Here’s the scene: Ryan Healy and I are going through all the stuff we need to change on our new site. We have ideas to spruce things up. And also we’re sick of all the stuff we do by hand. We need more automation. And we look over at Ryan Paugh, and he’s not taking notes. I say, “Ryan you need to remember this stuff. Will you take notes?”
He says, “I’m taking mental notes.”
If this were a joke, it would not be funny. But Ryan Paugh is serious. Which Ryan Healy and I understand immediately. And we fall on the floor laughing.
I tell Ryan Paugh that mental notes is a joke. No one takes a mental note taker seriously. It looks like they don’t care. “Even if you’re a genius,” I tell him, “you have to take notes to show you are engaged.”
It used to be that note taking was for secretaries. When hotshots didn’t type, hotshots didn’t take notes. But now we know that people actually learn more when they write as they listen, and people learn more when they translate what they are hearing into their own idea nuggets, so it makes sense that writing notes is a hot-shot job now. Everyone takes notes.
Look at the Democratic debates. Every time Hillary or Barack did not like what was happening, they took notes. Not that I believe they need to take notes. I mean, each of them must have practiced their answers to every possible question 400 times. There are no spontaneous ideas in a presidential debate. I think the candidates actually use note taking to get a break while still looking attentive. They can put their head down, scowl, and write something like, “I hate Hillary I hate Hillary,” and then look up, bright and smiley.
Fast-forward to my last meeting with investors, where the guy I’m with, who is a great guy and will probably invest in our company, outlines how he’d like to run the financing. I reach into my bag to get a pen and paper, and I realize I don’t have one. I dig a little, but I actually feel that it looks disorganized to dig too much in one’s purse. And besides, I don’t want to dig and then come up with nothing—that is disorganized and desperate.
So I decide that I can memorize what he’s telling me. Anyway, what entrepreneur forgets how much someone is giving to her company? It’s not a number you forget.
But then he stood up to write more financing options on the white board. I glanced down at my purse to see if a pen materialized. I watched the white board carefully, thinking that he will think I’m very smart that I am one of those people who remembers everything. Like the waiters at expensive restaurants who don’t write down your order and get it right every time.
But then the financing got very complicated, and surely you know, I am not a finance person. Ryan Healy is actually good at finance, and I was thinking he should have been there. Then I thought: he should have been there because he would have brought me a pen.
Then I wanted to ask the investor for a pen. But I thought if I ask now, he’ll know that I am not actually a person who can memorize every little thing, and that I probably have forgotten half of what he said in this meeting, and then things will not be going well. So I just sat, and tried to remember as much as I could.
He picks up an eraser and makes a move to erase the board so he can write more: “Do you have all this?” he says. “Can I erase it?”
I say, “Uh huh.”
He says, “I guess you’re a person who takes mental notes.”