We humans are a stew of talents, motivations, and fears. In the right proportions, our stew can end up being a huge success that feeds many others, or it can be something a dog wouldn’t touch. 

Take, for example, the metaphor I just tried to make. Shakespeare’s pen would have made it a culinary masterpiece. My keyboard has produced a bowl of gruel.

Here’s a mo’ better metaphor. A guy had three servants. He gave the first five talents, the second two talents, and the third, one talent. This metaphor is a tad confusing because a talent is an ancient measure for a weight in gold – approximately one gazillion micrograms to the third power or something like that.

Anyway, the man went away. When he returned, the first two servants had doubled the value of their talents. The man was quite pleased and said, “Well done. Since you’ve been faithful in small matters, I’ll give you great responsibility.” The third servant only had the original talent that the man had given him. “I knew you were a demanding guy, so out of fear I buried the talent in the ground. Here it is back.”

“You lazy and worthless servant,” the man bellowed. “At least you could have put the money in the bank and given me interest, but you didn’t even do that.” He threw the wicked servant out into the darkness where there was gnashing of teeth.

If I had a shekel for every time I’ve heard this story, I’d have a lot of talents. Usually, while listening to this gospel reading at church, my mind is planning what I’m going to do the next day or re-living a fight I had with some idiot, so I don’t pay the proper attention. But last night one word stood out like a giant neon billboard on a long dark freeway: FEAR.

I realized that it’s not our talents that make us successful. Our motivation drives us to use our talents, but fear holds us back. If you’ve read any successful person’s biography, they didn’t sit around watching TV eating Bonbons. They worked hard, motivated to invent something, or move up the corporate ladder, or create a new kind of art, or rob a bank, or take over the world with death and destruction. Motivated people keep working at it, whatever it is.

The people you don’t read about are the chickens, like me. I can honestly say that fear holds me back from just about everything in life. Fear of rejection keeps me from submitting things to newspapers and magazines, or trying to find an agent for the book I wrote. Their rejections are anti-motivation. They lead to months of sulking and a ten-pound weight gain that will only begone after several months of dieting, returning instantaneously, dragging another couple of pounds with it.

Fear keeps me from following through on good ideas – fear that people will think I’m a nincompoop, or that it must be a bad idea if I came up with it.

Fear also keeps me from doing more good in the world. Will the person I’m thinking about helping always want more – if I give them an inch will they take a mile?

I do have moments – times when I step into the abyss of courage. Afterward I’m elated, but that’s usually followed by the torment of questions in my head like, “Why did you…?” and “Why didn’t you…?”

But in spite of these worrisome questions, I feel motivated to surmount my fears and Just Do It. Tomorrow. 

Right now I’m gonna have another hearty bowl of stew, eat some Bonbons, and catch a few old movies on TV.