always room for a beer or two


Here’s a lovely story, perhaps an apocryphal one, which is about making sure that we focus on the important stuff in our life, rather than filling it up with the small stuff that doesn’t matter.

a philosophy class

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 jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

So 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 everywhere else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “yes” (although perhaps they should have known better, by now).

The professor then produced two cans of beer from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty spaces between the grains of sand. The students laughed.

a metaphor for your life

“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, your 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, 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 partner out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house, to fix the lawn mower.

“Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

what about the beer?

One of the students raised her hand and enquired what the beer 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 beers.”

the important stuff

We like this story because our financial life planning service is all about helping clients sort out what is the important stuff, the golf balls, in their lives.

And then ensuring their finances work towards living the life they want – where there’s plenty of room for the golf balls….and a beer!

the photo

It’s from the dream sequence in the Coen Brother’s ‘A Serious Man’, when Larry gives a lecture about Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle (photo: Focus Features). You can watch the scene here.

any questions?

If you’ve got a query about this, or any other aspect of your financial life, Nick would be delighted to help.  You can email him on