The Secret Tool for Personal Growth

You'll be a different person in 30 days

Welcome to The Process. Every week, I share lessons and insights on the process of improvement.

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Now, onto Issue 61.

The Secret Tool for Personal Growth

In August 1940, Winston Churchill wrote a memo to his staff.

The title: “Brevity.”

Britain was being bombed, and the Prime Minister grew tired of receiving lengthy reports from his war cabinet.

“To do our work, we all have to read a mass of papers,” Churchill wrote. “Nearly all of them are far too long. This wastes time, while energy has to be spent in looking for the essential points.”

Churchill then gave 4 principles for better writing:

1. Be concise

Churchill wanted reports that “set out the main points in a series of short, crisp paragraphs.”

2. Summarize before you analyze

If a report needed “detailed analysis of some complicated factors,” Churchill wanted those in an Appendix at the end.

3. Highlight the key takeaways

Churchill preferred aide-memoires – essentially executive summaries – with headings only. This quickly gave him the key takeaways, and he could ask for more detail if he wanted.

4. Cut all jargon and filler

“Let us not shrink from using the short expressive phrase,” Churchill wrote.

It’s a masterclass in how to communicate effectively.

However, Churchill saved the best part for the end.

In following these principles, Churchill wrote, “the saving in time will be great, while the discipline of setting out the real points concisely will prove an aid to clearer thinking.”

Abraham Lincoln famously said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

For anyone who wants to improve, writing is the axe.

The process of getting better begins with clear thinking.

  • What do I want to improve?

  • Why do I want to improve at that?

  • How specifically do I want to improve?

  • What do I need to do to achieve that?

  • What do I NOT need to do to achieve that?

  • What’s the first step?

All of these questions are essential to improving your craft and require clear thinking.

We have countless examples in history of people using writing as a high-performance tool.

Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, used journaling to process his emotions and writing to fortify his goals.

Kobe Bryant, with the encouragement of a middle school teacher, fell in love with writing at 13 years old and used it to help him become one of the best basketball players of all time.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos banned slide decks at the company and replaced them with six-page memos, because he believed the writing process produced much sharper ideas.

Warren Buffett writes the most famous annual shareholder letters in business. Since 1965, he’s used his letters as the vehicle for processing, distilling and sharing Berkshire Hathaway’s successes, failures and lessons in the prior year.

Seneca, one of the more well-known Stoics, used writing as a daily reflection tool. “I will keep constant watch over myself and put up each day for review,” he said, which he’d do by writing.

Even the Apostles used writing as the lasting vehicle to codify their teachings and encourage “improvement” (spiritually, primarily) in others.

So, you get the idea. Writing makes you better.

Now, where do you start?

Writing is a muscle. It must be worked daily like anything else.

If you’re new to it, I would start with 5 minutes a day.

Here are two simple approaches:

  1. Morning Intention: write about what’s ahead today and how the best version of you would approach it.

  2. Evening Reflection: write about what happened today and what you learned that can carry over into tomorrow.

Pick one to start.

As you get consistent, you can expand your practice.

Use Churchill’s principles to guide you. Be clear, be concise and summarize the key points. Keep it simple. This shouldn’t feel like a burden.

Do this for the next 30 days, and you’ll be shocked how much sharper your thinking gets and how much progress you make.


The key takeaways:

  • If you want to improve, write it down

  • Use Churchill’s principles for effective writing

  • Create a daily writing practice to build the habit

Email me in 30 days and tell me how it’s gone for you: [email protected] 

Thanks for reading!

That’s it for this week — hope you enjoyed it.

See you next Sunday.

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