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I don’t know if y’all know about my buddy Kevin Gillespie.

Kevin is one of my business partners, and a very near, very dear friend. But most importantly, Kevin sometimes serves as my personal accountability partner, and I serve as his. We make sure that the other doesn’t get too caught up in a quicksand pit of little things that, left unchecked, can consume you.

Sadly though, Kevin and I are busy guys. Between coming up with future strategies, working with our clients, and handling the day to day needs of our businesses and our employees, we can get pretty swamped. And sometimes, it gets overwhelming, and we can get caught in that sandpit.

But tell you what, every time one of us starts to get a little in over our heads, the other brings up a great story and fantastic life lesson that we learned some time ago, and I’d like to share it with y’all today.

The story is about a professor, an empty jar of pickles, and two cans of beer.

A college professor stood before his freshman philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he silently picked up a very large, empty pickle jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. Then the professor 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. Next, the professor 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 cracked open the two cans of beer 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 favorite passions – and 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 and so on.” “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. Spend time with your parents. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and do the laundry. Take care of the golf balls first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities… Life is not a dress rehearsal… The rest is just sand.” One of the students raised her hand and inquired 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 beer with a friend.”

Moral: Life is full of all sorts of distractions, worries, stresses. There can be a lot of “sand” in your life, but remember that the golf balls come first. You can deal with the sand later. Whenever life starts to get too full of sand, and you start struggling to fit your golf balls in, crack that beer, reconnect with a friend, and let them help you find a way to fit the golf balls. If you need help sifting through the sand, come hang out with me and Kevin for a couple days here, and we’ll crack a beer with you and help you re-organize your pickle jar…..