“There’s always room for a story that can
transport people to another place.”
Let me distract you for a moment and tell you four short stories.
These are old stories – familiar stories. The people and the circumstances differ slightly for everyone who tells them, but the core lessons remain the same.
I hope the twist we’ve put on them here inspires you to think differently…
Story #1: All the Difference in The World
Every Sunday morning I take a light jog around a park near my home. There’s a lake located in one corner of the park. Each time I jog by this lake, I see the same elderly woman sitting at the water’s edge with a small metal cage sitting beside her.
This past Sunday my curiosity got the best of me, so I stopped jogging and walked over to her. As I got closer, I realized that the metal cage was in fact a small trap. There were three turtles, unharmed, slowly walking around the base of the trap. She had a fourth turtle in her lap that she was carefully scrubbing with a spongy brush.
“Hello,” I said. “I see you here every Sunday morning. If you don’t mind my nosiness, I’d love to know what you’re doing with these turtles.”
She smiled. “I’m cleaning off their shells,” she replied. “Anything on a turtle’s shell, like algae or scum, reduces the turtle’s ability to absorb heat and impedes its ability to swim. It can also corrode and weaken the shell over time.”
“Wow! That’s really nice of you!” I exclaimed.
She went on: “I spend a couple of hours each Sunday morning, relaxing by this lake and helping these little guys out. It’s my own strange way of making a difference.”
“But don’t most freshwater turtles live their whole lives with algae and scum hanging from their shells?” I asked.
“Yep, sadly, they do,” she replied.
I scratched my head. “Well then, don’t you think your time could be better spent? I mean, I think your efforts are kind and all, but there are fresh water turtles living in lakes all around the world. And 99% of these turtles don’t have kind people like you to help them clean off their shells. So, no offense… but how exactly are your localized efforts here truly making a difference?”
The woman giggled aloud. She then looked down at the turtle in her lap, scrubbed off the last piece of algae from its shell, and said, “Sweetie, if this little guy could talk, he’d tell you I just made all the difference in the world.”
The moral: You can change the world – maybe not all at once, but one person, one animal, and one good deed at a time. Wake up every morning and pretend like what you do makes a difference. It does. (Read 29 Gifts.)
Story #2: The Weight of the Glass
Once upon a time a psychology professor walked around on a stage while teaching stress management principles to an auditorium filled with students. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the typical “glass half empty or glass half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, the professor asked, “How heavy is this glass of water I’m holding?”
Students shouted out answers ranging from eight ounces to a couple pounds.
She replied, “From my perspective, the absolute weight of this glass doesn’t matter. It all depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute or two, it’s fairly light. If I hold it for an hour straight, its weight might make my arm ache a little. If I hold it for a day straight, my arm will likely cramp up and feel completely numb and paralyzed, forcing me to drop the glass to the floor. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it feels to me.”
As the class shook their heads in agreement, she continued, “Your stresses and worries in life are very much like this glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and you begin to ache a little. Think about them all day long, and you will feel completely numb and paralyzed – incapable of doing anything else until you drop them.”
The moral: It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses and worries. No matter what happens during the day, as early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don’t carry them through the night and into the next day with you. If you still feel the weight of yesterday’s stress, it’s a strong sign that it’s time to put the glass down. (Angel and I discuss this process of letting go in the Adversity and Self-Love chapters of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
Story #3: Shark Bait
During a research experiment a marine biologist placed a shark into a large holding tank and then released several small bait fish into the tank.
As you would expect, the shark quickly swam around the tank, attacked and ate the smaller fish.
The marine biologist then inserted a strong piece of clear fiberglass into the tank, creating two separate partitions. She then put the shark on one side of the fiberglass and a new set of bait fish on the other.
Again, the shark quickly attacked. This time, however, the shark slammed into the fiberglass divider and bounced off. Undeterred, the shark kept repeating this behavior every few minutes to no avail. Meanwhile, the bait fish swam around unharmed in the second partition. Eventually, about an hour into the experiment, the shark gave up.
This experiment was repeated several dozen times over the next few weeks. Each time, the shark got less aggressive and made fewer attempts to attack the bait fish, until eventually the shark got tired of hitting the fiberglass divider and simply stopped attacking altogether.
The marine biologist then removed the fiberglass divider, but the shark didn’t attack. The shark was trained to believe a barrier existed between it and the bait fish, so the bait fish swam wherever they wished, free from harm.
The moral: Many of us, after experiencing setbacks and failures, emotionally give up and stop trying. Like the shark in the story, we believe that because we were unsuccessful in the past, we will always be unsuccessful. In other words, we continue to see a barrier in our heads, even when no ‘real’ barrier exists between where we are and where we want to go. (Read The Road Less Traveled.)
