A story to whet your appetite
The story has been told of a hardworking man who, out of frustration, enlisted the aid of a sorcerer to cast out the demon he believed was stealing his earnings and making him live below the standard of those whose income didn’t hold a candle to his own. Year in, year out, he toiled fervently but only succeeded in eking out no more than a quarter of the living. The more he thought about it the more he became convinced that he was bedevilled with a money-stealing fiend who secretly channelled his hard-earned wages into the funding of diabolic schemes to keep him from making progress.
The sorcerer listened to the man’s tale of woes and confirmed that he was indeed hosting, not one, but a legion of cunning and devilish spirits inside his body, whose sole mission it was to keep him from making it in life. Noting the severity of the situation, the man was asked to come back in seven days. When the day finally arrived, the sorcerer informed the man that he had spent the week working on a foolproof weapon to combat the spirits and forever keep them at bay. He recounted how difficult it was to finally forge the weapon meaning that its efficacy, which was not in doubt, could be eroded by the slightest deviation from the prescription of how the weapon was to be used.
The indomitable weapon turned out to be a pen which the sorcerer instructed the man to use in strictly writing down every Naira he spent, no matter how small, no matter how trivial. As the man turned to leave, the sorcerer whispered in his ear that the spirits, powerful as they were, had no way of tinkering with whatever he brought himself to write down with that pen.
And just like that, without the tiniest change in how the man had been conducting his affairs, the singular act of writing down every amount he spent engendered the needed clarity to restore his sanity. With nothing but consistent strokes of his pen, all the demons got slain that were hell-bent on tormenting him and thwarting all his efforts to prosper. The pen is indeed mightier than the sword!
A personal story
As a freshman in the university, I also battled it out with a similar demon whose stock in trade was fear ―the nerve-racking kind that got me completely paralysed―during the very first semester. This was largely on account of my being among the last four “lucky” students of the faculty that were given admission just one month to the commencement of exams. I had tons of materials to cover in order to stand a chance of scaling through. It was more than overwhelming. I didn’t even know where to begin to conquer the mountain of textbooks and photocopied notes I managed to gather in the first week.
Suddenly, I had a lucky break. I realised that the only challenge I needed to overcome at that point was figuring out a way to answer three exam questions out of five in each of the ten courses I registered for the semester. With this simplification of the ginormous work, I simply set myself to the task of attempting those questions before I had to face them in the exams. And that was how I began reducing the heaps of materials into my own personal notes with the aid of nothing more than a pen.
The moment I started making those notes, I noticed that my fear ran for cover and in its place stood the blessed confidence that I would at least have something to put down even if I was called for the exams the next day. Score two for pen slaying monsters.
The ultimate monster-slaying tool
It was Greg Reid who observed, “A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true.” How insightful! And how glorious it is that the foundation of every edifice of accomplishment can be laid with nothing more than putting pen to paper! Our greatest power as human beings manifests at that moment we fully comprehend the magical powers we command when we coordinate our heart, our mind and our body to align at a single point in space and time and imprint our soul on paper with the aid of a pen.
To digress a little, it is evident from the human physiology that only the invisible actually sustains the visible. This can be inferred from two perspectives. Firstly, on a superficial level, it is the skeleton that gives shape to the human form. Without the structure of the skeleton, which is not readily perceivable by the naked eye (except with a little assistance from medical equipment), the whole outer skin that we behold would be nothing but an amorphous blob of flesh.
Secondly, it recently came to light that some medical experts and neurologists, against all the dictates of their scientific training, were forced to admit that an unseen power was involved in the execution of the minutest bodily function. It had been hitherto taken for granted that the human central nervous system conducted all our bodily functions through the network of neurons and synapses transmitting messages to and from the brain.
However, some cases presented themselves in which all these things were seen to be perfectly working and fully intact and yet the patient had lost the ability to move a limb, hear a sound or feel a touch. The inevitable conclusion is that the brain does not have all the answers to the workings of our physiology. In fact, the brain itself seems to be taking orders from a source we do not yet comprehend.
Every moment we write, we give this invisible, incomprehensible part of us a chance to breathe. And this part, which we always tend to stifle, holds the key to unlocking our highest potentials. That is why writing has proved to be an indispensable asset in our toolkit no matter the profession we choose to pursue.
Tailors write down measurements to sew the perfect dress, lawyers cite authorities to support their case, doctors take notes to arrive at a diagnosis and build the medical history of their patient. Without this writing, we seem incapable of getting anything reasonable done. Once a man learns how to use a pen there is no limit to what he can accomplish with his hands and, like the man in the opening story, there is no monster he cannot slay.
Slaying monsters in 2021
As we step into the new year, let us take this as a wake-up call to maximally utilise this weapon at our disposal to defeat all the monsters of fear, doubt, inefficiency and a legion of others that we may encounter along the way. Let us dream big and challenge ourselves to translate those dreams into reality by using the Greg Reid formula. Let us capture every innovative idea we have in writing and fine-tune them to blend with our plans.
In the words of John Steinbeck, “Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” You would agree with me that the best way to handle ideas is to first put them in black and white. It is this step that equips us to assess the full potentials of the ideas and determine the veracity of each.
In the face of a world pandemic, economic recession, insecurity and general uncertainty that are bent on sailing with us into the new year, we owe it to ourselves and the entire nation to awaken the sleeping giant within us by wielding the amazing powers of the pen, with faith in the Almighty, to bless us with renewed confidence to slay the legions of monsters that may rear their ugly head in 2021.