The Paint in the Can Needs to be Applied

I am not exactly sure where I first heard the expression, “the paint in the can needs to be applied.” In preparing this blog, I Googled it and outside of my prior use in a blog, nothing came up. It is a great saying. What good does paint do in the can? It was created to be used; to provide color, to seal, to cover up scuff marks, to express ourselves.

We can be averse to taking action. Maybe the fear of being wrong impedes us. Maybe we feel that we would not apply the paint properly. Some of us fall victim to ‘paralysis by analysis.’ Too many times we hesitate to act or decide, because we want there to be more information, training or a guaranteed outcome. I look at it this way, if we act 80% of the time while spending 20% of our time analyzing options and are only correct half the time, that is a 40% success rate (80% x 50%); whereas, if we spend 80% of our time analyzing things and only 20% talking action and then are right all the time (which is highly unlikely), that equals a 20% success rate. By being more decisive, we are more successful, potentially twice as successful. I once worked for a company that operated in the 80% analysis realm. We were rarely wrong but never met our performance goals.

As Les Brown, the motivational speaker says, “You don’t have to be great to get started, but you have to get started to be great”- a catchphrase I often use. We need to act even if we don’t know everything we should or feel as if we aren’t completely prepared. “Take action. Success is not guaranteed, but inaction will guarantee failure” is a quote from author Ken Poirot.

A business colleague of mine, as well as an author, Jim Bearden says, “Effort is to theory, what fire is to aim.” During Jim’s time in the Marine Corps, he intensively trained in marksmanship. Part of that training included learning how to hold a good “sight picture” – Marine Corps lingo for “take dead aim.” Since the objective of marksmanship training is to improve the ability to actually hit targets, taking aim is not enough. At some point we must pull the trigger and take the shot.

We spend a great deal of time learning about theories, be it business success, personal development, even spiritual enhancement. We seem to have a love affair with theory and an aversion to effort. Some of us even become experts on these theories, reciting them chapter and verse. We seem to believe that prolonged or repeated exposure to theory is enough. However, theories do us absolutely no good unless we put them to use out in the real world. We must “pull the trigger.” Doran Oancia, of Executive Disciple, asks guests on his podcast to boil down their thoughts into one concept that can be immediately applied.

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” This quote has been widely attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, but also Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, as well as Bruce Lee. In a similar quote Tony Robbins says, “Lots of people know what to do, but few people actually do what they know.  Knowing is not enough! You must take action” and “If you don’t know what to do next, do what you know to do now” is a line I heard in Father Mike Schmitz’s podcast.

Don’t miss a deadline because of being unsure. Chances are, everything is fine. If we are in the middle of a project, finish it and save the worrying or second guessing until after it’s done. There’s a Navy SEALs quote: “Pain is your friend. It reminds you to finish the job and get the hell home.” Just finish the project. Just get it done. Analyze later. Start where we are … finish where we’ll be … be of use where we are …  we cannot be of use where we are not.

I often blog on the process, or in many cases I refer to it as the journey, but we cannot lose sight of being accountable for outcomes. If we are waiting on the fastball, grinding, or thinking green-to-tee the objective is breakthrough results. We need an attitude of “I own it” and “I will deliver.” An appealing room for guests should be the goal with the can of paint. I have previously noted a quote for Mike Tomlin, Head Coach Pittsburgh Steelers, “It is not about what you are capable of; it is about what you are willing to do.” Capability is the paint; willingness is applying it.

God uses us to execute his plan. It is His paint that we apply with our actions. Look at all the divine-human partnerships at work in the bible. God used Moses for his courageous leadership; David as a brilliant warrior and statesman; Daniel as a fervent intercessor; and Paul, the most acclaimed scholar in Judaism, who realized that he could do all things only “through Him who strengthens me.”

In the Gospel of Matthew is the Parable of the Talents (25:14-30). Servants have been entrusted with talents and when the Master returned, he wanted to know what the servants have done with the talents they received. It doesn’t matter if it is one or five talents, it’s what we do with the talents that matters. Not everyone gets the same ‘paint’. God has given each person a unique variety of gifts, and he expects each to use whatever gifts we’ve been given to the best of our ability.

Like paint, we were created to be used. As we work, God works. As we paint, God guides our brush. We must “pull the trigger” and get started giving God our best. We must apply His paint.

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