This week’s quote was actually more of a story.
Gretchen Rubin writes (and talks, as I was listening to her podcast) about the one coin loophole, based on “The argument of the growing heap”, which is found in Erasmus’s “Praise of Folly”, which reads:
“If ten coins are not enough to make a man rich, what if you add one coin? What if you add another? Finally, you will have to say that no one can be rich unless one coin can make him so.”
When I read this outloud during family night, everyone just sort of stared at me with blank faces.
It helped when I added, “Often when we consider our actions, it’s clear that any one instance of an action is almost meaningless, yet at the same time, a sum of those actions is very meaningful. Whether we focus on the the single coin, or the growing heap, will shape our behaviour.”
That resonated so well with me. But I could see my kids were still a little blurry eyed until I gave them some examples:
“What difference does it make if I spend one afternoon playing video games instead of studying.”
“What difference does it make if I skip going to the gym today.”
“Saving this $5 won’t make a big difference, it’s not enough to buy anything anyways.”
“Eating just one cupcake is not a big deal.”
In isolation, nothing is a big deal really. “It’s not going to make or break you,” is a saying we’ve encountered many times over the years. And this “single coin” analogy sums it up nicely. Focusing on the one, lonely, measley coin won’t make you rich. But the accumulation of coins is what we are focusing on, and that makes all the difference.
How many times have I use the single coin loophole? How many times do I justify doing or not doing something because it is just this once? I think I need to start focusing on the heap and taking pride in watching it grow.