Filed Under (Life, Stuff) by Sean on April-13-2010

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.’

Filed Under (Life) by Sean on February-1-2008

Well, happy February 2008! To those that know me, I used January to detox, i.e., not drink. Not a single drop (I’m talking CH2H5OH here). My last drink before tonight was new year’s toast, a strike after midnight January 1.

I did this for a lot of reasons, but primarily because December was the month of lushness. My birthday was the first week of December; with the many holidays thereafter, parties, etc., the drinking was progressing at an accelerated rate. I hadn’t had any major problems or any single catalyst to decide I was going to take January off, just the simple notion of taking a break.

What a great break it was. Luckily, it was a lot easier to abstain than I ever thought (and being of German and French lineage, this was a good thing). The interesting thing was I never had a real compulsion to drink, even amongst the merriment of margarita friday and other merry gatherings with my friends. I have good friends, so they were supportive of my decision and never thought twice about it (they even congratulated me on my sticking to my personal goal).

I really never thought anything of it. Until January 11. All the sudden, it hit me. Where was I getting all this energy? Why wasn’t I suffering from the usual mid-afternoon coma during the week? Why was my mental acuity on high alert and why was I able to focus on tasks so easily? Why did I have energy levels I hadn’t had since adolescence? BAM! It hit me. No booze! Wow. It never really occurred to me how profound a simple decision would be in terms of its effect. I cannot possibly overstate how much not drinking for a month improved my sleep, increased my energy, elevated my mood, and dozens of other positive side effects.

A myriad of other benefits resulted from my abstinence. I took back up with vigor hobbies I hadn’t paid adequate attention to, namely musical composition and cooking. My creativity flourished. I also had the energy and focus to follow up on many projects I had promised to get done for many months. This blog was one of those projects. I finally finished the web application for scoring and tracking scores for my parents’ bridge league, which I promised to get done a year earlier. Additionally, my business partner, Philip, joined me in abstaining which allowed us collectively to begin 2008 on a good note. Given the fact that I dissolved my previous business relationship and lost a huge amount of momentum in 2007, this is a good thing indeed. The other main benefit is not spending ridiculous amounts of $$$$ on booze. On average, during the last 3 years, I could have financed an Aston Martin or a new plane with bar tabs – this is no joke. It certainly makes you reevaluate your priorities.

In any case, I “celebrated” my making it through January with a couple of beers during happy hour and a glass of wine with dinner tonight. That compares to my typical 2007 Friday happy hour imbibing margaritas, consuming about a fifth of tequila in the process (that’s just happy hour, mind you). The good thing is I probably won’t have another drink for a week or two. I really don’t have any desire to at this point.

In the end, I found that booze was getting between me and the goals I had set for myself. It was costing me lots of money (exacerbated by the opportunity cost incurred by alternate projects for which that money could have been used), energy, and generally was keeping me from being at the top of my game.

I would say to anyone who’s feeling malaise or feeling they’re not achieving the goals that they’ve set for themselves (or just wonder where the hell a thousand bucks or more disappears ever few weeks) they may want to try getting off the sauce for a month. Make it a personal challenge. If you can do it, you can do anything; you’ll feel like you can do anything. If your friends give you shit about it or try to influence you with peer pressure, tell them to screw off; they’re not really your friends.

I certainly have no prejudice against drinking or those who drink; I’ve faced alcoholism front and center in my family on more than one occasion – it is an insidious disease. I hope this will be construed to be a positive message; that is my intent. I bid you adieu for the time being, since I’ve got an 8:30 tee time tomorrow morning, where I hope to pursue another one of my hobbies with vigor, clarity of purpose, and joy.