The Time of Our Lives or How We Spend Our Marbles

Photo from

Photo from

[When a friend shared this anonymous story “1000 Marbles” on a message board, everyone enjoyed it.  I thought you would too.]

The older I get, the more I enjoy Saturday mornings. Perhaps it’s the quiet solitude that comes with being the first to rise, or maybe it’s the unbounded joy of not having to be at work. Either way, the first few hours of a Saturday morning are most enjoyable. A few weeks ago, I was shuffling toward the basement shack with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other. What began as a typical Saturday morning, turned into one of those lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time.

Let me tell you about it.

I turned the dial up into the phone portion of the band on my ham radio in order to listen to a Saturday morning swap net. Along the way, I came across an older sounding chap, with a tremendous signal and a golden voice. You know the kind, he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business. He was telling whoever he was talking with something about “a thousand marbles”.

I was intrigued and stopped to listen to what he had to say. “Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you’re busy with your job. I’m sure they pay you well but it’s a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work sixty or seventy hours a week to make ends meet. Too bad you missed your daughter’s dance recital.”

He continued, “let me tell you something Tom, something that has helped me keep a good perspective on my own priorities.”

And that’s when he began to explain his theory of a “thousand marbles.”

“You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about seventy-five years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about seventy-five years.”

“Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and I came up with 3900 which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has in their entire lifetime. Now stick with me Tom, I’m getting to the important part.”

“It took me until I was fifty-five years old to think about all this in any detail”, he went on, “and by that time I had lived through over twenty-eight hundred Saturdays. I got to thinking that if I lived to be seventy-five, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy.”

“So I went to a toy store and bought every single marble they had. I ended up having to visit three toy stores to round-up 1000 marbles. I took them home and put them inside of a large, clear plastic container right here in the shack next to my gear.”

“Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it away.”

“I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life. There is nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight.”

“Now let me tell you one last thing before I sign-off with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast. This morning, I took the very last marble out of the container. I figure if I make it until next Saturday then I have been given a little extra time. And the one thing we can all use is a little more time.”

“It was nice to meet you Tom, I hope you spend more time with your family, and I hope to meet you again here on the band. 73 Old Man, this is K9NZQ, clear and going QRT, good morning!”

You could have heard a pin drop on the band when this fellow signed off. I guess he gave us all a lot to think about.

I had planned to work on the antenna that morning, and then I was going to meet up with a few hams to work on the next club newsletter.

Instead, I went upstairs and woke my wife up with a kiss. “C’mon honey, I’m taking you and the kids to breakfast.”

“What brought this on?” she asked with a smile.

“Oh, nothing special, it’s just been a long time since we spent a Saturday together with the kids. Hey, can we stop at a toy store while we’re out? I need to buy some marbles.”

Are you inspired to pick up some marbles? If not, tell us in the comments how you ensure that you live each day fully?

Do You Have the Courage to Show Up in Your Life?

When Brene Brown was interviewed by Jonathan Fields on his Good Life Project, she shared not only her research on vulnerability but her life commitment to it. In her new book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead she urges us to step into the arena to live the lives we want rather than spend our lives shrinking in the bleachers, unfulfilled and critical of others.

One of the many  important messages that emerged from the interview is that “We can’t give people what we don’t have.” This struck home with me because as a parent I was too often caught promoting a double standard.

Another powerful message is Brene’s decision to not be influenced by people who criticize her from afar, but have not stepped into the arena themselves.

She drew this from the following quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

During the interview you’ll learn how to go about making change in your life.

Do yourself a favor and watch the entire interview below. You’ll be encouraged to embrace risk, uncertainly and emotional exposure. It’s the courageous path to success.

Once you’ve watched the video, share in the comments what it brought up for you about your life.

On Happiness: Pancakes

flippingpancakesJeff Goins is an author, blogger and speaker. When he and his wife were expecting their first baby  he decided to make pancakes for her one morning, after she turned down a number of other breakfast options. (No, that’s not Jeff in the image)

Jeff has tapped into a key component of happiness: finding joy in the everyday events that make up our lives. By chronicling this event and pausing to reflect on it, he is savoring one episode out of many to come that will take on sweeter and sweeter signficance as the years go by.

Too often we rush through daily activities, taking them for granted as if they were all the same. They are not really. Each time we arise, get dressed, cook breakfast and go to work, we are having a new experience. Sure, each resembles previous ones, but each one is distinct. The more we can pause to enjoy these moments, the more we fill up our happiness reservoir.

Read Jeff’s blog post to get the full story as he describes the steps he went through to turn out to finally create the pleasing version of his stack. He ends by wondering if he and his wife will ever have mornings like this again.

Here’s how I commented on Jeff’s blog.

Hi Jeff,

As a mom of 4 adults and 3 grandkids (who are adults too,) I want you to know that your pancake episode is all too common.

