Lessons to learn from the Pencil Sharpener

Pencil Sharpener

An Assortment of colourful sharpeners. Picture courtesy: Google Images 

A pencil sharpener is an essential tool kit that we have been using right from our early childhood days. It was indeed a very proud possession during the school-age (If I may call it so) but somehow once we entered the college, its significance was lost.

When we look at the sharpener, you would notice that it has remained the same over the decades. But, what made me curious was to know who invented the humble pencil sharpener. 

Although the internet throws conflicting results, it is widely recognised that the French mathematician Bernard Lassimonn applied for the world’s first patent on a pencil sharpener in 1828.

So we do have a french connection even in the sharpener! Those of you with strong political bent of mind may sound this fishy… with the bitter after taste of Rafale Combat Aircraft deal or the Millenium hit song by DJ Snake, Magenta Riddim.

However, don’t you think that we are busy in cognification (adding intelligence to Machines) of tools around us, through IoT, but don’t you think we too should learn from them first?

If I may put down my understanding of the life lessons and strategies that we can learn from the pencil sharpener, then these are the top five takeaways: 

1.Preserve your originality 

In a world of never lasting choices, we are always tempted to shift and change our personality. Although we follow our role models and try to be templates or clones of the best people around us, we often fail to tap the hidden potential that is inherent to us. Remember that each one of us is unique and carry our own personal aura. 

We have always been told to follow others than to bring the best in ourselves, including our parent’s and peers. Even evolutionary speaking, the best way to learn about the world is suggested to imitate others, just as done by a growing up child. Our current education system makes things worse as we are forced to go through zillions of information but fails to teach us how to learn, process and apply information. 

We must set aside time for self-reflection on our strengths and weakness. The layers of false identity that have been implicitly imposed on us must be dropped to reveal our true selves. Heard the quote by Oscar Wilde “Give a man a mask, and he will tell you the truth”?

The sharpener may have changed over centuries in shape and colours, but it has very diligently remained true to its core values.

2. Do one thing at a time 

You know what? This is pure Nirvana. My personal favourite topic, no two ways about it. Let me ask you a question. How would it be if a passenger aeroplane pilot is asked to fly two aeroplanes at the same time? Or if we were told to brush our teeth while taking a shower?

Want to complicate further? Then let me tell you if you had to take a shower, brush your teeth and have breakfast all at the same time, would that be possible? Sadly this is how we are expected to work and think. 

In fact, most of the job descriptions by employers also mention this as a non-negotiable trait. To make things work, many job hunters proudly display this as an inherent quality, naturally gifted by the almighty! Hilarious… 

Let’s learn that whatever good we are at, we continue improving our ourselves in only that skill. Do remember that we may not carry the sharpener all the time, but, when the pencil lead gets blunted, we know where to go, who gets our work done in a jiffy.

3. Friction makes you sharper 

Have you known a parable in which a world-famous sculptor was asked: “what do you see in a piece of rock”. He calmly replied, “for the rest of the world this is just a boulder, but all that I see is a masterpiece buried deep inside which is waiting for me to reveal it to the world”. 

What he does next is to give a series of sharp blows with his hand tools like hammer, chipper, wedge and shim to transform the rock into a sheer visual delight. 

Remember that if we learn to live on the edge of life then we learn not to fall off it. There are many self-help books which have explicitly mentioned the importance of testing and challenging times which make us stronger with each confronting phase. 

Just as the river water seams across the obstacle rocks, the sharpener gets stronger with each call of duty. 

4. Create a meaningful and long term impact 

Makeshift solutions that do not lead us in the long term. Do not fire a Cannonball but a sniper in life. The bucket list of life’s dreams is achievable only if decisions are taken with a long-term perspective. Let’s push the envelope only for things that matter to us and society. 

Life is too short to worry about small things. We have enough big dreams which are worth pursuing.

When the pencil is sharpened, it works its way through for a very long time. When compared to the time spent in sharpening, the running time of the sharpened pencil is way longer. Let us strive to create such types of impact amongst people around us, at work and at home.

5. Moderation is the key to success

Most of our outlook is dependent on self. Right from self-service to self-actualisation, leading a well-balanced life is on our top priority. Optimisation is a common life hack mentioned in most of the Sacred Scriptures including the Vedas. Moderation is all about striking an appropriate balance between our needs and necessities.  

When you look at the sharpener you would notice that based on the amount of pressure applied, the tip of the pencil is sharpened just appropriate for us to write. Applying extremes of pressure, either less or more, would not give us a pleasant and appropriate writing experience. 

Even the sharpener flashes a quick hint as to when to stop and when not to stop applying the pressure for that perfect shape. 

Life gives us sensible cues along the way. The smarter amongst us know when not to stretch too much and when to unwind. Well, I may sound very preachy, but I strongly feel that it’s time that we apply these lessons to lead a life full of peace and bliss.

So the next time you pick up a sharpener, do remember these top five lessons and also kindly share it with others. 

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