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Insights: Making the Most of Life
August 17, 2010

Making the Most of Life

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"When I hear somebody sigh, 'Life is hard,' I am always tempted to ask, 'Compared to what?'"

- Sydney J Harris

Over the week-end I came across a story by an unknown author that rather appealed to me - and I thought I would share it with you today. But first, a little story of my own:

A story from my experience

One thing we humans are inclined to do, often to our detriment, is to compare ourselves and our situations with others that we know - and sometimes very critically!

I recall many years ago when I was a marketing manager with responsibility for two hard working and pretty talented young guys in my team. Both were very career minded and I could see that with careful management they were destined to go places.

Although both Monty and Terry (not their real names) were very able, outwardly confident and even rather headstrong individuals, that's where the similarity ended.

Terry was obsessed with measuring his success or progress against others with whom he worked - and during our association in the marketing team, he clearly set his 'benchmarking' sights on Monty.

Terry and Monty held different roles in the team with the former being naturally more hands-on and operational and the latter more creative. Both were doing great work and I viewed them as great assets to the team.

Then, one day, a vacancy arose for someone who could handle our advertising and external communications portfolio. Monty was the perfect fit and sailed through the selection process to get the job.

Then the problems began.

You see, the job that Monty got represented a promotion and this simply did not sit well with Terry. Despite being told that his time would come when an equivalent operational job became vacant, this wasn't enough for Terry.

Rather than view Monty's promotion as welcome confirmation that the company rewarded talent and hard work, Terry sadly chose to see it as a sign of failure and inadequacy on his part.

This experience underlined to me the importance of appreciating that we are all endowed with unique skills and abilities and it is up to us and us alone to make the most of what we have and, in so doing, the most of life.

Now, here's the other story I promised you!

Life is Like a Cup of Coffee

A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life.

Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups - porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite - telling them to help themselves to the coffee.

When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor spoke:

"If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups have been taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is also the source of your problems and stress.

 Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. In most cases it is just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups... And then you began eyeing each other's cups.

Now consider this: Life is the coffee. The jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain Life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of life we live.

 Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee. Savor the coffee, not the cups!

The happiest people don't have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything.

Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly."

I hope you enjoyed that.

Till next week...

Warm regards,


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