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Six words of wisdom: pen spinners

This is one of my favourite things to do. It’s called six words of wisdom.

The rules are simple: you ask a group of people to give you the best life advice they can in six words – no more, no less.

It tells you a lot about the group and about the individuals who populate it.

When you’ve only got six words to play with, you find out what is most important in your own personal philosophy. Do you go for something deep and profound? Something silly? Do you talk about something very broad or very specific?

Below are the ten most interesting responses from members of the Universal Pen Spinning Board. So, to contextualise: their common trait is that they all partake in a very niche manipulative art form.

For the unfamiliar, type ‘pen spinning’ into YouTube and this is the first video that comes up:



So here are the wisest nuggets of wisdom from UPSB, in no particular order:


“Live past peoples’ expectations of you”

Liam, student and penspinner

“Stop taking things so seriously, live.”

Alex, Student, Missouri

“Rules are meant to be broken.”

Lam, totally cool guy, Singapore

“Don’t let rules limit your capability”

Jared, student, Philippines

Possibilities began when you start dreaming.”

Obs, student, Singapore

“To the haters, go f**k yourselves”

Shrader, student and computer programmer, London

“The only limit is your imagination.”

ChainBreak‘, PS Addict, Germany

“Learn to live, live to learn”.

Kay de Vries, Illustrator and animator, Netherlands

“Nothing in the world is meaningless.”

An, student, Singapore

“Love haters that make us famous”.

Wilhelm, future religious educator, Philippines.

A quick caveat here: it’s always counterproductive, and a bit ignorant, to tar an entire group of people with the same brush. But noticing reoccurring attitudes is interesting and insightful, as long as you remember that it’s not so much a rule as a correlation.

There are thousands of pen spinners around the world, so you can only read so much into the words of ten. But it’s interesting to see little themes running through these answers.

There are several mentions here of defying the rules, aspiring to live beyond societal norms and just ‘living’. There are also a couple that are a little bit defensive (although “go f**k yourselves!” probably qualifies as very defensive).

So what does this tell us about pen spinners?

Not much. But it does reinforce the perception I already had.

I have found many of those most active in the pen spinning community to be laid back and free-thinking, with a low tolerance for bulls**t. I think this perception fits with these sixty words of wisdom.

There is one other thing that strikes me here though. It brought to mind this scene from House MD:


In general society, especially among teens and twenties, there are countless groups of people who proclaim, very vocally, to not care what people think of them. The rebels, the non-conformists, the indies, the alternatives always seem so desperately keen to impress upon us just how little they care about our opinions. They are the perfect embodiment of self-conscious, needy, social hypocrisy.

I think a lot of pen spinners are exactly what the ‘non-conformists’ aspire to be. Pen spinning gets very little recognition outside its own community. Few people consider it interesting or impressive, certainly not cool. Let’s take a look at some of the negative comments on that first YouTube video:

“They don’t have a life.”

“Too much free time.”

“This is a useless talent that only an Asian would have!”

If the talent in question is finger dexterity, timing and creativity, then perhaps all pen spinners would make good guitarists. They could all grow their hair long, get tattoos, perform at local bars, playing songs they did not write themselves, and tell everyone how non-conformist they (and the millions just like them) are.

But the majority of pen spinners wouldn’t, because they genuinely – genuinely – don’t care what you think. mpc

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