That first batch of pancakes is always the sacrificial batch because for whatever reason getting the grill, skillet or whatever you use to just the right temperature is an endeavor. No amount of experience helps you here. I doubt if restaurants that specialize in pancakes even get this right.

Getting the spatula first is the farthest from our minds since we are focused on getting the consistency of the batter just right. (We all do it the same way you did.)

I commend you for keeping the pancakes warm in the microwave. Not every man husband cook  thinks of that.

Enjoy these mornings. You won’t have any more mornings exactly like these, but once you add kids to the mix, getting the pancakes right will be the least of your concerns. As soon as they are able to hold a spatula safely, start teaching them to make the pancakes, if for no reason than the entertainment value. Your life will move into color and 3-D.
What everyday event from your past is precious to you now?


Could you use inspiration to create happiness everyday? Check out my Everyday Happiness cards at


Our Gift from Steve Jobs

As we all pause to mourn the loss of Steve Jobs, let us reflect on the gift he gave us during his lifetime. Most will think that his greatest gift is his contribution to the computer and entertainment world. But it’s more than that.

At a commencement speech at Stanford he spoke of the path his life took and the choices he made. The fact that he was invited to speak at a university graduation was just one of many ironic and remarkable things about his life. He never graduated from college because it was restricting and delaying him from answering the call of his dreams.

He recounted the circumstances of his young birth mother being very purposeful about who would adopt her son, his leaving college to follow his dream, the hurtful experience of being fired from the company he helped found and finally the devastating news of pancreatic cancer.

Through it all Steve had a vision and life drive that perhaps few could understand. Never mind that it’s rumored that his visions were helped along by psychedelic drugs in his early days, he left us a gift nonetheless.

  • He showed us what can happen when you follow an idea, even when you’re not sure where it is taking you.
    He mentions in the commencement speech how audited a calligraphy class at Reed College just because he wanted to, later served him well when creating the fonts and spacing for Apple computers.
  • He left us with an example of what living your life to its fullest means, even in the face of a cruel illness that promised to shorten his time with us. He lived each day as if it was his last. By the time he did face his last day he had changed the lives of people around the world because of his innovative ideas and determination to sharing them with us.
  • Finally, he left us with an example of what being rich is really about. He reportedly had a temper, was intolerant of half-ass work, perfectionistic and fiercely focused, but he bravely extracted the most from each day of his life to create what he saw would improve our lives even when no one else could see it.
  • It may seem disingenuous to mourn the loss of someone you never knew personally, but when that someone was a genius whose live and work changed the way we all live and work, it’s most appropriate.
  • Thank you, Steve Jobs, for your gift. May we open our gift and continue to be inspired, encouraged and enriched by it.

    P.S. In case you didn’t see that Stanford commencement speech, I’ve posted it above.

    It's About Time: What are You Doing with the Time You Have (Left)?

    Tree Climbing by eszter on flickr

    Tree Climbing by eszter on flickr

    You’ve heard speakers, authors and coaches remind us that we all have exactly the same amount of time–24 hours a day.

    I’ve said it myself many times, but an email from a friend gave me another perspective.

    Last June my friend traveled from the Netherlands to attend a party held in Seattle, WA. That may seem to be a long trip, but my friend was propelled by an undeniable urgency.

    She had been diagnosed with a debilitating cancer and was advised by her doctor that she only had a few months to live.

    She decided not to waste any of her remaining time, but to have fun and be with friends wherever they were. Along with my friend who travelled all the way from the Netherlands, 30 of us showed up from many other places around the USA.

    The first night we enjoyed a pajama party complete with movie, delicious food and popcorn. The next day we met for a Chinese brunch, and then on to visit an island the next. We shopped, ate, drank, laughed and enjoyed each other the whole weekend.

    Nine months have passed since my friend returned home, uncertain of her future.

    I recently received an email from her updating all of us that the treatments she has been receiving have given her and her doctors hope for a bit longer life. Even though she still faces more radiation and more surgery, we are all happy with this good news.

    That’s when it hit me that while we all have 24 hours a day, we don’t know how many days we have. None of us know that.

    Those who are diagnosed with terminal illnesses and told by their doctors to get their affairs in order often do just that: get their affairs in order and seek to enjoy activities and goals they may have long neglected.

    But what about the rest of us. Why do we need the push of a doctor’s prognosis? Wouldn’t it be great if we all pursued our goals with a sense of urgency?

    After all, if we think about it for a minute, we are all terminal. One thing we can absolutely expect from life on this Earth is that it will end. None of us know when.

    So, if we acted with urgency, we would get busy moving toward our neglected goal today. We would be less fearful of failure or more concerned about leaving our dream lives unlived.

    We would say “I love you” to those who need to long to hear those words.

    We would say “thank you” to those we have made a difference in our lives but haven’t been informed by us.

    And most of all, we wouldn’t hesitate to take off our shoes and skip through wet grass, climb a tree or pause to watch a lizard doing his pushups on the ground.

    How about you? What are you waiting for? What are you doing with the wonderfully delicious and precious time you have left?