Learning by Doing

I’m not entirely sure of the source for my compulsion to “do something productive, don’t just sit around” personality. It’s probably my father; he is always “doing something.” If I don’t have work at the office or a project at home to do over the weekend I don’t know what to do with myself. It causes me to get into a fidgety, anxious, moody state. I’m not claiming this is healthy—very likely it’s not.

I like to be with my family…working. It’s traditional. The real value of working with my family is that it allows them, and me, to learn together.  In the past, as in early American History, fathers and mothers did things—worked—and the children learned skills from them.

Children are more likely to be mollycoddled than taught nowadays. Few people develop real mechanical skills and even fewer know how to design a project from concept to completion. Most people think they can contract these skills but the pool of truly qualified individuals to do that work is diminishing quickly. Besides, if we don’t have any understanding of the job being performed, how can you know it’s being done correctly or even merely adequately?

We don’t do all the work around the house but we do major projects—the real important ones—together. We’ve done quite a few projects as the kids have grown, here are a few of the more recent:

Moleskine Notebooks and Evernote

I’m a technology geek. It’s not for the sake of technology, it’s for the sake of simplicity. For me, there’s no purpose whatsoever in having technology that does not serve the purpose of simplifying a task. Also, I acknowledge that old technology can be as good as, often better than, current technology.

Hand tools are a perfect example where old technology excels; many times hand tools outperform power tools. This fact extends to good old paper and pen. I’ve learned something over the years as I’ve steadily edged out paper and pen with other, more modern, technologies. As I’ve migrated to electronic formats for journaling and note taking I’ve noticed something has been lost.

The Classic Lined (Large) Moleskine Notebook

The Classic Lined (Large) Moleskine Notebook

Intimacy and warmth are absent in the electronic formats. Hand-written entries, written in paper journals, bring back much richer memories when I read them many years later. When someone sees, reads or touches a handwritten journal they feel the presence of the person who created that journal.

This phenomenon was something that was, at least subconsciously, known to me many years ago when I was writing my notes with pen and paper. It became clear to me again, while I was reading the book Letters from Dad: How to Leave a Legacy of Faith, Hope and Love for Your Family by Greg Vaughn, I had lost this facet of journaling to technology-creep.

SIDENOTE: I found Greg Vaughn’s book because of another great book I read titled: The Blessing: Giving the Gift of Unconditional Love and Acceptance by John Trent and Gary Smalley.

Here’s how Vaughn describes the type of journal he wanted to use to leave letters of exhortation to his seven children in:

I went straight to the best stationery store I knew of and told the salesman I wanted the most expensive stationery he had, and I wanted the nicest, most expensive leather binder so I would have some place to keep those letters once I’d written them, and I wanted those binders embossed and engraved with the names of my kids . . . and . . . and . . . puff! puff! gasp! gasp! . . . I was so excited I was hyperventilating.

It’s understandable that he wanted the best of the best media for the letters he wants to leave his children. But there’s another message I want to leave in my journal as well: the great things in life don’t have to cost a lot of money. Memories are the only thing of value you can make and keep from this world. But I do agree with Vaughn on leaving letters of exhortation to my family and that it should be a tangible, personal item to convey those messages.

The media I choose for this task is Moleskine® Large Notebooks due to their simplicity, size, quality and affordability; they’re beautiful little creations. Composition books used to be my paper media of choice because of their fixed pages; if a page was removed, it was obvious. The Moleskine® has the same fixed page feature but it’s made to a much higher quality (acid-free paper, stitched pages, etc) and it’s much more elegant. The large notebooks measure 5″ x 8 ¼” and have rounded pages corners which make them very convenient to carry everywhere.

Instead of spending the $100 each on them like Vaughn, the Moleskine® Notebooks cost less than $20 each. Hopefully I can fill many of them for each of the boys in my life; like Vaughn notes, a few pages at time throughout your life becomes a book in a lifetime. This weekend I’m starting each of those journals. There’s something else I’m implementing because, remember, I’m a technology geek still. This is where Evernote comes into play.

The mobile app for Evernote has a great feature that allows importing documents with the camera on my iPhone. It scans the document, crops it to page size, uploads it to the cloud and performs Optical Character Recognition (OCR) on it. So, as I write in the journals I can scan them into Evernote and the text is then searchable in the Evernote apps on all my mobile devices and desktop computer.

Having searchable text was one of the most important features to using the electronic formats to journal. It’s important that, as I write more and more in the journals, I’m able to find previous entries on particular topics so I don’t become too redundant (repeating myself over and over). Another important factor to having the searchable archives concerns my changing views.

Over time, as I read and study more, my view may change on a particular subject. Being able to search through the Evernote archives of the journals allows me to go back to those entries and put margin notes next to them pointing to a newer point of view in a later journal. It’s the best of the old technology paper and new tech gadgetry. I like the possibilities and I’m really looking forward to writing these legacy books. I pray they are useful and effective.