Website owner: James Miller
I have known people who stood out from other people by the amount of self-assurance, self-confidence they exuded. They knew everything and had all the answers. They had remarkable confidence in their own powers. In most cases this self- assurance was accompanied by a gift for talking and a power over people. They would be very likable and one could hardly help but like them, trust them, and believe what they said. But with passing time I began to realize that they also stood out in another way -- for an unusual degree of ignorance and poor judgment. And, also, often for excessive dishonesty. And I could not help but think to myself, "How can this be? So much self-assurance and confidence and so much ignorance and lack of good sense! What a combination! What does one make of this! They believe they know everything and they know nothing!" I have seen people who could scarcely read or write exude an amazing amount of self-assurance. They appear to have no inkling of their own lack. They really believe they are a little smarter than anyone else, know more than anyone else. Well, there is a saying, "He who knows nothing is confident of everything." From this saying it appears other people have noted this same phenomenon that I noticed. In my younger years the big problem that plagued me was lack of confidence, so it isn't surprising that such a phenomenon would interest and amaze me. Let me ask this question: How much difference can exist between people in regard to general intellectual development i.e. knowledge, understanding, good sense, intellectual power? In an attempt to answer this question, let us consider another question. It concerns the cumulative effect of a single action repeated over a long period of time. Consider the following: Let us assume a person walks 8 hours every day at a normal walking pace of 3.5 miles per hour. He will then walk 8x3.5 = 28 miles each day. Suppose he covers two feet with each step. Then a mile corresponds to 2640 steps and he walks 28x2640 = 73,920 steps each day. If he continues walking 8 hours every day for a year at this rate (a very doable feat) he will walk 28x365 = 10,220 miles or 26,980,800 steps over the course of the year. If he keeps this up, in 2.5 years he will have walked a distance equal to the circumference of the earth. If he keeps it up for 24 years he will have walked the distance from the earth to the moon (239,000 miles). That would be 630 million steps. If he kept walking for 48 years he would walk the distance from the earth to the moon and then back which would be 1.26 billion steps. The purpose of the above exercise is to show the power that lies in a single action that is repeated over a period of time. The idea can be applied to many things. The reason we are interested in the example is to show the cumulative effect associated with a habit that is practiced over a long period of time. For example, consider the habit of saving money, practiced over many years. There is a cumulative effect in the form of accumulated money. The same is true of the habit of frugality. Here again, the cumulative effect is accumulated money. How large is the effect? The idea of a man walking the distance from earth to moon and back gives some idea of the power in this, especially when you consider compound interest. Our interest in the cumulative effect of habit, however, involves a different kind of habit. We are interested in mind- improving habits. What are some examples of mind-improving habits? A young person who has the good habit of assiduously studying in school is an example. Our habits make us or break us. They are very important to understanding life and people, success and failure. Suppose a young person studies seriously and hard, 8 hours a day, for 16 years of school (12 years + 4 of college). What is the effect of this habit in terms of accumulated knowledge and understanding? How much has he accomplished for himself? Well, a person walking eight hours a day for 16 years will walk 163,520 miles. That is two thirds of the distance from the earth to the moon. That is what he has to show for that type of work (walking). Now the student, instead of investing his time and energy into walking, has invested his time and energy into his mind. He has in fact invested 8x365x16 = 46,720 hours into improving his mind. What he has received for all that invested time can't be seen but it is real. Can we say that he has invested into his mind the equivalent of 163,520 miles of walking? Let us give some other examples of mind-improving habits. When I encounter a word whose meaning or spelling I don't know it is a long-time habit of mine to stop what I am doing, go get a dictionary, and look it up. It is some trouble, it takes time, and some people would be too lazy to do it. But I am curious and I want to know. I expend the effort and do it. It is a habit. There are dividends from that habit in the way of mental improvement that accumulate over the years. When I am studying I often have questions. It has always been my habit, when I have a question, to stop, think, and try to answer the question. It takes time. I take the time. I think of another mind- improving habit. The habit of thoughtful reflection. I have always been inclined toward reflectiveness. Reflection is something you can do anywhere. You can do it when you are walking or when you are washing dishes. You can do it at any time of day. Large numbers of hours expended every day in thoughtful reflection gives an accumulating mental dividend of increased understanding. The cumulative effect is substantial, just as the final result of walking 8 hours every day for many years is substantial. Suppose a person, from the age of 5 or 6, engages in activities for eight hours each day that improve his mind -- activities like studying, reading, thinking, reflecting -- activities that increase his knowledge and understanding of life and the world about him. Let