Story #4: Being and Breathing
One warm evening many years ago…
After spending nearly every waking minute with Angel for eight straight days, I knew that I had to tell her just one thing. So late at night, just before she fell asleep, I whispered it in her ear. She smiled – the kind of smile that makes me smile back –and she said, “When I’m seventy-five and I think about my life and what it was like to be young, I hope that I can remember this very moment.”
A few seconds later she closed her eyes and fell asleep. The room was peaceful – almost silent. All I could hear was the soft purr of her breathing. I stayed awake thinking about the time we’d spent together and all the choices in our lives that made this moment possible. And at some point, I realized that it didn’t matter what we’d done or where we’d gone. Nor did the future hold any significance.
All that mattered was the serenity of the moment.
Just being with her and breathing with her.
The moral: We must not allow the clock, the calendar, and external pressures to rule our lives and blind us to the fact that each individual moment of our lives is a beautiful mystery and a miracle – especially those moments we spend in the presence of a loved one.
How do you think differently today than you once did? What life experience or realization brought on a significant change in your way of thinking? Please leave a comment below and share your story with us.
Photo by: Hartwig HKD
TIBAH SOLANGE says
Wow another great post with 4 great stories. More grease to your elbows Marc and Angel. Stay blessed everyone.
This is amazing ! It actually opens and awakens the sleeping mind of a person . Thanks.
evason santa says
It is a fantastic story thanks so much
The latest posts after these 4 short stories is from 2016! I know one thing stands true. This year of the Pandemic has made me realize that reflecting on the past is useful, dwelling and constantly thinking about it has no
Merit. These four short stories lend insight to what is important and how one should lean away from the past and make daily progress with the future.
I enjoy this site so much; I have grown so much that each post has something for me to learn.
I have been living a life of ‘no hope at all’ rejection left right and center and always feeling sorry and angry at myself for all the failures in my life. I have 2 kids from different men and I have no support from both sides and my relationships always end up disastrous. I have given up on love. I’m going to stick with my kids and give them all the attention.
Slowly I’m seeing the light. I need to love myself first the to expect someone else to love me…right!!!! Wow.
Thanks so much for the heads up. Stories #2&3 really made me realize that I have to change my attitude of looking at my situations or else I will die young.
i hope things are alright now..!!
I can really relate to this situation, all the best. I believe there is a time and person for all of us.
Do I worry about missing your wonderful blog? No – its my home page! Did I miss your followers passing the 100K mark? No! Congrats!! You inspire me daily.
These stories made for a great morning read and perspective check. I’d be lying if I said they didn’t make me miss a past love a little bit. But I don’t mind occasionally being reminded of those wonderful times either. Today is a good day to have a good day. Happy Thursday.
These stories reminded me of a moment I experienced with my mother. My dad had passed away a few years before and we had become very close after his death. I was very protective of her and wanted to let her know that I would always be there for her. We had both grown and evolved throughout the years, and while we both experienced the highs and lows of a mother/daughter relationship, we had come to a point of mutual understanding and love. One Sunday, while I was visiting with her, we went for a stroll and then sat down at a bench that was surrounded by beautiful flowers and trees. It was one of those serene summer days when the air was sweet and calm and the sun was comfortably warm. I hugged her and felt so grateful that she had made such a difference in my life. I thought then I always want to remember this moment. My mom passed away 11 years ago, and to this day, thinking of that moment brings me so much peace and love.
I have always been very hard on myself regarding my abilities and my courage to do things. This in turn has resulted in allowing others to make decisions for me such as the course of study I took in University. Today, I am unemployed because I don’t feel the motivation to work in a field that I am not interested in and passionate about. I decided to carve out a new path, one where the decisions I make are mine and the mistakes I make are my own. It’s been difficult finding out what my passions are and how I can go about pursuing them on my own. It helps to know that there is a whole community out there feeling the way that I do and that there is a place like this that we can all go to be inspired.
#3 is like the story of elephants – when chained to a post as youngsters, they need no post to hold them down when they mature, because they think it’s still there. Sure we are human and that makes all the difference, because we can read, experiment, challenge old beliefs and take risks on a wide spectrum. But it still takes herculean courage to overcome the past sometimes. And probably some loving support.
