The pen or the coin. Which would you choose?

Subir Chowdhury

Sometimes the most profound lessons come from an unexpected place.

When I was a young child, my grandfather offered me a coin and a pen, and told me to choose one. With visions in my head of what I could buy, I chose the coin.

My grandfather tried to convince me that my choice was wrong. We debated the merits of the coin and he finally said to me, “If you pick the pen, you will reach so high in your life that many coins will follow.”

To this day, my grandfather’s advice has always guided me. With the pen, I could create my own destiny. With a coin, my choices were very limited to what I could purchase with that coin.

An avid reader, my grandfather encouraged me to write to the authors of the books that I enjoy. With the power of my pen, I could reach out to others, make new friends, and learn. When I pushed back saying they may not respond, he told me I could always write again. Eventually people would respond.

My grandfather was right.

By the time I was 12, I had connected with not only many authors, but poets and even film stars.

Because my grandfather convinced me to pick up a pen rather that a coin, I’m now an author of many books, a US citizen and a husband and father.

My grandfather taught me to never give up. My grandfather taught me another profound lesson without realizing it. When he asked me to choose between a coin and a pen, he taught me that you can learn from anybody and that learning is a lifelong journey.

Because of my grandfather’s lessons, I spent lots of time on the assembly line floor when I first started working. Most of my colleagues thought I was crazy, but I learned more from the people who worked on the manufacturing line, building and assembling cars, than I did reading books, talking to colleagues, or attending company briefings.

My grandfather led a very simple life and had no formal education and yet he taught me so much more about how to become a better person than any university, any professor, any CEO could ever teach me.

What happens when you choose a pen instead of a coin?


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