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Use it or lose it


People living in Zimbabwe for many years have been brought up in a very different culture to many other people, but not in the formal cultures we might imagine.

For many years, the sensible financial advice given by parents was to save money, to put money aside for a rainy day and not just spend whatever money we earn as soon as we earn it.

It is called stewardship. However, it is equally possible and sensible to call the complete opposite principle stewardship as well, in the way that Zimbabweans have been advised to spend what money they get as soon as they get it as tomorrow it will be worth less (and the item we wish to buy may no longer be available), on account of hyper-inflation.

In short, such an approach might epitomise the principle of ‘use it or lose it’.

A rugby referee will often be telling the team with the ball in a maul to use it or lose it.

It may be taken as a piece of advice or even a strong warning but it is very clear: use it or lose it.

The team holding on to the ball cannot just hold on to it, either as a means of wasting time or tiring the opposition.

It is a pointless exercise so the team is more than wise to choose to use it.

So, in life, we might see that we must adapt our approach to fit the situation but we have to use it.

The principle applies to many aspects of sport. If we do not use the ball when we can we will lose it, not simply because the referee will decide that but because the opposition will have closed down the space and prepared for the next stage of the attack.

If we do not use our muscles, we will lose them to fat; if we do not use our fitness, we will lose it; if we do not use our stamina, our strength, our speed, we will lose whatever it was we had far more quickly than we imagined.

Use it or lose it.

Some will argue, and indeed with some validity, that if we learn golf, for example, at a young age we will have the swing in shape so we can return to it after a long gap and still hit the ball far and clean.

The difference though will be in the small things, in the short game, in the play on and around the greens.

Similarly once we learn how to ride a bicycle we can return to it after a long time without losing that ability; however, the muscles we use for cycling will no longer be prepared and we will struggle physically, if we go any distance. If we do not use it regularly, we will lose it.

The principle applies powerfully in many areas of our lives.

If we do not use the talent we have been given it will not so much be stripped away from us but we will just lose the ability.

If we do not use the opportunity we are given, we will lose it; somebody else will snaffle it up eagerly.

If we do not use the education we receive it will gather dust in a cupboard and soon become out-of-date.

What the principle of ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ means is that we must practise whenever we can whatever we have.

A famous concert pianist commented on how if he does not practise long hours each day, after one day he will notice the difference; after two days the orchestra players will notice it and after three days the audience will notice it.

He cannot afford not to use his talent, his opportunity, his credibility.

Use it or lose it; learn it or spurn it.

The principle of ‘use it or lose it’ makes sense in many areas of life.

We must use what we have been given; we must not just put it away, in the drawer, the fridge or even the bank.

Holding on to it is actually being selfish (depriving others of the opportunity, pleasure or benefit) and it is also irrational (as it is achieving absolutely nothing being kept).

It is a waste! As we have noted before, ‘used-to-bes’ do not count anymore.

We must practise our sport and continue with our sport.

Putting money in the bank is using it, sure, as long as it is gaining interest (and as long as the bank does not go bankrupt).

It is a choice to put the money in the bank (as opposed to under the bed) but it may not be the wisest choice.

The hardest thing for many men, if they go out for a meal, is to choose what dessert they will have; all too often, all the desserts sound spectacular!

We have to choose! We could leave it to our spouse or the waiter to choose for us but even there we will make a choice, whether to choose ourselves or not; not choosing is still a choice (and very often not a good choice).

The same principle applies not just to desserts but also to sport and to life; we have to choose whether we will use it for if we choose not to use it we will indeed lose it.

If we do not use it, we will lose greatly. Use it or lose it; snooze, you lose! It is our choice.

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