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How to Perfect The Art of Maximizing Your Talents

How to Perfect The Art of Maximizing Your Talents

The art of maximizing your talents is an ancient art form. It goes way past the New Testament times down to the Old Testament era. To put it simply, this art form is old. In fact, as old as time is. Now, why do we have to emphasize this fact? Even if many people consider it ancient, the Bible still contains lessons which are relevant and are applicable at this time and age. Yep,  even in this digital age. Today we will tackle a lesson from the New Testament. It’s one of my favorites culled from the book of Matthew.

The parable of the talents is not only about handling finances, it’s also about the natural ‘giftings’ you have and how to manage and maximize them to reach your full potential. I find Steve Pavlina.com helpful regarding personal development but this piece surpasses my expectations.

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In various religious texts, there can be found some interesting personal development gems.  One from the Bible is “The Parable of the Talents.”

The Parable of the Talents is one of the stories Jesus told to teach a moral lesson.  Although the word “talents” in the story refers literally to money, you can obviously extend the meaning to other areas.  It’s interesting to read it using the common definition of “talents.”

Here’s the story:

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The Parable of the Talents

Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them.  To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability.  Then he went on his journey.  The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more.  So also, the one with the two talents gained two more.  But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

After a long time, the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.  The man who had received the five talents brought the other five.  “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with five talents.  See, I have gained five more.”

His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant!  You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.  Come and share your master’s happiness!”

The man with the two talents also came.  “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.”

His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant!  You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.  Come and share your master’s happiness!”

Then the man who had received the one talent came.  “Master,” he said, “I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed.  So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground.  See, here is what belongs to you.”

His master replied, “You wicked, lazy servant!  So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?  Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

“Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents.  For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance.  Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.  And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

– Matthew 25:14-30 (NIV)

This simple story makes some interesting points that are applicable to the pursuit of personal development.

First, we’re all given a different starting position.  Some of us are born into abundance (five talents).  Others are born into scarcity (one talent).  But what matters isn’t what we’re given — it’s what we do with it that matters.  So Jesus acknowledges the unfairness of life, but he also suggests that our starting conditions are irrelevant.  One person earns five talents, another earns only two, but both are congratulated equally because both achieved a 100% gain.  (I’d sure like to know where those servants invested their money!)

This is also a good lesson in how to deal with other human beings.  Deal with other people based on their starting positions, and evaluate yourself by your own starting position.  If you happen to be one of those who receives five talents, don’t pat yourself on the back that you’re already above average.  If you have abundant talents, you should expect even more from yourself.  Similarly, there may be times in your life where you only have one talent and do the best you can with it, and even though your gains appear small from an external standard, by Jesus’ standard you’ve still made a notable accomplishment.  I wrote about this previously in Raise Your Standards.

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Another interesting aspect of the parable is that our talents are entrusted to us, like a master putting money into the care of his servants.  We are stewards of our wealth, and I define wealth very loosely here, well beyond material possessions.  For example, if I can write and speak fairly well, those are talents entrusted to me.  I can bury them in the ground out of fear, or I can push out of my shell and strive to create increase for all.

One thing I wonder about the parable is this:  What would have happened if one of the servants who invested the money realized a loss instead of a gain?  There’s a clue to how Jesus would have answered this because of how the master addressed the third servant:  ”You wicked, lazy servant!”  Later the master refers to that servant as “worthless” and has him physically thrown out.  That’s pretty harsh language considering the servant still gave the master all his money back.  Is Jesus saying that inaction is wicked?  Yes, I believe so.  In other words, if you do nothing with your talents… if you hide them in the ground and hoard them, you are choosing to be wicked, lazy, and worthless.  You are supposed to invest what you’ve been given.  Don’t be lazy.

Another clue is how the first two servants are praised.  The master praises them for being “faithful.”  Very interesting.  It would have been different if the master praised them for being shrewd or effective or profitable.  But the praise is given for their faith, not for their results.

