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The Lesson

The Lesson

February 21, 2019

A while back I was reading about an expert on the subject of time management.  One day the expert was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration those students will never forget. As this man stood in front of the group of high-powered overachievers, he said, “Okay, time for a quiz.”

Then he pulled out a large wide-mouthed jar and set it on the table in front of him. He reached under the table and began to fill the jar with large, smooth river rocks. When the rocks reached the rim, he asked, ”Is this jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.” 

Then he said, “Really?” 

He reached under the table and produced a sack of marbles and began adding them to the jar. When no more would fit, he asked the group again, “Is the jar full?”  Most said, “Yes.” Some hung back, and one student said, “Probably not!” 

“Good!” he replied. He reached down and showed them a bag of small pebbles and added them to the jar. Soon, he asked again, “Is it full?” 

By this time, the class, wary of being wrong and seeing a theme, agreed in unison, “No!”

“Right again!” he exclaimed, and the professor produced a bag of dry beach sand. He gradually poured sand into the jar, shaking it so it filled the crevices between the stones, marbles and pebbles. He stopped when it, too, reached the rim

“And now?” he asked. Many were reluctant to reply, but the more strident students yelled “Yes!”

This time, he said nothing, but walked over to a box on the floor and showed them two paper cups of coffee and poured them into the jar, filling it to the very top. 

Then he looked up at the class and asked, "What is the meaning of this exercise?"

One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!”

“No,” the speaker replied, “it might seem so on the surface, but that's not the point."

He explained: "The big rocks represent the essential things in your life: what matters most to you such as your family and your ethics or standards. The marbles are those things you have learned, your education and how to cope. The pebbles are tangible things that are important, but not irreplaceable: your job, a house, your car. The sand represents all those little things that eat up your days with ‘busy-ness,’ the trivial distractions of life.

“The real truth this illustration teaches us is this: The smaller things can drown out the big; they can distract us from what is important. If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you may never get them in at all.” 

"So, what does the coffee represent?" asked one student. 

"I'm so glad you asked," replied the Professor, smiling. "No matter how full your life is, there is always room for a cup of coffee with a colleague or a friend."

What are the ‘big rocks’ in your life?

A project YOU want to accomplish?  Time with your loved ones?  Your Faith, further education, your finances?  A cause?  Teaching or mentoring others?  Remember to put these BIG ROCKS (and marbles) in first, or you may never get to them . . .

So, tonight or in the morning when you are reflecting on this story, ask yourself this question: WHAT are the ‘big rocks’ in my life or business? Then, make sure to position them in YOUR jar first.