1000 MARBLES – A fresh perspective


By Niranjan Gidwani – Independent Consultant Director and Former CEO of Eros Group

Niranjan Gidwani – Independent Consultant Director and Former CEO of Eros Group

The older I get, the more I enjoy Friday mornings in the gulf. Perhaps it’s the quiet solitude that comes with being the first to rise, or maybe it’s the unbounded joy of not having to be at work. Either way, the first few hours of a Friday morning are the most enjoyable.

A few weeks ago, I was walking towards the kitchen with a steaming cup of tea in one hand, and the morning paper in the other hand. What began as a typical Friday morning, turned into one of those lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time.

Let me tell you about it. I turned the volume up on my radio in order to listen to the morning talk show. I heard an older sounding chap with a golden voice. You know the kind. He sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business himself. He was talking about “A Thousand Marbles” to someone named Tom.

I was intrigued and sat down to what he had to say.

“Well Tom, it sure sounds like you are busy with your job. I am sure they pay you well, but it’s a shame you have to be away from your home and family so much, and neglect your health so much. Too bad you missed your son’s parent-teacher meet, and your daughter’s dance recital. Yes, work and job is very important, but it is equally important to find the balance. It is difficult to find the balance on a day-to-day basis, but it is important to get all major priorities included on a weekly or fortnightly basis in your life.”

He continued, “Let me tell you something, Tom. Something that has helped me to keep a good perspective on my own priorities”. And that is when he began to explain the theory of a 1000 marbles. “You see, I sat down one day, and did a little arithmetic. An average person lives about 75 years. I know some live more, and some live less. But, on an average, folks live around 75 years”. “Then I multiplied 75 times 52, and I came up with 3900, which is the number of Fridays, or Saturdays that an average person has in their entire lifetime”.

He continued “Now, stick with me, Tom, as I am getting to the important part. It took me until I was 50 years old to think about all this seriously. And by that time, I had already lived through over 2600 weekends. I got to thinking that, if I lived to be 75, I had only 1300 of them left to enjoy.”

“So, I went to a toy store, and bought every single marble they had. I ended up visiting 3 toy stores to collect 1000 marbles. I took them home, and put them in a large, clear plastic container. Every Friday, since then, I have taken out one marble from the container, and thrown it away.”

“I found that, by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life. Yes, that included my work and my job, no doubt about it. There is nothing like watching your time on this planet run out in order to get your priorities and your relationships right. It also helped me to differentiate between confidence and arrogance, especially when I realized how short life is.”

“Now let me tell you one last thing before I finish. This morning, I took the very last marble out of the container. I figure, if I make it until the next Friday, then God has blessed me with extra time to do the right things in my life. It was nice to talk to you, Tom, and do hope you manage to find the right balance between your work, your job, your health, your family, and play. And I hope to meet you again someday.”

You could have heard a pin drop when he finished. Even the show’s moderator did not have anything to say for a few moments.

So, friends……for all who are in their late 50s or nearing 60, going by the same thumb rule that an average person lives to the age of 75, getting a perspective on the balance 15 or so years is very crucial. 

Today’s post covid world has made all of us realise even more that no one can guarantee how easy or painful the last mile would be for each of us. If we were to deduct from the 15 or so years

  • Approximately 8 hours of sleep a day, which actually knocks off about 5 years
  • Approximately 8 hours of keeping ourselves busy in some manner, which knocks off another 5 years or so
  • Deducting some part for our last mile existence

…….we then need to introspect how and what balance quality time is left. This brings into sharper focus what our real priorities and relationships need to be, and how we wish to be remembered by society when we move on. As Steven Covey, one of my mentors and trainer said, “Imagine you have just died, and if, by some miracle of science, you had the capability to hear what the following different people, who have gathered for your last rites, had to say about you – a close relative, a spouse, a child, a friend, a working associate, a neighbour, an in-law……what would you want to hear them say?”

The process is on. Even for the ones below 50. They just have some more time to prioritise. The choice for each of us to make.