Use It Or Lose It

The Parable of the Talents

“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.

Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’

But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.’” [Matthew 25: 14-29 ESV]

The Parable of the Ice Cream Cones

When my daughter was 4 or 5 years old, we went out for ice cream. I got her a cone with a scoop of chocolate — her favorite. But as you can imagine, at her young age she had not yet mastered the ice cream cone technique. No sooner were we outside than she tipped her cone and the ice cream dropped – PLOP! — on the sidewalk.

She immediately burst into tears. I soothed her feelings and we went back inside for a replacement. Before we could order, her eyes lit on a poster for a 3-scoop triple decker cone. “That’s what I want!” she exclaimed. I reached for my wallet, but then stopped. She could barely handle a single scoop. No way could she hang on to a 3-scoop triple decker. That would just be setting her up for failure. “No, sweetheart. Once you can handle the single scoop, then you can graduate to the triple decker.”

You Must Start Somewhere

The Parable of the Talents has been interpreted in a number of ways. I include it here to focus on two ideas — “to each according to his ability” and “to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance.” On the path to self-actualization and the Excelerated Life, you have to start somewhere. You must nourish and nurture yourself and your abilities in order to unlock more and more of your potential. Just as the servants who put to good use the talents in their care and thus increased them, you must use your talents, skills, and abilities in order to improve. More will be given to everyone who has, but you can’t bury your abilities and expect to improve. You have to start where you are.

Do What You Can Where You Are

“You must . . . begin to do what you can do where you are, and you must do ALL that you can do where you are.” ~ Wallace D. Wattles

I play the guitar. Sort of. I’m not great but I enjoy playing and singing. I’ve even written some songs. I got my first guitar when I was about 12. To my dismay, I didn’t pick it up and begin playing effortlessly right away. To my chagrin, I didn’t stick with it. I got my 2nd guitar when I was about 14. This one was electric. Somehow I had the idea that it would be easier to learn. It was not.

I got my 3rd guitar when I was about 18. Finally, I accepted the fact that to learn the guitar was going to require some effort on my part. I got a book and slowly started practicing. It was hard and it hurt my fingers and I sounded terrible. But little by little, I began improving. I didn’t sound very polished, but at least I could change chords a little more smoothly. Eventually, over months and months and months of practice, my chord changing became smooth and I could change chords without thinking about it. I learned some runs and began picking out grace notes. The more I learned, the more that was “given to me” to learn.

Notice that, once I finally began to practice, I didn’t learn everything all at once. I learned little by little over time. But notice too that, until I began to practice, I didn’t learn anything at all. Start where you are, according to your ability . . . and more will be given you over time.

Do Something At Once

“We cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once.”
~ Calvin Coolidge

When I finally began learning the guitar, I didn’t try to learn to play the lead of “Stairway To Heaven” and perfect all the barre chords and develop a repertoire of 100 songs. I didn’t attempt to learn everything at once. I learned only 1 thing at once. I focused on being able to change from a G chord to a C chord. Then to a D chord. One tiny step at a time. But day by day, I made progress.

This was decades before I developed the system and concepts of the Excelerated Life, but this has become a major principle of the system. Don’t try to do too much at once. Select one thing — the ONE thing — and take one tiny step in that direction. Then take another. And another. And another.

“Stupid small” is big.

“A mini habit is a very small positive behavior that you force yourself to do every day; a mini habit’s ‘too small to fail’ nature makes it weightless, deceptively powerful, and a superior habit-building strategy.” ~ Stephen Guise

These small steps turned into mini habits contain power. To begin with, you make it so easy to do that it is impossible not to succeed — unless you don’t start at all. Once the action becomes a habit, you can bump it up a notch. Walk further. Do more reps. Add a few minutes. But don’t increase it too rapidly. Keep it “stupid” small. “To everyone who has will more be given.”

More Will Be Given (But you must use what you have first.)

“One’s only rival is one’s own potentialities. One’s only failure is failing to live up to one’s own possibilities.” ~ Abraham H. Maslow

The Excelerated Life is about unlocking more of your potential and moving up Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs to become self-actualized. It involves creating a strong foundation and then building on top of it. You can’t do it in one day, but you must do something each day to move forward. You must learn to use what you have been given, in order to unlock your capabilities and receive even more. You have to learn how to balance one scoop of ice cream in order to graduate to the 3-scoop triple-decker. But isn’t that worth it?

Action Items

1. Select one area of your life or one skill that you want to improve. Do you want to learn to play a musical instrument? Learn carpentry? Create a painting? Become a better parent? Be more organized? The list is virtually endless — choose one thing.

2. Map out the steps you’ll take to learn or improve in the area you selected. Make the steps tiny — too small not to do.

3. Devise a method to track your progress each day. Track your efforts until you’ve developed the habit of doing the step.

4. Decide in advance how you will reward yourself. Devise tiny rewards for each step you take and a bigger reward for doing them weekly, monthly, etc.

Use It Or Lose It

“For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

I suspect you’ve heard the phrase “use it or lose it”. If you don’t use your muscles, you begin to lose muscle mass. If you learn a new skill but don’t use it, you soon forget it. The losses are almost imperceptible day to day but one day something happens to make you realize what you have lost.

In a similar manner, the small gains you make when you put these ideas into practice are imperceptible at first. That’s why making a habit of taking your tiny steps is important. Focus on the system, not the end result and eventually, probably sooner than you realize, you will have reached your destination. “To everyone who has will more be given, and he and she will have an abundance.” That is embracing the Excelerated Life!

Excelerated self-discipline — doing what you say you will do — is one step in creating your Excelerated life, a life of well-being, meaning, and purpose.

Guise, Stephen. Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results. CreateSpace Publishing. 2013

Wattles, Wallace D. The Science Of Getting Rich. Holyoke, MA: Elizabeth Towne, 1910

“You can advance only by being larger than your present place, and no one is larger than his present place who leaves undone any of the work pertaining to that place. The world is advanced only by those who more than fill their present places.” ~ Wallace D. Wattles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.