us say that from force of habit he invests 8 hours every day in mind-improving activity. Instead of walking 8 hours a day as our walker in the example above does, he invests the same time, effort and energy into his mind. Where does he then stand after 48 years of this? Has he perhaps done for his mind something comparable to the feat of a walker who has walked for 48 years? (Walking to the moon and back). Now let us compare him with the person who never was interested in school, never put any effort into studying, scarcely learned to read or write, never invested any time into mental improvement type activities and, instead, spent all his time in the pursuit of pleasure, playing, in manual work, and in other activities that are non-mind-improving. Now just how much intellectual disparity might there be between these two individuals after 48 years? Think about it. One cannot look at a person and tell how much knowledge he has in his head or how much understanding he has. A person may give some clue in one way or another, or he may not. But really great intellectual disparities between people can and do exist. It is true, of course, that one can learn a great deal just from life and observation. We are not talking only about textbook learning. And one can develop his mind greatly just from the habit of reflection, the habit of thought. But great differences do exist between the minds of people in regard to knowledge and understanding. Now let us consider something else. It has been my observation that the more you understand of life and the world about you, the greater becomes your capacity for understanding. As you understand more, more and more doors open up for you to understand yet more. A prerequisite for an understanding of many things is an understanding of other things. In addition, the better we understand a thing, the more things we observe in connection with it, the better our memories are for the details. When you invest time and effort into the improvement of your mind there is a payback of increased power for comprehending and judging. Just as one can improve one's physical body and its powers by body exercises one can improve his mind's powers and abilities by discipline and use. The study of mathematics, for example, is of great value for the exercise and discipline of the mind. From what we have said one can see the consequences of the character trait (habit) of laziness in regard to mental development. Mental development comes about through effort. It is acquired through work, effort, persistence, perseverance. One gets out of life what he puts into it. Life gives its rewards to hard work. Mostly, the rule in life is: "No pains, no gains"; be lazy, do nothing, and you get nothing. It is a law of nature. Work and effort require self-discipline, character. Learning, studying, understanding things requires seriousness, resolution, self-discipline, character. The studying required of a school child is work and often unpleasant drudgery. (It is also often interesting and interest may often propel the student. However, if a student is lazy and averse to work he may never learn of the rewards it holds.) It is easy to be lazy. Being lazy is the easy way in life. It is easy to develop the habit of laziness. It is easy to succumb to the temptation to just be lazy and do nothing, to just play and have fun. Everyone can enjoy sleeping in late on a cold morning. The body tempts us. If people were not forced to work because they need to eat, most would probably just be lazy, do nothing, play and have fun (like children). Why? Lack of character. Most people will just follow their natural bodily inclinations, take the easy road, follow the ways of pleasure, sleep late. Most people work only because they have to, and then work no more than they have to. Adults may be forced to work due to the realities of life but children in school aren't in the same position. If they choose not to work in school there is no real penalty. They will perhaps get bad marks, if the teacher isn't the kind that just automatically gives everyone A's (so as to not damage their self-esteem). If getting poor marks doesn't bother them, they have gotten past a sense of shame from that, they can just do nothing and entertain themselves. If a child lacks character, prudence and good sense he can just put in time, play around and have fun. Then later he can drop out of school and compete in the job market with others who have labored hard and done well in school. He has the brain of a monkey and they have brains filled with 12 or more years of solid mental development in the form of knowledge and understanding. I believe very strongly in the value of education. However, after having said all I have said, something else must be said. The most important thing in life is that personal relationship with God found in the Christian faith. It is knowing God, faith in God, and obedience to God. It is the wisdom and understanding that comes from this relationship. Without this personal relationship with God there is no wisdom or understanding. There are a great many very highly educated people in this world who don't know God, don't have this relationship with him. They are of this world, followers of Satan and his ways. They don't know wisdom; real truth has eluded them. And there are a great many simple, poorly educated people who do know God, love him, serve him, and have that wisdom and understanding that comes from knowing him. This later group has found truth and the former group has not. So one can observe it not just about how much walking one does. It is also about where one is walking, is he walking to any destination of importance? One can walk and walk to nowhere. One can work hard throughout his life and all the time be working on something that has no value. One has to invest his efforts into what has value. Oct 2008 More from SolitaryRoad.com:
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