I wish more people would persist with the keeping of a journal. Many young people start one, but give it up forever as they become adults. Perhaps the most vital years for keeping a journal might be between 25 and 40, in the years when you are learning lots of new things and applying them in the world for the first time. Post formal training and in the process of discovering how the real world works.
You come into your adult life fully indoctrinated. If that was not so, you'd be a misfit in the community and you'd find it difficult to get employment and you would have few friends. Your indoctrination is the key to your early success. It's vital, but it's also a trap, it stops you seeing the world as it is, and forces you to see the world as it's supposed to be. You see the world through a cultural lens that prevents you from seeing some things that are in fact in plain view.
Use your journal to record your real life experience. My journal contains a small number of personal observations, measurements, counted objects, which are in hindsight real measures of the time and place, and can never be repeated. In the field you are working in, what are the metrics of the situation? What makes those numbers good or bad? How do you expect them to change in the future? Document your own life.
Keep your journal private. That way you can always feel free to write what you are really thinking. If you want to write a journal for publication, by all means do so, but that will NOT be the sort of document I recommend. Keep a private journal as well.
Far too much of my journal is recording the ideas of other people. Notes on lectures and TV specials, and on books I've read. That can be important too, but less so today, with access to the Internet. Google can give you all the detail you need about what other people are thinking. Google cannot give you connection to your own life to the things you learned or were told, or the things you did and planned and succeeded or failed in achieving. If you have that information it puts you in a powerful position. You have data that YOU KNOW and TRUST because it's your own data from your own life.
Most of your adult life will be in some way an escape from the indoctrination of your youth. Much of what you've been taught was wrong. The world changes, society changes and slowly we realise that previous understandings are misleading, and causing us problems. New thinking is required, but the old thinking doesn't give up because there's now a better idea. That old thinking keeps on popping up years later, at unexpected moments. Maybe suggested by someone else, and you accept it, because it seems to make sense. Only later do you realise that you've fallen back into the old trap.
A journal helps you to de-school yourself. You build your own personal data, based on your own experience. You collect lots of information about how the system is performing or not performing and you begin to develop new ways of seeing things. Armed with your own data, you'll see new ways forward, long before other people do. What you see might not be the best solution, but because you have your own data, you'll give your idea a try. In the process you'll learn a lot, things that other people didn't get to learn. There is a cumulative effect in this process.
Your advantage is that you've collected your own data. You TRUST that data because you know how it was collected, and it informs you in a way no tables of statistics, or expert opinions, can do.
In the process of doing your work, or living in your community you'll become involved in many projects and you will collect information and make plans, and do work, sometimes with success and sometimes with failure. Record what you know.
Because of your journal, you'll have information you can bring to any discussion that other people don't have. Nobody can Google it. It's yours. This gives you an advantage, particularly in being sure of your ground, when other people are unsure of theirs.
You'll give things as go, when other people are still dithering about. You may not succeed, but every time you try you learn more and you get stronger.
As your knowledge and experience grows you'll begin to see the world in new ways. You'll realise that much of your schooling is questionable, and you'll actively seek better understanding. Over ten or twenty years, slowly that understanding develops. This become your unique advantage, the gift you have created in yourself that you alone can offer the world.
Think about this process. You began by writing a journal, to record your own experiences. You put yourself into the journal as you made it. Over time the journal feeds back into your life the tings you recorded, reinforcing them, confirming who you are and what you know, and giving you the data to back that up. You made the journal, but over a long time the journal makes you. Beautifully, the journal makes an authentic you. You, self crafted by your own interests and your own writing.
That may be good or bad. Who are you? Your journal will expose that. If your purpose was good and your effort honest, you'll come through the test well. You may or may not make a big reputation for yourself, but those close to you will appreciate who you have become. I expect that you'll be happy too.
Those are my thoughts, today, 8th January, 2013.