Published by Lori Pickert on November 19, 2007 at 01:45 AM


Above, an unfinished ornament for one of the boys. Will I feel guilty when I cross-stitch "2004" on it? No way.

As I spent today enjoying myself with family instead of writing a blog post, I'm going to enhance this post with one of my favorite little zen stories. You've probably already heard it, but it's still good.

Stephen Covey relates this story in his book First Things First:

In the middle of a seminar on time management, a lecturer said, "Okay, it's time for a quiz." Reaching under the table, he pulled out a wide mouthed gallon jar and set it on the table next to a platter covered with fist-sized rocks. "How many of these rocks do you think we can get in the jar?" he asked the audience.

After the students made their guesses, the seminar leader said, "Okay, let's find out." He put one rock in the jar, then another, then another--until no more rocks would fit. Then he asked, "Is the jar full?"

Everybody could see that not one more of the rocks would fit, so they said, "Yes."

"Not so fast," he cautioned. From under the table he lifted out a bucket of gravel, dumped it in the jar, and shook it. The gravel slid into all the little spaces left by the big rocks. Grinning, the seminar leader asked once more, "Is the jar full?"

A little wiser by now, the students responded, "Probably not."

"Good," the teacher said. Then he reached under the table to bring up a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in the jar. While the students watched, the sand filled in the little spaces left by the rocks and gravel. Once more he looked at the class and said, "Now, is the jar full?"

"No," everyone shouted back.

"Good!" said the seminar leader, who then grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it into the jar. He got something like a quart of water into that jar before he said, "Ladies and gentlemen, the jar is now full. Can anybody tell me the lesson you can learn from this? What's my point?"

An eager participant spoke up: "Well, there are gaps in your schedule. And if you really work at it, you can always fit more into your life."

"No," the leader said. "That's not the point. The point is this: if I hadn't put those big rocks in first, I would never have gotten them in."

I've got my big rocks ready. Hope yours all get in this year.


Comment by Laura on November 19, 2007 at 02:49 AM

My (very religious) sister threw me a baby shower and actually did this demonstration, using it to say that all things in life will fall into place if we put following God first. I happen to be much less religious, so I enjoyed this version of the story much more.

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 19, 2007 at 04:15 AM


i heard this story a loooong time ago. (stephen covey didn't claim to write it, just passed it along.) but every time i hear it, it still gets to me. probably because it's so true.

Comment by Bandana Banshee on September 28, 2016 at 12:15 AM

Okay, I know I'm a million years late commenting on this, but the version I heard was that instead of water, the lecturer poured coffee in. When asked about why he poured in coffee, he said, "Because you can always fit in a cup of coffee." ;)

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