Rocks Pebbles Sand :: illustrated story on setting priorities 4

Rocks Pebbles Sand is a story has been circulating around the internet for years. Nobody knows who actually wrote it. I re-wrote it a little to suit my own nefarious purposes. Watch this video first then read the rest of the story below.

One of life’s important lessons is to place most important things first. This story is about how to transform your actions to match your priorities. Or maybe you should just eat more mayo. I don’t know. You decide what Rocks Pebbles Sand story means.

Rocks Pebbles Sand

A wise philosophy professor met with his students in a grad university auditorium. The professor had been lecturing for 20 years, but he never tired of teaching this one particular lesson. He stood in front of his students in silence waiting patiently for each one to settle into their seats. When he sensed that he had everybody’s attention he picked up a large, empty and cleaned mayonnaise jar from underneath his desk and proceeded to fill it with rocks about two inches in diameter all the way to the top of the jar. With a confident look and a knowing smile he asked : “Raise your hand if you think this jar is full”. The students agreed that it was. So the professor picked up a box of small pebbles hidden under the desk and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar gently. The pebbles, rolled into the empty spaces between the larger rocks. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They answered in unison that it was.

The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. The sound of the sand rustling against the stones filled the while the sand flowed into the remaining spaces between the pebbles and the rocks.

“Now, “ said the professor raising his voice to a higher pitch, “I want you to contemplate this full mayonnaise jar as if it was your life. The rocks are the most important things – your family, your partner, your health, your children (when and if you have them one day) – 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 career, your home, your passions. The sand is everything else -The small stuff, paying bills, entertainment, keeping the kitchen cupboard organized.

rocks pebbles sand

“If you put the sand into the jar first, there will be no room for the pebbles and the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on getting the car fixed or observing the lives of others, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.”
“Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with children. Spend time with your partner. There will always be time to go to the mall, clean the house, give a dinner party, or wash the carpet.”

“Take care of the rocks first – the things that are of upmost importance. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.” The professor paused. This is when he would search in his students’ eyes a moment of recognition. He savored seeing the aha! percolate through the malleable minds of the young and restless.

rocks pebbles and sand illustration

This time, however, something new happened -something unexpected. A student stood up and in slow pace walked up to the professors desk. He took the jar, which the other students and the professor had agreed was full, and proceeded to pour in a cup of coffee.

The coffee flowed into the remaining spaces within the container making swooshy sounds as the liquid made the jar even fuller. “See!” the student beamed with delight. “The moral of this tale is: No matter how full your life is, there is always room for sharing a cup of coffee with a friend.
On that day it was the professor’s turn to do the learning.

rocks pebbles and sand picture

Whenever I eat fresh figs, I get the sense that I have entered heaven. They are hard to come by in Vancouver. When they appear in the grocery store they are priced out of reach. However we know a friend who miraculously managed to grow a tree in his backyard. Every year he shares the harvest with us. Boy! do we feel lucky. So when a large box of them arrived last week, my over enthusiasm seeped into the video I was working on.

rocks pebbles and sand on the professors head

So what do you think the Rocks Pebbles Sand story means? And if you could change anything in it what would it be?

You can look up my Russian salad recipe, featured in the video, here.

This Rocks Pebbles Sand story inspired me to create a unique illustration style which I used in a story On Finding Purpose. I hope you enjoy reading it.

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