U sure are right
@Vincent: I bet your friend would love to hear this story. Send him the article and tell him to read the comments. =)
@Tristin: Looking at the bright side, a story like yours has lots of hidden hope and happiness. On one level changes need to be made, but on another level there is plenty of room for positive growth. It sounds like your heart is in the right place. I think a lot of the community here is cheering for you. Our heart is with you. Stay strong and take it slow, one step at a time. Remind yourself that you’re not running away, but realizing your worth and slowly moving in a better direction. Hugs to you and your boys.
@Sandra Lundell: Beautiful, touching words. Thank you!
@David Rapp: Your own personal school, I love it! Please e-mail Angel the book list, she wants to check it out: angel at http://www.marcandangel.com
@Johnny Waite: What an incredible, heartfelt story. Sometimes we have to remember that the best thing that can possibly happen to us in the long run is not getting exactly what we want right now. You are living proof.
@Anna: What a great wake-up call and a great exercise many of us could try.
@JS: Absolutely beautiful!
@Stacy: Making one person smile CAN change the world… maybe not the whole world, but their world. Thank you for paying it forward and reminding us it’s the small, sincere gestures. =)
@BW: Using time, pressure and patience, the universe gradually changes caterpillars into butterflies, sand into pearls, and coal into diamonds. You were being worked on too. Just because something didn’t happen , doesn’t mean it will never happen. Congratulations!
@Wayne: Wow, thank you for sharing!
@Rhonda: From the bottom of my heart, thank you! We’re smiling from ear to ear. =)
@LB: You are not alone. Check out The 52 Week Life Passion Project by Barrie Davenport, I thought it was very helpful and inspiring. You’re on the right path.
@All: Thank you for sharing your stories. You enlightened our evening with beautiful wisdom and insights. Angel and I simply love sitting down and spending an hour reading over your comments. Inspiring!
Issa O. says
The second story opened my eyes. What a blessing it would be to master such ability. The weight of the glass. I know I have made small situations heavier because I carried it so long.
Thanks for the insight.
Kirti Anand Sharma says
This is an amazing post.
I learnt valuing others, the hard way. You know how sometimes in life, one doesn’t realize the value of a person until he / she goes away. And it’s a painful process.
I have changed this thing about me and I ensure that I don’t take things for granted. I make sure that I am able to value people and their time, right away rather than holding on to making them feel special until they get sick of waiting and go away from you forever!
Thanks again for a good read!
I liked story no. 3 the best. I can totally relate to it because I was once the shark. Thank you for this wonderful article!
Your short story with you and your wife, and her purring of her breathing. Those were the sweetest words I’ve read. You see, my ex-husband (as of June3,2013) was verbally abusive to me. He said “I am sick of hearing your heavy breathing at night”. That was one of the many hurtful words he said to me, that made me strong enough to walk away after 30 years. Now I know what a true relationship should be like. I thank you.
It was a big shock to me when I discovered my half-sister was not a very nice person. I grew up adoring her, babysitting her, loving her very much. When my parents went back to court to argue alimony years after their divorce, my father told me if I didn’t support his case he’d cut off contact to my half-sister. Of course I couldn’t not support my own mother, so… When I encountered my sister again, she was 18. She was horrible, and I didn’t see it. I still saw her as a sweet, young child and treated her that way. She sent me a series of unprovoked and incredibly cruel emails, finally telling me she never wanted to speak to me again over nothing. Really nothing. (I noticed on facebook that she was always complaining about her life, calling the people around her names like “trolls” and so forth, and she was going to art school in Paris, fully paid without having to work or worry. I gently suggested she try to change her attitude.) I guess she had learned tactics from my father.
I was beyond devastated for years. Since I’ve had a baby, strangely enough, I’ve been feeling compelled to try to revisit a lot of these painful moments to come to grips with them and let them go. Today I reread her emails to me for the first time since she wrote them 2 years ago. I was struck by their utter uncalled-for nastiness. I wasn’t hurt any longer. I was shocked and a little saddened. What sort of person talks to other people that way? Then I looked at her Facebook page, what was public on it anyway, trying to get a sense of who this person was. (It’s sad in itself that my real connection with her then and now was in varying degrees through Facebook, even though we lived in the same city for years.) She had posted pictures of fat people, mocking them for being fat. She posted pictures of herself with captions from youtube videos with song titles like “Young and Beautiful.” There were a lot of other examples of that kind. Basically, if she wasn’t my own sister, I would have defriended her. (She had already defriended me years prior.)
I suddenly let go of all hurt and anger, because I realized it was never my fault she was so cruel to me. Unfortunately, my beloved, baby half-sister grew up to be just not a nice person. I tried to influence her when I encountered her again as an adult, but it was too late, and I understand no one appreciates that kind of interference. I only did it, because I still saw her as a child. I wish she could have grown into a woman who could be my friend and love me back, but that isn’t the reality, and it’s not my fault. Seeing people more clearly and not taking their behavior to heart (for the sake of my baby) has been just another blessing of becoming a mother.
