The company of men that I keep can be summed up in my four directors-the owners of my company. I’m one of the lucky ones that got in before the company took off and thus have rich history in its failures and beginnings of success. All four bosses have identical backgrounds (white purebreds of sorts) but very different professional skill sets-probably one of the things that make it work. Another thing they have in common is their obsession over having the right or wrong writing utensils. Strangely enough, pens are a bragging point around here and can get you in or out of the office cool club faster than brewing a perfect pot of coffee or a new color of sticky note. But my favorite boss, well, he gets his kicks from methodically sharpening or smoothly clicking out the fine lead point of a pencil. In fact it’s the one thing I can leave on his desk that I know will go over well. The last time I put a new mechanical Papermate 0.5 by his mouse pad I thought about why he was my favorite boss. What makes him different than the other three? I believe in people that use pencils. I believe they’re sending three quiet and specific messages.
First, I am not perfect. I just might make a mistake and if I do I have equipped myself to be able to do the work to correct that mistake. I’ll erase it and although there will be smudged evidence that it existed I can and will try again.
Second, I am open to change. I understand that over the course of my relationship with this subject I may alter my outlook, refine my perceptions and goals. I have enabled myself to be able to engage in the feedback of others and keep an open mind. Perhaps I missed something. Perhaps I got it wrong or simply could have done better. I’m willing to hear it from you, to allow what you think to soak in and affect me and my work.
Third, I believe in evolution. I am nimble and wise enough to know that change is inevitable and effective if you care for your foundation rather than investing in disposability. I would rather take care of something; put work into what is already present rather than crumpling it up, deeming imperfection destined for the trash can and starting over. I know that my pencil like myself will grow tired and may break with too much use. But we both can be sharpened, sloughing off the rough old edges and become fresh and renewed.
Whether it’s the smelly shavings of a number two that takes me back to my panicked “Scantron” days or a “Flexgrip Elite” suitable for boardroom presentation notes, I believe in the messaging sent by people that use pencils.