Academia vs. karate, part two: a tale of two tales.

by Ryan Gregory, May 17th, 2012

Here is another interesting parallel between academia and the martial arts (both links courtesy of Sensei Kao Chao). These tell more or less the same story with the same moral. However, one attributes the lesson to a karate instructor and the other to a professor.

A philosopher and teacher of the ‘Way’ began addressing his students. He produced, from behind a screen, a large glass container and a box of fist-sized rocks. After a few moments of carefully placing the rocks into the glass container, he came to a point where no more would fit. He then turned to his students and asked: “Is it full?” “Yes,” came the reply.
He then produced a smaller box of pebbles and managed to fit a few more stones into the container.
“Is it full?” he asked again.
“Yes, it is now,” was the answer.
From a small bucket he began to pour gravel into the spaces between the rocks and pebbles, every now and then shaking the container until no more would go in.
“Is it full?”
“Probably not!” his students replied.
Out came a cup of the finest sand, and the teacher began to pour. With just a few gentle shakes, he was able to bring the contents of the container to the very brim.
“Is it full?”
Next came a pitcher of water and with this he allowed the liquid to drip slowly into the container until, in time, the pitcher was empty.
“And now, is it full?” he said.
“Yes,” the students shouted. “It’s full! It’s full!”
“So,” asked the teacher, “what have you learned today?”
One eager young man jumped to his feet and said, “No matter how full your life is, there’s always room for more.”
“Thank you,” said his teacher, “but that is not the point I was making. What I was trying to show was that you have to get the important things in life, the ‘big rocks’, in place first; otherwise, you will never fit them in.”
Source: Big Rocks: The Hidden Values of Traditional Karate
A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.
The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous “yes.”The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor 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, your health, your friends and your favorite passions–and 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 and your 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 pebbles 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 that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. 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 coffee represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked.

It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”

Source: The Mayonnaise Jar and Two Cups of Coffee


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