The Big Rocks of Life

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Sometimes, it’s easy to focus too much on money and forget why money is important. To me, the most important reason to have money is so that my family and I can thrive– e.g., to pay for food, shelter, clothes, medicine, health care, etc. — the basic living needs. Once these basic needs are satisfied, money is important so that I can improve the quality of life for my family. Lastly, money is important because I want to be able to secure our financial future — e.g., our retirement, our children’s education, etc.

Unfortunately, too many people mistaken money itself as something important.

I would like to share a story that I really like with you. There are many variations of this story floating around. Here is a YouTube video version of the story:

Here is a text version, which I got from Piffe the Puffin:

The Big Rocks of Life!

One day a wise teacher was speaking to a group of his students. He pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.

When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?”

Everyone in the class said, “Yes.”

“Really?” he asked. “Let’s see.” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar, causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. Looking carefully from face to face, he smiled benevolently and asked again, “Is the jar full?”

His class was catching on quickly. “Probably not,” one of them answered.

“Very good!” he replied. He then reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. When he was finished he once again asked, “Is this jar full?”

“No!” the class shouted.

“Excellent!” he replied. Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and poured it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Once again looking intently into the eyes of each student, he asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”

One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!”

“Aha, that’s very good!” the teacher replied, “But let us look a bit deeper. This illustration also teaches us a higher truth: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you will never get them in at all!

So what are your big rocks in life?

Is it money, your career, or prestige? Perhaps, those are just gravel or sand that you’ve mistaken for big rocks.

Personally, my big rocks are my family and friends; particularly the happiness, security, and financial future of my family. This philosophy is why I don’t spend money on frivolous stuff like big-screen TVs, luxury cars, and Rolex watches.

I hope you enjoyed the story!

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16 years ago

Hi Pinyo, loved the story. I think that money is an excellent commodity, but let’s remember that’s all it is. We all need money to exist and like you point out, to feed our families, but we can’t get love or long term satisfaction from money itself. Money doesn’t have feelings, it doesn’t smile at you when you do something right or console you when you are feeling low it’s just a thing. Family, Friends and loved ones and in my case God are all much mre important. I doubt that there is a person alive on this planet who… Read more »

Mrs. Micah
16 years ago

Thanks for reminding me of the story. Very inspiring.

16 years ago

Totally agree. Money for money’s sake means nothing to me. Money for improving myself, for maintaining my health, helping others, spending tie with loved ones, and doing the things I love that make life special to me are what my money is for. I’m doing a series on Buddhism and money and Buddha’s views were very similar to what you wrote, money is meant to be used to give us a good life, it is not to be hoarded for its own sake, or amassed out of greed. I wrote a similar thought in a post I put up today… Read more »

16 years ago

I also love that story. To me, my big rock is a comfortable lifestyle. I don’t mean enough money to have the finer things, I mean actual comfort. Sitting on a really comfy couch with my wife watching a show we both like. Having a meaningful conversation with a friend. Eating a delicious meal. Falling asleep with my cat on my belly. To that end, financial security is important because if I’m stressed out about finances, I won’t have enough time to cook dinner, or BS with a friend. I also want to retire early-ish, so starting a retirement fund… Read more »

16 years ago

Well, Accumulating money for the sake of money would be like Scroogle McDuck swimming around in his money bin. It should be a means to an end not the end result in of itself.

16 years ago

I had heard that story before, but love it. It’s so true. Very inspiring and often too easy to forget.

I really liked what you said about people focusing on money and forgeting *why* money is important. My dad always had a saying when I was growing up that “Money is a Tool” and tried to teach us that it was just there to get what we wanted and to make sure to spend it on what we really wanted instead of wasting our tool. Your commentary at the top reminded me of that 🙂

16 years ago

Excellent story. Thanks for sharing.

16 years ago

I am a big believer in the big rock theory. You are better getting one important piece finished, rather than doing 50 at 2%!

AJ Cartwood
16 years ago

Big Rocks take Big Money. For example, here’s a post on why most people UNDER-ESTIMATE how much they really need to fund their Rocks, Gravel, Sand, and Water:


The Big Rocks of Life

by Pinyo Bhulipongsanon time to read: 2 min
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