Given the language (and hopefully my points still work with non-English versions of this scripture), I conclude that if one of the servants had invested money and lost some or all of it, they would still have been praised for their faithfulness.  However, given that Jesus doesn’t directly address this condition in the parable, he may also be suggesting that faith itself is the path to success — a common theme in his other teachings.  So perhaps if you use your talents faithfully, you aren’t really going to lose.

Another notable quality of the parable is the lack of competition.  The servants aren’t competing with each other for their master’s favor.  It’s not a zero-sum game.  The first two servants both contribute something of value to their master’s estate.

What’s the ultimate reward for the faithful servants?  Although Jesus doesn’t explicitly say it, it seems obvious they don’t get to keep the money.  The two successful servants aren’t even working for their own increase.  It’s not their money.  They’re working for the increase of their master, and they share in the increase to his estate.  Their true reward is to share in their master’s happiness.  So happiness is the reward, and happiness comes from serving others.

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I know from experience that if I undertake some action to create increase only for myself, there’s very little energy to it, and it doesn’t usually increase my happiness.  But if I focus on creating increase for others (such as by helping people grow), then I feel great joy in doing that, and it ultimately creates increase for me too.

But there’s more to it than that.  Happiness is a quality that I inject into my work, not something I derive from it.  When I work only for myself, I’m looking for happiness outside myself.  Trying to achieve happiness that way doesn’t work.  But when I work for others’ benefit and turn off WIIFM for a while (What’s In It For Me?), I tap into the deep wells of happiness that are already inside me.  Instead of trying to achieve happiness, I happily achieve.  Happiness flows outward from me and into the work I do, so I experience it as an outflow, not an inflow.

Happiness is something you exhale, not something you inhale.  Are you one of those people who must say, “Yes, Senator, I had a supply of happiness in my gut, but I did not exhale?”

As Jesus implies in The Parable of the Talents, creating abundance requires you to move beyond fear.  If you’re too fearful or suspicious or distrustful, you’re going to bury your talents.  And this leads to “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” i.e. sorrow and depression.

You might think that fear and suspicion will keep you out of trouble, but really they’ll just cause you suffering and pain.  You don’t need fear to avoid being a gullible idiot; for that you just need common sense.  To live a life of abundance, you must ultimately move beyond fear and work to create abundance for others.  Otherwise you’ll ultimately be cast out as worthless.  Jesus doesn’t pull any punches here, youse bums.

Serve to create increase for others, and happiness is your reward.  Bury your talents, and you get “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  The choice is yours.

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And that’s my parablog for the day.  

:)

    The Parable of the Talents I Steve Pavlina

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    Anthony Dejolde

    TV/Radio personality who educates his audience on entrepreneurship, productivity, and leadership.

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    Last Updated on March 21, 2019

    11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

    11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

    Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

    You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

    But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

    To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

    It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

    “What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

    The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

    In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

    Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

    1. Start Small

    The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

    Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

    Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

    Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

    Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

    Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

    It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

    Do less today to do more in a year.

    2. Stay Small

    There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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    But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

    If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

    When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

    I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

    Why?

    Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

    The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

    Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

    3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

    No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

    There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

    What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

    Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

    This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

    This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

    4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

    When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

    There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

    Peter Drucker said,

    “What you track is what you do.”

    So track it to do it — it really helps.

    But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

    5. Measure Once, Do Twice

    Peter Drucker also said,

    “What you measure is what you improve.”

    So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

    For reading, it’s 20 pages.
    For writing, it’s 500 words.
    For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
    For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

    Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

    6. All Days Make a Difference

    Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

    Will two? They won’t.

    Will three? They won’t.

    Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

    What happened? Which one made you fit?

    The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

    No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

    7. They Are Never Fully Automated

    Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

    But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

    What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

    It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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    The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

    It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

    It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

    8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

    Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

    Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

    When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

    The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

    Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

    9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

    The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

    Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

    You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

    But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

    So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

    If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

    This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

    The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

    Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

    10. Punish Yourself

    Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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    I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

    It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

    You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

    No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

    The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

    But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

    11. Reward Yourself

    When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

    Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

    The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

    After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

    If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

    Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

    If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

    In the End, It Matters

    What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

    When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

    And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

    “Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

    Keep going.

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    More Resources to Help You Build Habits

    Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
    [2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
    [3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
    [4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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