The Edmondson Blog

Applied Philosophy

A philosophy professor stood in front of his tutor group and put some items on the desk in front of him. When the class was ready to start he wordlessly picked up a very large empty clear glass jar and proceeded to fill it up with small rocks, about 2” in diameter. He then asked the students if they would agree that the jar was full. They all agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of small pebbles and gradually poured them into the jar as well, shaking the jar as he went until the pebbles rolled down amidst the gaps in the rocks. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. With some smiles they all agreed that it was.

He then picked up a box of fine sand and poured that into the jar. He asked once more if the jar was full. They all laughed and agreed unanimously.

The professor now produced from under the desk a bottle of fine champagne and poured it slowly into the jar. The students roared with laughter.

“Now,” said the Professor, as the laughter and talking subsided, “I want you to recognise that this jar represents your life. The rocks are the important things – your family, your partner, your health, your children – 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, etc. The sand is everything else – the little stuff.”

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued “there is no space for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have time for the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take the time to have a medical check-up. Take your partner out to dinner. Visit your family. There will always be time to clean the house, give a party and fix the car. Take care of the rocks first - the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just fine sand.

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the bottle of champagne represented. The professor grinned and said, “I’m glad you asked. It just proves that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a good bottle of fizz!”

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