Oh, and P.S. Sorry! It was the second story I was referring to in what I (probably over) shared :).
Hi, I am really sorry to hear about your sister but equally happy to know that you are blessed with a child. I just thought of putting my experience here if not completely but to relieve me off the pain and agony that is going on within me atleast for a while. I am from India and currently in my late twenties. I recently had a miscarriage for a child I have been expecting and trying for for the past 2 months. I had the miscarriage not due to any medical problem but due to my sudden and stressful flight from Dubai( my husband’s home) to parent’s home and carrying of heavy luggage. I left to come to my parent’s home not for the pleasure of it but because my husband asked me to leave saying I don’t pay my rent. His parents were on speaker constantly goading him to fight me further. This sort of fight used to happen every now and then. Every time I contemplated leaving , I used to hold myself back not really wanting to break the marriage. Typically like a conventional virgin girl, I was devoted to my husband even before I knew him, never kept any boyfriend as my parents were conservative and believed in arranged marriages. But after I got married, I got to know through his whatsapp messages, that he kept an illicit relationship with a girl with whom he used to exchange terms of endearment. When he got to know that I was sneaking on his mobile, he hit me black and blue. Even when I remember the way and the manner in which he hit me, I dont have any words to express how hurt I feel. A week after he got to know that I am pregnant, he threatened me with a divorce during an altercation with him. Also he is always in the habit of calling up his parents in skype and call and involving them in the tiniest of the fight. I also recall, the fights used to exacerbate to a horrible extent after his parent’s involvement as they in turn would call up my parents and have a list of complains ready against me. Not just that, his parents used abusive language against my parents right in front of me.His dad used to make unusual advances at me when I got married which used to make me highly uncomfortable but I used to get out of the room on some pretext so he cannot harm me or touch me.During my pregnancy, my husband used to serve me a bowl of cornflakes in the mornings- when his mom got to know about this, she immediately called me up and said that I am exploiting her son and taking advantage of my pregnancy.What sort of mother in law talks like this to her daughter in law, barely 1 year into the marriage .I was working before but just a month back I took a sudden flight to my parents leaving behind my job and also suffered a miscarriage. Eternally hopeful as I am, that they realise their mistake, I have never felt this unsure about my future. I am hoping against hope that my husband comes for me. He only leaves a mail expressing his concern instead of coming to fetch me which makes me doubt his integrity. Did all those intimate moments with him was his lust and not real love for me? As I loved him sincerely. I wish Almighty for a miracle to save my marriage without losing my life or personality.
this story kind of makes me sad ;-;
That sounds really sad. I cannot personally relate but I understand the pain of loving someone, being disconnected from them and then reconnecting with them and finding they have changed beyond recognition.
Sometimes we need inspiration, not motivation, in order to get things done.
Monil Shah says
This was really a good post..
here’s a similar story to the #3..
it’s a story about an young elephant which was caught by a circus master and was tied to a hook with a rope. the elephant when young tried all possible ways to get rid of the chained self only to discover that his efforts arent gonna give any fruits and thus give up. when grown up the elephant might have knew that now he’s capable of breaking the chain on let go but it’s the past experiences that were holding him back.
so I would just like to add up that time is never late to let go. all you need is the courage.. 🙂
and thank you for your wonderful posts..
keep doing what you do..
you inspire millions of lives..
As I read the comments after the wonderful stories, I read Tristan’s. how I wish I had the guts to do the same thing she did.
My husband is a good provider, we have never lacked anything in our house, but he is not very sensitive and is very demanding of me and the children. I live a stressful life just trying to make sure he does not scream at me or my children.
I liked how one of the comments said that it is better to be alone then to be lonely and THAT made me realize what my biggest pain is. I AM lonely yet with someone. I d not have the emotional support I am looking for and lacked for all my life. I do not have that laughing relationship where both of the ones involved laugh about something stupid the other said (that other being me most of the time). I am always the stupid one, the one that knows nothing and the one to be put down all the time. I am so tired of it but I cannot leave, I could not support my children by myself with a teacher’s salary, he won’t leave, and so here I am, stuck, now for almost 20 years! I still have two young ones that I hope will grow soon and I can finally leave and be happy ALONE!
Your posts give me hope, strength and happiness while keeping me company in my desolate world.
This is my first time visiting the site and I feel so compelled to comment on your post. There are several concepts from Stephen R. Covey’s ” The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” that I think could help you ‘see’ your situation differently.
