Many years ago two salesmen were sent by an Italian shoe manufacturer to Africa to investigate and report back on market potential.
The first salesman reported back, “There is no potential here – nobody wears shoes.”
The second salesman reported back, “There is massive potential here – nobody wears shoes.”
This simple short story provides an excellent example of how a single situation can be viewed in two completely different ways – negatively or positively.
Seeing a situation for its problems and disadvantages, instead of its opportunities and benefits is simply a matter of perception.
Are You a Carrot, an Egg or a Coffee Bean?
A young woman went to her mother complaining about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose.
Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water. In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word.
In twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.
Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me what you see?”
“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.
Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did, and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked her daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, the mother asked her daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma then asked, “What does it mean, mother?”
Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity – boiling water – but each reacted differently.
The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak.
The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its insides became hardened.
The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water…they had changed the water!
Which are you? When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?
An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer-contractor of his plans to leave the house-building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife enjoying his extended family. He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire. They could get by.
The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house, as a personal favor. The carpenter said yes, but in time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end a dedicated career.
When the carpenter finished his work the employer came to inspect the house. He handed the front-door key to the carpenter. “This is your house,” he said, “my gift to you.”
The carpenter was shocked! What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently.
So it is with us. We build our lives, a day at a time, often putting less than our best into the building. Then with a shock we realize we have to live in the house we have built. If we could do it over, we’d do it much differently.
But we cannot go back.
You are the carpenter. Each day you hammer a nail, place a board, or erect a wall. Life is a “do-it-yourself” project. Your attitudes and the choices you make today, build the “house” you live in tomorrow.