In social settings, one sometimes hears people babbling about the marvelous things that they are going to do. In the business environment, it is even more unsettling to hear an entrepreneur making public pronouncements of forthcoming achievements. Anyone with even the most basic understanding of how the world REALLY works knows that saying a lot in advance of actually doing anything is a bad sign.
Ancient Jewish wisdom warns against promising much and delivering little or nothing. This is described in the account of Abraham who wants to acquire a burial place for his beloved wife, Sarah, from the landowner, Ephron the Hittite,.
Abraham offers to buy the cave of Machpelah for its appropriate monetary value. (Genesis 23:9)
Ephron responds by magnanimously assuring Abraham that he can have it for free. (Genesis 23:10-11)
Yet as the conversation progresses (Genesis 23:15-16), Ephron insists on 400 pieces of silver, which Abraham promptly pays. According to the Code of Hammurabi (from approximately the same period), the average annual household income then was five pieces of silver. Compared to American averages today, Ephron asked the equivalent of $3M-$4M for a field and a cave. His generous talk was just that – talk.
Scripture also offers an example where someone delivers far more than he promises.
Abraham offers water and bread to the three angels, whom he mistakenly assumes to be men. (Genesis 18:4-5)
However, what he actually brought them was far more lavish: many cakes baked with a large amount of fine flour, a calf, butter, and milk. (Genesis 18:6-8)
Regarding these tales, ancient Jewish wisdom offers a much-quoted aphorism, “Say little and do much.” It is easy to read this as good proscriptive advice. Be like Abraham who delivered much more than he promised, and not like Ephron who promised more than he delivered. However, there is more to this popular saying.
This phrase is not only proscriptive; it is also descriptive. If you say little, you will end up doing much. On the other hand, those who do a lot of talking will end up achieving far less than they could. Why should that be?
Whether you are building a skyscraper or baking a cake, you start by assessing your resources. Do you have the money, the manpower, the raw material and everything else needed for successful completion of the project?
It is important that none of these resources is wasted. Each must be put to productive use. Similarly, in all projects there is also a finite spiritual energy and will with which to get the job done.
One way of wasting and dissipating that will and spiritual energy is to talk about it more than necessary. By talking less, you will achieve more.
For example if you have just enough gas in your car’s tank to reach your destination, it makes no sense to leave the car idling for ten minutes before you even depart on your journey. You now will have less fuel than you need to reach your target.
Imagine an athlete staying up and socializing the entire night before an important challenge. He would do better to harness all his resources for the upcoming contest.
Similarly, the act of chattering endlessly about your deepest ambitions is a sure way to have less energy and determination available to achieve those goals. Being productive is difficult enough without needlessly squandering your spiritual resources.
One reliable technique to avoid energy-eroding chatter is making sure you devote regular time to absorbing worthy material. Think about it. The chief difference between me today and me yesterday are the ideas I have absorbed. Our famously popular library pack comprises 19 different books, DVDs and audio/visual resources. It is an absolute treasure trove of ideas. We are heading into the final holy days of this special month in the Jewish calendar.