in your business, in your writing, speaking or whatever it is that you do."

Many famous people have kept Commonplace books: Thomas Jefferson and Napoleon are just some of the names. Common people down through the ages have kept Commonplace books. Common people such as Civil War soldiers. If they hadn't, we may have not know as much about the war as we do now.

Do we still need a reason for why to keep a Commonplace book? Seneca answers this question best:
“We should hunt out the helpful pieces of teaching and the spirited and noble-minded sayings which are capable of immediate practical application–not far far-fetched or archaic expressions or extravagant metaphors and figures of speech–and learn them so well that words become works.”
 Here are some steps in keeping a Commonplace book. They are not exhaustive, but they may help get a person started.

  • Read books, lots of books, a wide variety of books
  • Mark down what catches your eye and sticks in your mind
    • They don't have to be other people's thoughts or writings. It can just be your own observations on things, people, ideas, etc..
  • Take notes as you read; watch videos and movies; listen to speeches, conferences and conversations, etc.. Basically anything that impacts your day and life.
  • Don't be afraid to voice your opinion, to complain and to exclaim over what you read or have read
  • Look for the wisdom and not just reading facts
  • After you have read your book, put it down and just think over what you have read. This may take a few hours, days or even weeks. 
    • Go back and read your notes and see if they still "talk" to you. If they do, transfer your notes to your Commonplace book
    • Look for and keep the things that motivate and/or help you in your life
  • You don't have to only concentrate on what you read. If you listen to a podcast, watch a movie, listen to the radio, hear a song, watch videos, etc., They can all be noted and included into your Commonplace book.
  • Just the action of physically writing it down helps cement it to your memory.
  • Your Commonplace book does not have to be a notebook. It can be just some index cards, or anything really that you jot down your notes and keep them with you. The important thing is that they be a "physical resource of some kind".
  • Don't worry about organization at first but do not let your notes pile up and become just so much junk.
  • Finally just START it. Don't wait till the time is right.
All this information is from the article cited in my opening paragraph.

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