When they say “the pen is mightier than the sword,” it’s not just because it sounds good, sounds contrarian, or that it is a rallying cry for all introverts and nerds.
It is because it is true.
There is a deeper, visceral, intrinsic value to that statement which has been ignored by so many since the dawn of the written word.
The sword has the power to intimidate and persuade, but can only harm, or embolden, one person at a time. Its power is fundamentally linear.
The pen has the power to elevate and inspire, can enrich millions of lives at any given moment. Its power is fundamentally exponential.
The pen is mightier than the sword because it is one of the only ways to peacefully stimulate progress, both personally and en masse.
Words Are Just the First-Order Effect
As I’ve alluded to in Turning Diamonds into Water, there are various advantages of writing that go far beyond just putting pen to blank page or fingertip to keyboard. There are far-reaching benefits and consequences of the words you choose and how they are written.
Words make the difference between an argument and a constructive dialogue.
Words form the foundation of billion-dollar companies like Google.
Words create hegemony in a crowded marketplace.
Words begin relationships and end friendships.
Words start wars and make peace.
Words move the world forward.
Words are important.
Writing words sharpens your thinking.
Writing words frees your mind of old ways of thinking.
Writing words connects you with people who share your values.
Writing words solidifies the swirling thoughts that persist in your head.
Writing words gives you the peace of mind that results from self-expression.
Which is why, from this day forward, you should schedule time to write every day.
You can write for personal reasons, or you can write to help others. The common thread through all of this is simply the enrichment of life. And in the 21st century, not only can you enrich your life through writing, you can take that enrichment and scale it.
Writing on the Internet
If websites are the building blocks of the internet, then words are the atoms that make up its structure.
In pre-internet days, your only hope of having someone from the nearest town read your writing was to be a published author or a newspaper reporter.
Now you can publish a 1,000 word blogpost from your dwelling in the Northern Arizona desert at 4:00, and someone in Indonesia can read it at 4:01.
You can post your thoughts on social media, and someone in Sri Lanka could read them minutes later.
The power of the internet is fascinating, and it doesn’t stop there.
Writing online is a form of accountability. It’s skin in the game. And where there is skin in the game, there is meaningful progress. If you want to really learn about something, write two pages: one to yourself which you will never share, and one as a published post online. See which one teaches you more.
With each stroke of the keyboard, you can open the door to new opportunities, new ways of thinking, new skills, and the opportunity to build your own network.
Everything you post is a billboard for the kind of people you want to attract. Every choice of words is an advertisement for the overall message you want to send to the world. Doing this consistently builds your voice. And if your voice resonates, you can begin to build infinite opportunity.
Ultimately, you begin to increase serendipity in your life.
“The coolest people I meet are the ones who find me through something I’ve written.” -Derek Sivers
When you run into someone in San Francisco who you met five years ago in the bakery of your small hometown in upstate New York, you say “it’s a small world.”
When you meet someone in Madrid who happens to be best friends with your favorite college professor in Pennsylvania, you say “it’s a small world.”
When you start a conversation with a bookstore clerk, who you find just happens to be the brother of the person in charge of hiring at your dream job, you say “it’s a small world.”
In any of these situations lies opportunity. Opportunity to change your life. Opportunity to change others’ lives. Opportunity to make a difference in the world.
In the physical world, these “small world” moments only happen so often. It is the scarcity of these random events that yield such special and magical feelings.
Now apply the exponential power of writing on the internet, and you suddenly guarantee “small world” moments almost on a daily basis. You no longer have to be in a specific place at a specific time. In essence, writing on the internet shrinks the world by orders of magnitude.
You might argue that such an approach removes the surprise and the wonder of serendipity. Not so. In fact, increasing the frequency of serendipitous encounters will not remove the characteristics of serendipity, but rather redefine serendipity itself. You open the door to deeper, more meaningful, rarer versions of it that you would have never known.
Picture your life as a series of concentric circles. Your life and experiences can only expand by expanding the innermost circle. And you can only expand the inner most circle by adding a new innermost circle, which in turn expands the rest of the outer circles. You with me?
The innermost circle is your serendipity machine. It is the source of all your opportunities, all of your ideas, all newness in your life. By adding a new inner circle, a new and improved serendipity machine, you are effectively redefining your center, not altering it. Writing can be the powerful force at the center of it all, redefining your serendipity machine, and ultimately redefining your life.
This is the essence of progress.
Why You Should Write
Writing is not just putting words on a blank page. Writing triggers second and third order effects in your mind and in your life. Take it online, and it opens you up to a world of opportunity, increased accountability, and an expansion of mind that will change your life forever.
Writing brings you alive. When you decide to write, you instantly become more sensitive to your environment. You begin to look for ideas from otherwise mundane experiences. You begin learning why things are instead of simply what things are.
When you wake up tomorrow, look at the sunrise. You might be able to appreciate the beauty of it, but you might not be able to put it into words. So try to put it into words. You’ll be surprised with what you come up with.
Writing expands your mind. Writing is like diet and exercise for your brain. The more you activate your thoughts through a daily writing habit, the more you will improve your skills and raise your intelligence. The more you write, the more in touch with yourself you become. You identify your limits and work to expand them.
Internet expands your reach. Begin writing online for the world to see, and you instantly open yourself up to a world of opportunity and serendipity. In a world of click-bait and nonsense on the internet, here is your opportunity to bring quality and value to the world.
Combine your writing with the leverage of the internet, and you get infinite opportunity to make the most with life.
You begin to redefine your life.
And in the process, you might just be the spark that redefines someone else’s.
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