The Mayonnaise Jar

I didn’t write the humourous little story below, and I can’t find credit for it anywhere. It’s been floating around the internet for a few years, but I first knew it as the Mayonnaise Jar. It arrived again in my inbox recently from a friend, only this time with a new little touch at the end where the water’s been changed to 2 glasses of adult content. You’ve  most likely read it before, but it never hurts to have one of life’s little reminders float across your desktop or screen every now and then.

It just about sums up my life right now – exhausted finishing off report cards, all fired up starting an entirely new 21st Century term of learning with my students and participating in a Blended eLearning pilot project, digging deep into new TLLP activities with both teachers and kids, taking another PLP Network eCourse over the next 6 weeks, and most of all, returning from a phenomenal ABEL Leadership Summit in Toronto, with my mind still on a non-stop Spin Cycle with ideas, questions, challenges, and images of education in the future…

…and in the midst of all this organized chaos and change, being carried farther and farther beyond my retirement date each day… trying to find a clear path through the flotsam and jetsam for the next part of my life.

So I’m creating this jar and putting it on my desk at school TODAY.

Of course, there’s no question I’ll be using the water and Mayonnaise Jar version to explain it to my students when they ask, because they will!   (-;


When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 glasses of wine theory…

A professor stood before his philosophy class with some items on his desk in front of him. When the class began he 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 a unanimous “YES.”

The professor then produced two glasses of wine 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 favourite passions; things that 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 good 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 partner out to dinner. Play another 18 holes. Do one more run down the ski slope. 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 wine 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 glasses of wine with a friend.”


About Cathy Beach

Recently retired elementary teacher and outdoor educator in rural Ontario, Canada. My Olympic Journeys may be over, but they lead me into some very exciting adventures with teachers and kids and the world of connected learning...
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