I’ve seen this story in a number of variations over the years, and it always helps to bring me some perspective when times are tough. Running across it again in the PARW Spotlight (one of my executive resume writing professional association newsletters) this morning, it really struck a chord as I witness my executive clients and potential clients in distress every day with the realities of the economy and job market. So, I reprint this story for you:
The Mayonnaise Jar and the Beers
Students began to file into the classroom. A physics professor stood before his class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, without saying a word, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.
He held up the mayonnaise jar filled to the top with golf balls and asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He then shook the jar lightly and the pebbles rolled into the open spaces between the golf balls. He once again asked the students if the jar was full. Tentatively, they agreed it was. The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else and he again asked if the jar was full. This time the students responded with a unanimous “yes.”
The professor then, unexpectedly, produced two cans of beer from under the lectern and poured the entire contents into the jar – effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed. “Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things – your faith, your family, your children, your health, your friends and your dreams… things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.
“The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else – the small stuff. You see, if you were to put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there would be no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are most important to you.
“So my message today is this: Identify and focus on the golf balls of your life – those few things that are most important to you; those few things that truly make you happy. Play with your children and don’t take their good health for granted. In fact, take time to get medical checkups and don’t neglect your own health. Take your partner out to dinner, snuggle, take a walk and hold hands. Don’t take for granted those things you actually take for granted – like your eyesight, your hearing and the fact that you can walk. Use these gifts of appreciation – the golf balls – to address and overcome life’s other adversities – the pebbles. Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. Then with your values and priorities firmly established, you will better be able to address the challenges you have with the pebbles.”
One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem or what adversities you might face – there’s always room for a couple of beers.”
Maybe Obama was thinking of this story when he scheduled his “Beer Summit”? Who knows? But you’ll be happier and reduce the stress of hard economic times and an uncertain employment future if you focus first on the golf balls. Then sit down with your family and discuss how to best handle the pebbles. Develop a plan to manage your finances (or what’s left of them) in this economy. Next, if a new job is required, get together a knock ’em dead executive resume and search strategy and launch your campaign with the confidence and peace of mind that having the golf balls in place will give you.
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