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There are three stories I refer to again and again: taking the first circus, making more pots, and building a cathedral. They form part of my approach to life.
Taking the first circus
My parents told the story of the first circus to us when we were growing up. On her blog, she wrote:
It came from an anecdote that my husband and I read in the Readers’ Digest about a little girl in a town soon to be visited by three circuses. Her father explained to her that the family was not financially able to take her to all three circuses and could take her only to one. The first circus would be just a small one, while the third would be the best and biggest, and presumably the most expensive. “I’ll take the first circus,” she said, and so her parents took her to the first. A few months later, when the second circus came, the family’s finances had improved and they were able to take her to the second. And finally, they found that they could afford to get tickets to the third and most expensive circus.
Harvey Chua, I’ll take the first circus
The story of taking the first circus reminds me to take opportunities when they come up. I tend to be conservative and frugal, but I’m also good at figuring out when it’s time to take that leap.
Making more pots
In a previous blog post, I wrote:
There’s a story about a pottery teacher who divided the class into two groups. A student in one group would be graded based on the quality of one pot that they turned in at the end of the semester, while a student in the other group would be graded based on the sheer number of all the pots submitted throughout the semester. At the end of the semester, students in the second group–those measured only on quantity–had produced better pots than those who had focused on quality. In the process of creating a large number of pots, the second group had learned from their mistakes, while the first group had been paralyzed by endless theorizing about what a perfect pot would be.
I use the pot-making story a lot. For example, when I struggled with writing, the pot-making story reminded me to just get something out there. The pot-story reminds me that even mistakes help you move towards mastery.
Building a cathedral
Several builders were on a construction site. A visitor asked the first worker what he was doing. The first builder replied, “I’m laying bricks.” The visitor asked the second, who replied, “I’m building a wall.” The visitor asked the third, who proudly answered, “I’m building a cathedral.”
The cathedral story reminds me of the power of vision. Good vision can turn any work into a joy. The lack of vision can make even the most talented lost.
The story also tells me that vision can be created by anyone. Even though I’m a recent hire, I have a strong vision for what I want to help the company and the world become, and I have a strong vision for myself and who I want to grow into.
Circuses, pots, and cathedrals – shorthand for how I live. What are your key stories?
Thanks to Paul for the nudge to write about this!