"What did you think of the sermon?"
My mind raced as those words rolled of my husband's tongue. I thought to myself, "The sermon? I know I attended church today. I know that the pastor spoke. I think he was in the book of Exodus, but I can't remember what the sermon was about!"
Have you ever experienced a similar lapse in memory? Have you ever blanked on a biology exam or in a debate round? Have you ever forgotten why you came into the kitchen or where that Bible verse is found in scripture?
We long for magnificent minds filled with ideas and quotes neatly catalogued and ready to be accessed at a moment's notice. Meanwhile, most of us resemble a jumbled file cabinet filled with partial and disconnected thoughts. If we can't even remember where we put our keys, how can we possibly remember the important things that we read or encounter?
The answer lies in three small words: Write it down. Writing forces us to process and order the information we receive, fixing important ideas more firmly in our minds. It's not the notes we take that help us remember, but rather the process of taking notes.
As you research for speech and debate this season, record your findings in a place and manner that will allow you to retrieve them, contemplate them, and use them to influence others. Historically, great men and women have recorded ideas, quotes, and stories in commonplace books. In recent years, some have turned to thought catalogues to store words of wisdom on 3x5 cards, tagging and sorting them by themes. Still others use computer programs such as EverNote or GoogleDocs to keep a sortable and searchable record.
Keep in mind that the tool is not nearly as important as the discipline, so choose the tool that works best for you and start your own thought collection today.
For as Norton Juster writes in his fantastical, fictional novel, The Phantom Tollbooth, "...what you learn today, for no reason at all, will help you discover all the wonderful secrets of tomorrow." In His Grace, Amy Joy Tofte NCFCA Director of Education
A note to parents and coaches: In his work, Letters from a Stoic, philosopher and stateman Seneca the Younger, writes “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.” How can we model the practice of recording and reflecting on the wisdom that we encounter each day?