Parable of the Pencil

What can a pencil teach us about leadership? You’d be surprised. In this short video you’ll find 5 critical leadership lessons in the parable of the pencil.

Parable of the Pencil Transcript

I love learning about the timeless principles of leadership and giving the tips wherever I can. I tend to be a little bit wonkish in this area and I’ve got to admit I’m a little, maybe, obsessive or highly dedicated to learning as much as I can about reaching my fullest potential and then helping other folks do the same thing.

You probably know that one of the most powerful learning tools that’s been used for cultures around the world for thousands of years is the act of storytelling in the use of parables. Storytelling is a powerful way to learn and the following parable highlights five things that great leaders must always remember.

Hi, I’m Larry Broughton and I want to share with you one of my favorite parables and that is the parable of the pencil. A long time ago a master pencil maker was preparing to put a very important pencil into this beautiful handcrafted box but before doing so he took the pencil aside to give it some words of encouragement. He said, “Listen pencil, there are five things that you really need to know. If you can remember these five things you’re going to become the best darn pencil that you can possibly be. You are going to have a huge impact on the world.”

“First,” he said, “You’ll be able to do lots of great things but only if you allow yourself to be held in someone else’s hands.” “Second,” he said, “Sharpening is going to be very painful but it’s vital if you want to become a great pencil.” “Third,” he said, “Because you have an eraser, you’ll be able to correct most of your mistakes but honestly, there are going to be some mistakes that are going to be harder to erase than others. Four, you may or may not look on the outside like you’re a great pencil but remember it’s what’s on the inside that’s most important. In fact, it’s the inside of you that’s the most important of all. Fifth, whatever surface it is that you write on, whether it’s soft or hard, rough or not, you’ve got to leave your mark so just keep on writing.”

What can we as leaders learn? What can we high achievers learn from the parable of the pencil? First, let’s be humble, just like the pencil you’ve got to carefully be guided and molded by people who are bolder and brighter than you are. This is why we use mentors and boards of advisors and we surround ourselves with people who just care about us.

Number two, stay sharp. Feedback is going to be painful from time to time but without it we just become dull so take time to sharpen your skills by actively seeking out feedback and encouragement but also read as much as you can. Go to leadership summits, go to seminars, watch other leaders in action and then just get leadership experience.

Number three, it’s okay to make mistakes. In the process of becoming a great leader, we going to make mistakes so embrace these mistakes as opportunities to learn. Learn, erase and become better.

Number four, just be yourself. Just like pencils, we all come in different shapes and sizes and different colors but really it’s what’s on the inside that’s really the most important. You can have an amazing impact on the world if you just be yourself and keep striving towards your purpose.

Finally, don’t give up. There are going to be times when you’re going to wonder whether it’s all worth it but people are depending on us. Keep on going, keep on moving on, hold onto your vision even when your vision is diminished or if you feel like it’s fading, just keep going on because people are counting on us to get them where we’re going.

I hope that you’ll remember this little parable and I hope that you’ll share it with other folks. If you want more bite size tips on leadership and inspiration then I hope you’ll come on over and visit me at Now go do something significant today. Go get ’em.

Which of these five lessons resonates with you the most? Let me know in the comments below!

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