Don’t lose your marbles!


My friend Dwight Bain sent me a story of a ham radio operator who overheard an older gentleman giving advice to a younger man.

“It’s a shame you have to be away from home and family so much,” he said. “Let me tell you something that has helped me keep a good perspective on my own priorities. You see, one day I sat down and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about 75 years. Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and came up with 3,900, which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has in his lifetime.

“It took me until I was 55 years old to think about this in any detail,” he continued, “and by that time I had lived through over 2,800 Saturdays. I got to thinking that if I lived to be 75, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy.”

He went on to explain that he bought 1,000 marbles and put them in a clear plastic container in his favorite work area at home. “Every Saturday since then,” he said, “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’s nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight.”

Then the older gentleman finished, “Now let me tell you one last thought before I sign off and take my lovely wife out to 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.”

We can’t choose whether we will get any more time, but we can choose what we do with it.

From The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player

Marbles Pictures, Images and Photos

Image courtesy of photobucket

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  1. 1

    Once again, accurate perspective. Focus is essential especially if priorities are set right.. Good one John.

  2. 2
    ida mollett says:

    What a great perspective to live by. Enjoy each day you don’t know how many you have.

  3. 3
    Ata Abiodun says:

    What a wonderful message,this is very educative.

  4. 4

    Great story! This post makes me think about living life consciously. It’s too easy to drift each day – we MUST live consciously. Thanks!

  5. 5

    […] Maxwell tells the story of a man who put marbles in a jar. Each marble represented a remaining Saturday in his life, assuming he lived an average lifespan. […]

  6. 6

    Thanks for the perspective, time really is all we have so make sure you spend it on the right things like making memories with your kids and loved ones!

  7. 7
    Don says:

    Awesome story as always. First things First do the great things first and then do the good things next. Then everything else will fall in place. What we don’t get today might not meant to be done today. Start over tomorrow with the same goals first things first.

    Seek yet the “Kingdom of God’ and all these things will be add unto you. Matthew 6:33

  8. 8

    Great story! We (our church media department) produced this story as a sermon illustration video. It can be viewed here:

  9. 9
    Maribeth Hickman says:

    John, I love this story as a reminder that every day is a gift from God, and we’re to use each one productively. I would enjoy an additional twist to the story where the man put one marble into an opaque container as each Saturday passed. Once all the marbles were out of sight, every Saturday, he would then put one back into the clear container as evidence that the Lord still had more for him to do.

  10. 10
    Amit bansal says:

    Wowww John… What a message – mind blowing and so true. Thx a lotfr ading value. I really look fwd to getting hour leadership messages in the email so I can read them on my way to work

  11. 11
    Raleigh Richter says:

    I like the personal influence within this remarkable truth. Never get to old to share advise and never be to young to listen to others. Thanks,

  12. 12
    Zach Terry says:

    John, This goes directly into my Father’s day file. Thanks for adding value to me today.

  13. 13
    Rory Pope says:

    Thanks John for the inpiration. Definitely will pick up this book. Look forward to meeting with you soon.

    Thanks again and May God bless you

  14. 14

    Great story. We all have the same amount of time each day. The difference between highly successful and others boils down to their choices of what to do with that time. What has God called you to do with your time? We help people discover that and then ACT.

    Unfortunately if we fail to act, for whatever reason, the rest of it no longer matters.

    Much love!

    Leelo Bush

  15. 15
    Joey says:

    Very inspiring.. i remember a passage because of this. :

    “Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days. What it is: that i may know how frail i am.”

  16. 16
    Darryl Weatherly says:

    The secret to really appreciating the moments of all those Saturdays (and the days in between) is learning how to see the ‘hidden’ details of the individual trees in forest of life. This book shows how: ‘Darkness then light’ Darryl P. Weatherly

  17. 17
    Gustino Kachingwe says:

    Hi John,

    That’s a good post as it goes alongside the Word of God: “Whatsoever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might”. Since today is the only day at hand, surely a need to scrutnise our priorities is so urgent.
    I like it!

  18. 18
    daniel mac cyril says:

    help us to number our days that we may apply how haert to wisdom. i love this story it has always been my reference ever since i read the book (17 essential qualities of a team player). thank you.

  19. 19
    Emma Ocholi says:

    Plain truth, focus brings us to our target faster than anything

  20. 20
    Autira says:

    I love receiving your posts and this was so timely. I tend to just make it through the day versus appreciating every moment, let alone finding the time to spend with is always tomorrow. Thank you for re-direction me to what is important.

  21. 21

    This is huge, it made me think of what have been investing my time on. Thanks John.

  22. 22

    I was blown away by this blog.. I’m 32 and plan to calculate how many Saturdays I have left…but the powerful part of reading this was the truth spoken by the elder to live life to the fullest daily. I’ll be sharing this with my Social Network!

    Much respect John!

  23. 23

    After turning 50 years old yesterday.Makes you where dont sweat the small stuff!! .Going to spend a week at the beach with the family and two great grand kids.And my wife of 30 years.THANKS BE TO GOD!

  24. 24
    Daniel says:

    very enlightening story! every time this topic pops up in my life I take a good look. However, it seems that within a few days the thought gets pushed back into oblivion. Thank you John for bringing the thought of eternity back into the front of my mind. This has changed my day for the better.

  25. 25
    christine says:

    What a wonderful gift of life God bestows upon us!

  26. 26
    TonyP says:


  27. 27

    Hi John,

    A powerful practice and vivid reminder.

    Our time here is on loan. Keep this in mind each moment, using whatever technique you can to remain mindful.

    Thanks for sharing.