I empathize with your difficult situation. It must be so tough to deal with day to day. Don’t give up; look deep inside yourself for the path forward, instead of being controlled by your current circumstance, your husband and your current paradigms!
A very well known psychologist Viktor Frankl experienced horrible torture and the deaths of almost his entire family during the holocaust. He survived it by realizing no matter how bad life was he always had the power to choose his response. The Germans, through all of their torture and all of the unspeakable indignities, could not hurt him because he made the choice not to allow them to. The Germans had more ‘liberty’, but Frankl still had more ‘freedom’.
You have the freedom, the power to choose. I hope that you choose a better life. I hope you choose to act, rather than be acted upon. I wish for you the courage to attach your future to your limitless potential rather than your limiting past.
Please don’t give up! My thoughts are with you, so you can find comfort knowing that in the road that lies ahead, you will never be truly, lonely.
Agung Putra says
I really love your site. it’s giving me a courage and inspiration. Thank you, keep doing your work.
Amazing how such short stories have a huge impact on us which many long essays are unable to have! Great work… kindly keep posting.
Lately everything in my life seems to be falling apart. From the guy I love leaving me with no explanation, to working at a company I detest, things are at an all-time low. Reading your blog has given me the inspiration I have been needing these past few months. I genuinely feel hope and joy and this feeling of everything will be alright. I am forever grateful to you both. Thank you. 🙂
Chukwuka Wealth says
Wow! the story of the shark is really inspiring. Indeed an eye opening one.
Sri Vishnu says
Beautiful stories that remind me of what’s important and good in this world.
This shark bait story is a real inspiration. I’m glad for it and I really hope you don’t mind me re-sharing it 🙂
Feeling like there always a beautiful way to live…
Hindi Blog says
vijay meka says
Beautiful stories! I like this.
Nice stories! Thanks for sharing.
These stories are fab.. really inspirational.. I’m glad to read these stories.. 🙂
Nisha Sharma says
Really Amazing Post !! Thanks
Superb. I really admire these wonderful Stories. And yes it brought me a lot of change in me after reading these stories. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
Lakshay Thakur says
This really helped.
Very nice Motivational story. I had already subscribed your emails and I love them. Thank you.
cathy daniels says
The stress passage was really inspiring to me. I am known to stress and allow things to hender me from thinking positive at times…that really helped me…i been through alot of stress in my life since 12…so i grew up with that trait. So everyday i try to find ways to minimize it. And i love to read to hear others experience. And when i see and hear other stories it makes me not feel alone..it comfirms im human. And that i just have to remain humbled and believe positive. Stay positive and positive outcome shall render
Keep posting .
The war is over, but that doesn’t mean the fighting has stopped. Though it was worthless, the rich kids from Uptown were literally throwing money at us. Torn up money, making us seem even more worthless and desperate. Not that it made that much difference. We are starving. None of us have any money. The people who owned shops before the invasion had no money to buy things needing to be imported, and there were no farms to produce food. They had nothing to sell us. Stereotypically, the rich folk had sided with the invaders, so they had more than enough food and money. Silently stealing into things is my speciality, so I belong to a group called the Slippery Clan. Silently slipping into the rich folks house to steal all the food and blankets we can carry. Is it really stealing, when we are just taking what we need to survive from those who are depriving us of it?
The Slippery Clan are known as the saviours, because we bring “salvation” to . As the youngest, the others are always calling out to me, things like “ Varia! Are you there? Or is your brother going to kill me when we get back?” Before the epidemics started hitting, they used to ask if my mother was going to kill them, but she died from the Influenza. It was the third epidemic we’d had, and she’d gotten both of the last diseases without recovering, so she was still weak. She was dead within two hours of getting the disease. A revolution was imminent, so we were hoarding weapons and looking for safe houses. All but very few people were sick. We will have to confront the rich folk Uptown soon, but I don’t know how. We can’t do this for much longer.
this was something that I wrote for an old English assignment. I hope you like it!
Rebecca savage says
I love each of these short stories! They all have a underlying truth and meaning. Some that I have learned throughout the years and some I know, but need to be reminded of from time to time. In my everyday life I tend to overthink, even the smallest incidence’s. I never use to be like that. I use to be so carefree. Then life hit me. I formed anxiety which prevents me from doing “normal things”. I force myself, on a daily basis, to face my own thoughts. Reading the “Weight of the Glass” really helped remind me, the longer I dwell on something, the longer I suffer. Its okay to make mistakes. But its how you face or move on from that mistake, that shows how strong you really are.