Life Lessons from a Pencil

These are some lessons we can learn from a pencil. I adapted them from something I heard somewhere. The pencil in this case isn’t one of those mechanical click pencils. But this old fashion type:

Photo from Pencil Revolution website

Photo from Pencil Revolution website

There are four things that these pencils can teach us.

First, what’s most important is what is inside

Like pencils, the most important part of us is not what is outside, but what is inside. No matter how pretty the outside of the pencil may seem, what really matters is the seemingly unattractive black part that is hidden inside. Because that is the part that is truly useful. That is the part that allows a pencil to fulfil its function. That seemingly unattractive black part is what gives meaning to the pencil.

Similarly, how we look on the outside isn’t most important. What will really let us have a fulfilling life is what is within us – the content of our character, our abilities, our talents, our values. These are things that people may not see immediately. In fact, sometimes, it may take other people a long time to find out about these traits that are most important. But these things that are within us are what will help us have a meaningful life.

Second, we need to be sharpened from time to time

Photo from

Photo from

A pencil that is not sharpened is pointless. It cannot fulfil its function. A pencil is only useful if it is sharpened to reveal the unassuming, but all-important black pencil lead that is hidden inside. And even then, more sharpening is needed to make the tip of the pencil lead into a small enough point. Only then can the pencil be truly useful and fulfil its function properly. This process is not a once-off, but needs to be repeated over and over again for the pencil to remain useful.

Similarly, we need to sharpen ourselves over and over again. The process may (and perhaps is often) be painful. But it is necessary to bring out the best parts of us and to ensure that we continually improve.

Third, we need to be used

A sharpened pencil that is lying idle is useless. A sharpened pencil is only useful if it is held and made use of.


Our lives are most meaningful only when other people take hold of us and “use” us. In other words, our lives are most meaningful if we are of use and service to something larger than just ourselves. Otherwise, our talents and abilities, all the potential of what we could have been, would just be lying there, going to waste.

Fourth, it’s ok to make mistakes

When we have made a mistake when we write something with a pencil, we can erase it and make corrections. Perhaps there will still be a mark left, but we can erase what wasn’t so well done and make improvements.


We are bound to make mistakes. To err is human. And the more we try to do things that are important, the more we try to be innovative, the more we are trying to create greater value, the more mistakes we are bound to make along the way. But remember this: the master has made more mistakes (and failed more times) than the beginner has even started. It is only by making mistakes, failing and falling, picking ourselves up, and learning from our mistakes that we improve and get better. So it is just as well that very often, we can correct our mistakes and make improvements along the way. So, remember, like the pencil, it is ok to make mistakes. So long as we do what we can to learn from the mistake, correct the mistake and improve.

I hope this has been useful for you. And I hope that all of us, like the humble, yet infinitely useful pencil, leave our (hopefully positive) mark in our brief time on this blue planet.


2 thoughts on “Life Lessons from a Pencil

    • You are very welcome. I am glad you found this useful. It is helping me through this fairly challenging period of my life. Please share it with other people you think might find this useful too!


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