Filed Under (Life, Stuff) by Sean on April 13th, 2010 at 4:03 pm

This is a story I’m sure you’ve read before. The old Mayonnaise Jar, Golf Balls and Two Beers. Maudlin? Yes. Glurge? You bet your life. Deep philosophy? Not so much. Not exactly the brightest students, either, I suppose. However, seeing as I’ve been going through a shit-ton of crap lately, with the loss of my oldest brother providing the exclamation point, I thought this worthwhile to post. There are versions that use coffee instead. The fact that it uses beer to tell a maxim makes it compulsory.

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the two beers .

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. 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. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’

The professor then produced two beers from under the table 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 family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions—and 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 and your car. The sand is everything else—the small stuff.

‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued, ‘there is 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 important to you.

‘Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents.. Visit with grandparents. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf ball first—the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.’

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented. The professor smiled and said, ‘I’m glad you asked.’

The beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of beers with a friend.’

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melissa on April 13th, 2010 at 10:35 pm #

I’d actually never heard this before, so thanks for sharing. And it’s so true.

I think for me probably the most powerful lesson of priorities came when I left for college. I was going into it a straight-A student, valedictorian, and there was no question that I was going to work hard and do well. I had good role models, too; my mom had been valedictorian of her small senior class and my dad had graduated summa cum laude from his university and had been kicking ass in accounting and finance ever since (and as far as I was concerned, could do no wrong).

At some point before my parents and I said our farewells and they left me to my new dorm, my dad told me, “Melissa, studying hard and doing your best in your classes is important, and I know you’ll do that. But even more important than that, you are going to have experiences and form relationships that in some cases will last you the rest of your life. Don’t ignore that.”

I was never what you’d call a workaholic but to hear that from one of the most intelligent and hardworking people I know–and one of the best people I know–really hit me, and ever since then I have had those words echoing in the back of my head. Doing your best and working hard is good, but there are things that are even more important. Don’t ignore them.

Sean on April 15th, 2010 at 12:43 am #

Well said, indeed, Melissa.

jeffrey bell on April 16th, 2010 at 9:12 am #

Very cool, simple and good to remind us of the important things indeed. But just one big question, what brand was the beer? Cause since its in the added bonus of life section I would want the best beer possible.

Sean on April 18th, 2010 at 8:04 pm #

You bet, Jeffrey. Life is too short for shitty beer.

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