Rocky start

21 02 2011

As I was writing the previous post,  I was reminded of this story narrated by Stephen Covey in his book First Things First about an experience of one of his associates.  (Then I found the YouTube clip which says it so much better.)

How about sometime when life is not so full, getting a container and some rocks, gravel, sand and water and have a play session.  You could do it as a “science” experiment with a child if you can’t allow yourself time to play. 

“Doing” may help it all make sense. 



In the middle of a lecture the presenter pulled out a wide-mouth jar and placed it on the table, along with some fist-sized rocks.

After filling the jar to the top with rocks he asked, “Is the jar full?”  People could see that no more rocks would fit, so they replied, “Yes!”  “Not so fast,” he cautioned.  He then got some gravel from under the table and added it to the jar, filling the spaces between the rocks.  Again, he asked, “Is the jar full?”  This time the students replied “Probably not.”  The presenter then reached a bucket of sand below the table, and dumped it on the jar, filling the spaces between the rocks and the gravel.  Once again he asked “Is the jar full?”  “No!” the students shouted.  Finally, he grabbed a pitcher of water and filled the jar completely, asking the audience what was the point of this illustration.


One of the participants answered, “You can always fit more into your life.” (Great answer!) 


Perhaps surprisingly, that was not what the presenter was driving at.  Here’s what he said – “The point is, if you don’t put the big rocks in first. . . would you ever have got any of them in?”


It’s a neat little story.  And I can respond in one of two ways – I can dismiss it as a device for livening up the after-lunch-when-everyone-falls-asleep- seminar; or I can take time out to think.








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