The Mayonnaise Jar

It’s a good day to be reminded of what’s important in life :)

(SPOILER ALERT: it’s not money!)

“The Mayonnaise Jar”

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.

When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and fills 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 it 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 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 – God, family, children, health, friends, and favorite passions. Things, that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the things that matter like your job, house, and car. The sand is everything else — the small stuff.” he said.

“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…” he told them.

“So… pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Worship with your family. Play with your children. Take your partner out to dinner. Spend time with good friends. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the dripping tap. 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 and said, “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.”

Happy Memorial Day, everyone :)

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  1. Smart Provisions May 29, 2017 at 5:25 AM

    Happy Memorial Day, J$!

    I’ve always liked this story as it shows that no matter how busy or full one’s life is, there’s always time to do the things we love, especially with our loved ones.

  2. Budget on a Stick May 29, 2017 at 5:45 AM

    I’ve heard that one before in the past always gets me to smile

  3. Josh May 29, 2017 at 6:02 AM

    I’ve read this before before as well, but with a small twist. Instead of coffee, it was beer. :D

    1. J. Money May 29, 2017 at 11:04 AM

      That one works too :)

  4. The Giving Budget May 29, 2017 at 6:37 AM

    I love this story and how it is told! No matter how busy we get, and we all get very busy, we need to focus on the things that matter to us!

    And I couldn’t agree more about the coffee ☕️

  5. MyMoneyDesign May 29, 2017 at 7:27 AM

    Great life lesson! Especially the part about the coffee at the end. I’m enjoying some of that with the wife right now.

  6. Mrs. Groovy May 29, 2017 at 7:33 AM

    I never heard this before, thanks! Focus on what you value most. Don’t pay attention to the incidental. And even when life is filled to the brim, you can always make room for more love.

  7. Mustard Seed Money May 29, 2017 at 7:45 AM

    I saw this demonstration on Youtube. It’s incredible and I love it. Such a powerful message.
    Thanks for sharing!!!

  8. Owen @ PlanEasy May 29, 2017 at 8:10 AM

    Ha! I’ve never heard it with the coffee ending, that’s great. I’m a visual learner so this metaphor always appealed to me.

    1. Vicki@Make Smarter Decisions May 29, 2017 at 8:14 AM

      Same here about the coffee ending! We learned about this in our leadership coursework, but it is a good lesson for everyone to keep in mind.

      1. J. Money May 29, 2017 at 11:05 AM

        Smart to include it in a leadership course!

  9. Dividend Diplomats May 29, 2017 at 8:40 AM

    J –

    Solid day for that article, sometimes we get too warped into the smaller things and lose sight on the big things. Well put.


  10. Dave May 29, 2017 at 9:47 AM

    Thanks for sharing that story. It is fitting for Memorial Day. Time with loved ones and enjoying what we are passionate about is what really matters.

  11. Ms. Frugal Asian Finance May 29, 2017 at 9:55 AM

    Wow that a meaningful story! The spoiler alert says it’s not about money. But I think it kind of is. If we fill out minds with thoughts about money, we don’t have any time to think about family, friends, and other things that matter more. No one can live without money, but no one can live happily only with money.

    1. J. Money May 29, 2017 at 11:06 AM

      I’ll give you that :)

  12. Mrs. Picky Pincher May 29, 2017 at 10:16 AM

    Thanks for the reminder. :) While I don’t think it’s possible to have a “happy” Memorial Day, it’s crucial to remember the sacrifices of fallen soldiers today. We owe our collective gratitude and memory to the fallen.

  13. FullTimeFinance May 29, 2017 at 10:18 AM

    I’ve never heard that one. I especially like the end bit about the coffee;). Very important point though, it’s too easy to get stuck on the pursuit of the small things.

  14. Brian May 29, 2017 at 10:33 AM

    There are some great video’s of this too!

    Happy Memorial Day!

  15. Mrs. Adventure Rich May 29, 2017 at 10:48 AM

    What a perfect reminder on a beautiful Memorial Day! Thank you for the inspiration!

  16. Mike May 29, 2017 at 11:15 AM

    I’ve heard that story told many times and it always makes me smile. What a great reminder to focus on the important things in life.

  17. Dads Dollars Debts May 29, 2017 at 12:03 PM

    Never heard this one. It is great. Thanks for sharing!

  18. Logica @ The Land of Logic May 29, 2017 at 2:06 PM

    It’s also for how you spend your money. The biggest rocks are for the things you value most, housing, food, savings…. take care of the big things in your budget before the little extras.

    1. J. Money May 29, 2017 at 3:16 PM

      True also!

  19. Grant @ Life Prep Couple May 29, 2017 at 4:35 PM

    You just gotta be sure you don’t fill up on coffee and forget to get the golf balls in.

    1. J. Money June 6, 2017 at 6:27 PM

      Yup! Exactly the point :)

  20. Yaz | The Wallet Moth May 29, 2017 at 9:38 PM

    I love this story. I great reminder to remember what (and who) is most important to us and not to just focus on the small stuff.

  21. Lily @ The Frugal Gene May 29, 2017 at 10:57 PM

    Awwwww I never heard of that – or anything close to that!!! That’s probably the best thing I’ve read ALL week. Happy memorial day to you too! :)

    1. J. Money June 6, 2017 at 6:28 PM

      Oh good, I’m so glad you liked! It’s a classic!

  22. Adriana @MoneyJourney May 30, 2017 at 4:00 AM

    I do believe money is important, but without anyone to share the wealth with, life is just sad and empty. I’ve heard that story a few years ago, but I’m glad it’s still “around”, the message is very powerful!

  23. Lisa O May 30, 2017 at 8:50 AM

    What a great read…I have never heard it before! We spent time with family this weekend and friends and my take away was we don’t have it perfect but we sure do have it good!

    Hope your Memorial Day was a good one!

    1. J. Money June 6, 2017 at 6:28 PM

      “We don’t have it perfect but we sure do have it good!”

      hard to complain about that :)

  24. Mr. Tako May 30, 2017 at 12:57 PM

    Great story J$! Thanks for sharing!

    We can all get caught up in the small things from time to time — good reminder to focus on the big things first!

  25. Phil @ PhilanthroCapitalist May 31, 2017 at 2:07 PM

    NGL I normally hate stories like this, but that hit me right in the feels.

    1. J. Money June 6, 2017 at 6:33 PM

      No idea what NGL means, but glad your feels are on fire, haha…

  26. Eric @ The Money Xpert June 1, 2017 at 9:34 PM

    Happy Memorial Day J$! I’ve seen this before but it was an awesome reminder.

    I also wanted to say that I’ve been following you for some time and I’m a huge fan and you’ve really inspired me – so thank you!

    1. J. Money June 6, 2017 at 6:35 PM

      Rock on – thanks man! So glad you’re enjoying! Going over now to check out your own blog :)

  27. Femme Frugality June 8, 2017 at 12:15 PM

    Aw I love this! We had a Sunday School teacher demonstrate this for us when I was a kid in church. I like to think it stuck with me, but as an adult, I definitely get stuck on the pebbles sometimes. The pressure to provide and succeed, while I intellectually know is not the most important thing, sometimes takes over in practicality if I’m honest. Good reminder to focus on the golf balls. :)