"Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity. And you’re keeping all of them in the air. But one day, you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back.
The other four balls — family, health, friends, integrity — are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered. And once you truly understand the lesson of the five balls, you will have beginnings of balance in your life."
James Patterson, Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas
For years I have failed time and time again to juggle the multiple balls within my life. This delicate balancing act would inevitably result in at least one of these balls, areas of my life, falling to the ground.
To be honest, the ball that seems to keep hitting the ground the most is the "Jeff" ball, my personal ball. I would often find myself ensuring that all the other balls would continue to be juggled perfectly while shrugging my shoulders when mine would scuff and nick. The thought "it's ok, it's not like I breaking to pieces here, everyone is experiencing this level of damage, I'm nothing special. Keep moving along!", would constantly play on repeat within my mind.
Over the years this has led to the quality and image of my ball being slowly sacrificed in an attempt to ensure maximum performance in all the other areas of my life. I thought this was a great idea, after all, I found success in all these other areas and assured myself that a few dropped juggles wouldn't impact my life in the grand scheme. Sound familiar?
I heard a story this week that gave me an opportunity to alter my perspective that I wanted to share with you.
A master was attempting to teach a particularly driven individual a vital lesson, being present in the moment. All of his attempts to teach this individual this important message had failed. The master had tried stories, first-hand accounts, and every approach he could think of. Finally, the master thought of a new hands-on approach.
The master instructed the student to make a loop around the grounds while holding a spoon full of oil without spilling any.
The student eager to please his master and to impress upon his master that he was the best fit for this task, immediately set out to accomplish his loop. After a short time, the student promptly returned, eager to prove to the master he excelled in his assigned task.
Seeing the smirk on the student's face and the spoon still full of oil, the master asked a string of questions.
While you were performing your task, tell me, did you enjoy the ancient tapestries hung on the walls?
Did you see the grain pattern within the marble?
Did you notice the world-renowned library and the books offered within?
The master continued this line of questioning until the smirk was completely erased from the student's face. Knowing the lesson was planted, the master once more instructed the student to walk the grounds while holding the spoon of oil.
This time the student embarked on his task with a renewed sense of purpose and laser focus on more than the assigned task, to not spill the oil while making his loop.
Upon return the student eagerly awaited the master's line of questioning, knowing that he had the correct answers to the previous questions asked. Instead, the master asked new questions upon his return. Again, the student was not able to give the answers his master looked for.
This loop of task and questioning continued until the student finally saw the point the master was attempting to make. When the student noticed the point was not to asses whether the task could be performed to the utmost of standards alone, yet to perform to the standards while taking in his surroundings around him and being present in each moment the student bowed deeply and thanked the master for his patience and lesson.
Through hearing this story I began to realize that I too am preoccupied with the completion of my daily task.
Wake up at 0530; Check
Say goodbye to my kids and wife prior to leaving for work; Check
Check my email; Check
Perform my daily task; Check
Head Home and fall into a slump of eating dinner, couch potato, head to bed; Check
Repeat for 40 years, Retire and then be happy; Check
All of these tasks are performed daily with very little consideration for the various accents of my life. Often I miss the obvious details that are right in front of my eyes. I miss the coworker who is off due to an argument with a spouse. I miss the opportunity to see the breathtaking sunrise and sunsets that occur daily. The opportunity to truly connect with my children and become intentional with my interactions. I even voluntarily forgo the easy daily opportunities to work on myself.
Instead, I have been so focused on quickly finishing my task while safekeeping the oil in my spoon, that I have missed out on the world around me. I have missed the joy and laughter of playing with my children on a warm summer night. I have missed the opportunity to show my spouse my appreciation and love for them. I have poured my everything into a task with minimal repercussions.
I always had the perception that life is limited and that the oil on my spoon is all the oil ill ever have. I need to be a good steward of my oil, of the recourses that I am given. What happens when the oil falls from the spoon? Failure, obviously.
Wrong! Instead, I have learned that life is full of oil, I can simply fill it up again and continue walking. I can refill my oil by utilizing others to help me juggle those balls that require less attention on my side. Orbs such as work tasks that can be completed by others just as well as if I completed them myself! I have learned to set aside my self-pride and ask others for help while I focus on those orbs that truly matter.
Remember: Don't lose sight of those intangible beauties around you.