September 10, 2008

On the first day of classes, after the mad fun of the orientation days and just as the reality of what lay ahead had begun to sink in (along with the weight of the textbooks), the engineering professor walked quietly into the waiting classroom. He brought four items with him: a bucket full of fist-sized rocks, a bucket full of fine gravel, a bucket full of sand, and a very large, empty mayonnaise jar.

He set them all on his desk. Then he emptied the bucket of rocks into the mayonnaise jar, just to the brim. He asked his students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up the bucket of gravel and poured it into the jar. He shook the jar lightly, and the pebbles rolled into the open areas between the larger rocks. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up the bucket of sand and poured it into the jar, and the sand found all the cracks between the pebbles and the rocks. Once again he asked if the jar was full, and once more the students answered "Yes".

From a drawer in the desk the professor then produced two bottles of beer. He opened them and, to much laughter, he poured their entire contents into the jar, filling the empty spaces between the sand.

As the laughter slowly subsided, the professor said, "This jar represents your life. The large rocks are the important things: your family, your children, your health, your friends, the passions which drive you. If everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter: your job, your house, your car. Then there are all the other small things: the sand.

"But if you put the sand into the jar first, there is no room left for the pebbles or the rocks. Exactly 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."

Then one student asked what the beers represented. The professor smiled. "The beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there is always room for a couple of beers with a friend."

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