The Pattern of Growth in Life

Bill Abbate

All life has small beginnings. Did you know that a gamete (sperm) is the smallest cell in the human body? At the other end of the spectrum, the ovum (egg) is the largest cell in the body yet is still very small. These two tiny cells start the creation of every human being.

We see this pattern repeated in all living things. Every animal, insect, and other form of life requires fertilization. Every living thing increases in size or changes in shape during its life. While all living things have growth and change in common, only change is a constant.

While growth will cease at some point, change continues until we cease to exist. Even after death, the body continues to change and deteriorate. Only one thing has the potential for growth throughout our lifetime - our mind.

From the time we are born to the moment we die, a normal functioning mind can learn new things. Once life ceases, what happens? You either cease to exist altogether or continue in the universe or into heaven, depending on what you believe. Nonetheless, there is no further degradation of the mind after death.

The pattern of growth throughout life

Leaving aside the physical and focusing on the mental, few limits exist on the growth of our minds. We start with the small seed of a few words as an infant, growing to about 50 words by age one. By age three, we hit an estimated 1,000 words and continue to grow to about 10,000 words by age five. By the time the average person enters college, they will know more than 20,000 words, ultimately peaking at just over 30,000 words around 40 years old. Our vocabulary can continue to grow past 40 but at a slower rate.

This growth does not stop, with Science Direct claiming the vocabulary of the average person peaks at 67 years old while understanding and learning new information peaks at around 50. Of course, those are averages, and there are always exceptions. Considering many people are not lifelong learners, such ages are no surprise.

Then there is wisdom. When we are young, we have a limited or small amount of wisdom. Our wisdom increases with age, coming from learning and experience, each of which can continue to the end of life.

Starting small

We are creative beings in part because of the continual growth of our minds. Anything and everything created by mankind follows the pattern of starting from something small. It could be something as simple as an idea, morphing into the physical and growing over time.

"All great things have small beginnings." Peter Senge (1947-present)

Think about the finest cathedrals in the world. They originated in someone's mind, starting with laying one stone or brick on the foundation. Barely noticeable at the beginning, brick by brick, the building rises into the air. Over time it grows into a magnificent structure towering into the sky.

Before the United States became a country, someone had an idea. A small number of individuals believed the idea. Over time they gained support, overcoming every obstacle in their path. In the end, they built what was to become the greatest country ever to exist.

Look what the original two people started thousands of years ago. They procreated and have now filled the planet with nearly 8 billion people!

"Such a big miracle in such a tiny baby. Big things often have small beginnings. A baby is God's opinion that life should go on." Carl Sandburg (1878-1969)

Everything we humans touch and think can grow. We grow simple things like our savings by putting away a few dollars at a time. We grow ourselves by going to school and continuing to learn through life. Many people grow from one small achievement to the next, continuing the pattern until they create great things.

Could mankind have put men on the moon without small beginnings? Could anything be accomplished in life without small beginnings? No. The importance of small beginnings has been documented for thousands of years:

"Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel's hand." Zechariah 4:10 NLT

Applying the concept of small beginnings in our lives

Why not apply this concept to anything you want to create in life? If you want to create a great career, start with what you have, however small it may be, and build on it. You can do the same thing with your marriage, a sport, a hobby, a friendship, and anything else. All you have to do is appreciate the small things you have already accomplished and build on them.

"Have confidence that if you have done a little thing well, you can do a bigger thing well, too." Joseph Storey (1723-1975)

A personal example is when I wrote my book. For 20 years, I wanted to write, starting and stopping, failing over and over again. Coming face to face with a near-death experience, I finally woke up!

A big part of my problem getting started was not having a clear vision of what I wanted to create. I believed until I had that clarity, I would do nothing but waste time. Little did I realize that idea itself was a waste of time!

I finally decided to create a book to help people chart a better course for their life journey. Being somewhat of a perfectionist, I was overthinking it. From my years of business experience, I knew that I would begin to make headway if I would only start. At first, I attempted to build on the many notes I had made over the years. I soon found them a distraction.

"The secret of getting ahead is getting started." Mark Twain (1835-1910)

It finally hit me I must do one thing and one thing only - write! By sitting down every day and putting words on the page, I started bringing all of my life to bear on my work. In it was the decades of experience, knowledge, emotions, feelings, beliefs, and everything else that made me who I was.

I had done enough planning and finally quit worrying about finishing the next chapter. I only needed to focus on the day's writing. Little by little, stone by stone, I build a book!

The book was finished and edited within months and has done well. Is it perfect? No, I never intended for it to be perfect. Besides, it never could be. The old me would have always gone back to refine it or add more, but I have overcome that temptation. The sales numbers speak for themselves. I have had many great reviews and feedback. I had accomplished my primary mission of writing something to help people.

"Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step." Laozi (born 571 BC)

A funny thing happened after publishing the book. I had the urge to start writing articles based on some of what was in the book.

Since learning that a perfect plan was not necessary to create, I started writing each day. Since that decision, this is the 582nd article I will have published! All I did was start small, and here I sit, writing an article a day with no end in sight. My only hope now is I can continue to help people live a better life, so all I write has that end in mind.

I would never have dreamed writing that 50,000-word book would have led me to write and publish articles containing more than 600,000 words to date! That is equivalent to writing 12 additional books!

Why did it take me so long to start! Better late than never, as the old saying goes!

Final thoughts

Why not apply this principle of building on small beginnings in your life? When you do so, you can build something magnificent, brick upon brick. May what you create be like one of those magnificent cathedrals towering high into the sky!

"It all adds up; never discount your efforts, because small efforts build big things. One word doesn't make a novel, but one word does begin a novel, and from that small beginning everything else follows. Even if it's just 'The', write something on that blank page." Laurell K. Hamilton (1963-present)

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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