There is a part-verse in the Holy Bible that writes “A faithful man shall abound in blessings”1.
Musing upon that phrase, I asked the Lord whether it is about money since the latter part of the verse goes on to write to the effect of “but a person who wants quick riches will get into trouble.”
I suppose the Message version depicts the meaning as plainly as it could be
“Committed and persistent work pays off; get-rich-quick schemes are ripoffs.”
A Paper a Week Keeps the Doctor Away
Do you remember how you learnt spellings when you were young? Well, I’m assumming you did learn how to spell since you’re most likely reading this article.
I remember back when I was in Primary School, two of the four compulsory subjects we had involved English and Mother Tongue. In my case, Mandarin is my Mother Tongue. Every week, during the school term, the teacher would have us learn about ten to fifteen new words.
Ah, my fond memory of writing in the A5 lined exercise books are resurfacing… Now, coming from a Mandarin-only speaking family became a problem when it came to me learning English. I was so bad at the subject that my English teacher thought I had hearing problem, and wrote a letter to my parents, referring me to an audio-specialist doctor!
Somehow, an adult suggested to me to write every word in the week given me on a piece of small paper slip, and keep it in my wallet. Whenever I have time on hand, I should take it out and test myself, recalling the spellings. That was when I was between six and seven year old.
That habit went on until I was in upper Primary and could pick up learning the language with more competence.
What is your favorite color? Do you use colors to label stuff? I used to hate green.
Here is a method I was taught, also in my Primary School days –
Black ink printed on paper for questions;
Blue ink for writing answers;
Red ink for marking;
Green ink for corrections.
I know I’m repeating myself, but I feel a need to emphasize that. When I turned Primary Four, we were introduced to writing in pens. Not sure about you, but it was a big day to us. It was like the teachers’ way of saying, “Okay, when you wrote in pencils, you were immature. Now, when you write in pens, it is proof that you have earned your privilege as a grownup, on par with us adults.” Yeah, it felt like that kind of thing to me.
You see, writing answers in pencils, you can erase your mistakes. But writing in pens, erasing was hard effort. A paper can get torn. And the correction tape makes the page look so uncool. Every word you write with a pen has become more deliberate and is meant to be written with the intent of “I mean it”. It felt like that to me.
Of course, later on, we learnt that we could draw a line to strike out the words we don’t want, and it’s no big deal. Afterall, now we can type! And we know that pencils and pens can co-exist. But you have to understand – it was a big deal to a Primary School kid to write in pens.
And so, whenever I wrote in blue, I made sure I minimise my mistakes. I better study well so I don’t have to do corrections. But if I do have mistakes, you know, especially when it comes to spelling, well, I write in green. Ten times of the word on a page I entitled “Corrections”.
Did that faithfully over the years. And repeated the process until I lost count.
When the teacher taught new vocabs, I compile a list, and kept referring to it throughout the week. Then spelling test. If I score perfect, good; if not, I do my corrections. Submit the book tto let my corrections be marked. Again, and again, EVERY week.
Do I dislike corrections? Can’t deny it. But I had come to appreciate its value as a necessary step to improve from my wrong.
I know of a child, every day in school, before the first period begins, he would sit in the hall during the assembly. There, when announcements were made via a prefect, a teacher, or any authority figure for that matter, he would listen. Somehow, he became aware that if he listened carefully, he would know the important information that would affect him amidst many other irrelant announcements that morning.
While his friends were messing around, or just being engrossed in their own activities, he had learnt to keep his ears peeled for “This is the announcement for…”
One of the moments he found amusing was whenever his classmates asked him, “Hey, how come you know about this information?” And he would reply to the effect of, “I heard it this morning during the assembly. Weren’t you there too?”
Nowadays, it seems we are bombarded with nearly an ungated access of information through the Internet. Yet, what information do we really need to know and use? Internet, as a friend of mine calls it, is like the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Think about that.
Anyway, so that boy, learnt to listen for what matters. And that skill kept him safe from many instances of danger and averted various troubles. It opened upopportunities he would otherwise have missed.
Today, we associate such a listening skill to being street-smart, having a soft-skill, people-skill, social awareness, and the ability of reading between the lines of what people say.
I call it a listening heart.
Same Four Chords, One New Song Per Week
I know of a teenager, who accepetd a challenge to pick up the role as a guitarist in his church small group. They had a system which gather like-minded Christ-believing students on a weekly basis for fellowship as a community. The small group he was in happened to have no guitarist to play music when singing praise and worship songs.
Well, this young lad simply learn a new song a week, mostly with the commonly first-learnt chords of G, Em, C and D. Guitarists, you know what I’m talking about. He did so for about two years, and somehow hs hands became strong enough to press the chord shapes. Then he went on to learn new chords, and learn new stuff about guitar.
Interesting thing is, he never stop learning. And fortunately, playing guitar became his passion.
Have you realized how minute these actions and habits are? Notice, on hindsight, how they made a man gain so much progress over a longer time?
In just a year, less three months of exams and holidays, leaving about 40 weeks. In a conservative calculation…
40 weeks multiplied by 10 new words per week equals 400 words!
40 weeks multiplied by 1 new song per week equals 40 songs!
Obviously, not everything can be quantified by numbers. What did color-coding teach a man? Organization, perhaps? And sitting in the assmbly hall? How about listening for details?
So what about riches? I did talk about it in the verse of “A faithful man shall abound in riches”. Would constant storing up of money set aside from earnings help? Would constant investment in financial products yielding higher interest rates than inflation rate help?
Now consider this: would riches include health, honor, peace, and pleasure2 too?
If you faithfully exercise regularly, even if it’s a light workout for a short moment, would it not help? If you faithfully sleep regularly between a certain timing, would it not help? If you faithfully speak words of kind truth aptly, sincerely and tactfuly whenever you feel prompted in your heart to a neighbor, would it not make you a richer person?
Do not depsise the day of small beginings.3 Every great and noble magnificence started small. What matters is whatever you do now should contribute to your true riches.
Habits, my friend.