Your Life Will Never Be the Same (The Art of Journaling)

My first journal entry was May 28, 1982. It went like this: Always use never seize on pulleys, and bolts that are new (for the next guy.) Then I added a stern warning with five stars next to the entry: ***** Make sure ALL machines are running and breakers UP before I leave the store! That entry is a vivid memory. It was a store on Lake City Way in Seattle. It was a Friday, May 28, 1982. Why do I remember?

My first journal entry was May 28, 1982. It went like this:

Always use never seize on pulleys, and bolts that are new (for the next guy.)

Then I added a stern warning with five stars next to the entry:

***** Make sure ALL machines are running and breakers UP before I leave the store!

That entry is a vivid memory. It was a store on Lake City Way in Seattle.

It was a Friday, May 28, 1982. Why do I remember? It is written down in a blank book. That evening I was on call. I had to go back to the store for a late-night service call. I had left a breaker off during a routine maintenance. I was embarrassed yet no one knew but me. The store manager was impressed how fast I fixed his problem.

“No charge,” I said as if I were some magnanimous wise man.

What a guy. HVAC technician of the year! I think he wrote a letter saying how good I was … yeah right! It was a mistake I did not want to repeat. So I put it in the journal.

What goes in your journal? How do you sustain the discipline and habit?

Many people have asked me those questions. Recently, a branch manager with a distributor in Virginia asked again in an e-mail. I sent him a 14-page response, and this column is drawn from parts of it.

I have been keeping a journal now for 25 years and have 62 different journals in my library of every shape, size and color. Some are lined, some unlined. Some are spiral bound that lay flat when you open them; others are bound like books and crunch when you lay them flat. Some are small, 4-by-6, and others large, 8-by-11. Some are classy, some are corny. Some have pictures of horses and dogs; others are flat black, leatherbound and beautiful.

They have one thing in common: They are filled with my private thoughts and feelings written in my own hand. Pen and paper.

What goes in a journal?

Mine include ideas, stories, quotes, wins, goals, trips, lessons and “misteaks,” notable accomplishments, book notes, articles, ramblings, resentments and righteous rants and exercises. We'll look at ideas, quotes and goals in this column and revisit journal writing again in the future.


From time to time we stumble across simple, short and profound ideas.

They can alter our attitudes, change our relationships, transform our business, make us think, act or believe. Here are some of my favorites:

  • A Capsule Course in Human Relations —
  • 5 Most Important Words: I am proud of you!
  • 4 Most Important Words: What is your opinion?
  • 3 Most Important Words: If you please …
  • 2 Most Important Words: Thank You!
  • The Least Important Word: I

How to sell an idea

The way to convince another is to state your idea moderately and accurately. Then say, “I may be mistaken, I often am …” Then detach. Remain silent and wait. This causes the listener to receive what you have to say, and, like it as not, turn about and try to convince you of it, since you are in doubt. If you go about in a tone of positiveness and arrogance, you only make an opponent of him.


Every once in a while, we come across something someone said, and we say to ourselves, “I wish I had said that!” Hey, those go in my journal!

The first five listed below come from Winston Churchill. He was a master at the clever turn of phrase. He was able to get away with an insult and have the person receiving it smile and say, “Touché”:

“He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.”
“A modest little person, with much to be modest about.”
“I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play, bring a friend ... if you have one.” - George Bernard Shaw, to Winston Churchill
“Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second ... if there is one.” - Winston Churchill, in reply
“He occasionally stumbled over the truth, but hastily picked himself up and hurried on as if nothing had happened.”
- Winston Churchill, on Stanley Baldwin
“I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great Pleasure.” - Clarence Darrow
“He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.” - William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway)
“He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know.” - Abraham Lincoln
“I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it.” - Groucho Marx
“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.” - Oscar Wilde

Jim Rohn was the fellow who truly inspired me to commit to a journal. Here are his views on the discipline of a journal:

Be a collector of ideas. Don’t trust your memory. The best collecting place for all the ideas and information that comes your way is your journal.

The reason why I spend so much money for my journals is to press me to find something valuable to put in them.

There are three things to leave behind: your photographs, your library and your personal journals. These things are certainly going to be more valuable to future generations than your furniture!

Don’t use your mind for a filing cabinet. Use your mind to work out problems and find answers; file away good ideas in your journal.

The palest ink is better than the strongest memory.


In 1994 I conducted a seminar for a large contractor with 11 branches. In the Longview Wash., branch, I ran into a supervisor who clearly did not want to be there. When we reached the point in the seminar when it was time to write down five goals to accomplish that year, he did the exercise begrudgingly then went home and tossed the card in a drawer. He even told his wife when asked how the seminar went, that it was a bunch of bunk.

I ran into him this summer when visiting Randy, the GM. He said to me, “Hey, you are that seminar guy!” He proceeded to recall the story I just told. He continued, “I found the card 18 months later, and I’ll be darned if we hadn’t accomplished four out of five goals written down!”

He smiled sheepishly and then asked me, “Do you have any more of those cards?” Amazing.

This is the true joy of life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that world will not devote itself to making you happy.

Scott Adams wrote his No. 1 goal down 15 times each day in his journal. First it was picking winning stocks … Done! Then it was getting a girlfriend … Done! Then it was getting his cartoons published and syndicated (even though he flunked a cartooning class and the instructor told him he had no future!) … Done! Then finally it was “Becoming the No. 1 Cartoonist on the Planet!” as measured by book sales ... Done! The cartoon? Dilbert … Done!

What do you want to have, do, share, see or become? Write it down … Done! Write it as though it were already true … in first person present tense language. Every day, 15 times a day! Then soon you will say … Done!

We have got but one life here. ... It pays, no matter what comes after it, to try and do things, to accomplish things in this life, and not merely to have a soft and pleasant time.

Things I want to BE:

  1. The Best Golfer in the World
  2. The Best Flyer Pilot
  3. The Most Famous Producer of Motion Pictures in the World.

Written Jan. 5, 1925, in Houston by Howard Hughes as his lifetime goal list on the back of a receipt from Foley’s men’s store later transcribed into his journal. Two out of three ain’t bad!

Write down your goals in your journal. Keep writing them down. Do it every day, several times a day. It’s a simple discipline. It takes five minutes a day. What have you got to lose?

Mark Matteson of the Pinnacle Service Group can be reached by phone at 877/672-2001, by fax at 425/745-8981, by e-mail at [email protected] or visit his Website at He will be the opening and closing speaker at the Quality Service Contractors' Power Meeting XXVI, Feb. 22-24 in Scottsdale, Ariz. For more information on the meeting, visit or call 800/533-7694.