The Glass Jar Metaphor

Antoine Tournissoux

A professor stood before his class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty jar. He then proceeded to fill the jar with golf balls.

“Is the jar full?” he asked his students. “Yes,” everyone responded.

The professor then picked up a box of marbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly; the marbles rolled into the areas between the golf balls.

“Is the jar full?” he asked again. The students responded with an unanimous: “Yes.”

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course the sand filled up all the space left.

He asked once more: “Is the jar full?”. “Yes, of course,” everyone responded.

The professor then pulled out two beers from under the desk and poured them entirely into the jar, filling the empty space between the sand.

Everyone laughed.

“Now,” the professor said 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, health, friends and favorite passions. If everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The marbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house or 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 marbles 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 critical to your happiness.

Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit your grandparents. Take your spouse out for dinner. Go out with your friends. There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn.

Take care of the golf balls 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 am glad you asked. The beer just shows that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of beers with a friend.”

Thanks to Hoss Layne for sharing this story with us today at Exosphere during our final session, it drove the point home.

Antoine Tournissoux

Written by

Figuring things out.

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