Big rocks first

When I was in university years ago, I applied for a job. During my interview for the position, the board asked me to place the following items in order of importance: family, sports, friends, work, homework.

All these years later I now understand that the intent behind the question was: On any given day, when nothing special is going on, will you show up for work even if you have an overdue assignment or your friends are hosting the funnest party ever?

They wanted the answer to be: work, homework, family, friends, sports.

At the time I was thinking BIG PICTURE. What is most important, really? What is most important during times of crisis? What amounts to more than what you can carry in a file box at the end of the day?

I answered: Family, friends, work, homework, sports.

I didn’t get the job, but I still think I gave the right answer.

I was reminded of this by a video a friend posted on Facebook. It is important to take care of the big rocks first, or your life will be nothing but dust and pebbles.

11 thoughts on “Big rocks first

  1. karen

    I love this Arlene – will use the video you included, when teaching junior classes. An important lesson that we continually learn and re-learn along our journey…priorities speak volumes about who we are.

  2. marianbeaman

    What a terrific concept. I MUST share this video with my grandkids, and will also share your blog post on Twitter.

    About the “lost opportunity” with the position you interviewed for long ago: It seems unfair to insist that employees comply with a set of priorities that reflect only one point of view. Yes, you were wise beyond your years even then, Arlene!

    1. Arlene Somerton Smith Post author

      Looking back on it now I think it was a curious way to get at what they were looking for. They wanted reliability. They could have come at that from a different angle for sure. It was for the best that I didn’t get the job, and that is the way these things often go.

  3. kyoungtravels

    I remember a professor giving us that same “big rocks” lesson in university and it also stuck with me. I have thought about that quite often over the years because it’s so important. Thanks for the reminder! Kathryn

    1. Arlene Somerton Smith Post author

      As one of the other commentators mentioned, Stephen Covey used the analogy, so it’s not new. The visual has great impact though. Something that sticks with us, and that’s what makes it so powerful.

  4. Ally Bean

    What a fascinating interview question. I’d say it was a trick question. I like your answer but can see how it wasn’t the right one… in the interview situation. The video and its message rings true with me. Interesting way to think about your life. Thanks for sharing it here.


What do you think? Let me know. Comments make me really happy.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.