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My Take On The Carrots, Eggs and Coffee Story

Updated on June 4, 2013

My Take On The Carrots, Eggs and Coffee Story

June 3, 2013

Winston Wayne Wilson

@wwaynewilson

No, the picture above is not breakfast for an aspiring model. The carrots, eggs and coffee are part of a story a friend of mine recently shared with me. The story speaks for itself so I will simply share it with you in its entirety and provide commentary at the end. Some of you might have seen it before but it’s worth reading again. Here it is:

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A young woman went to her grandmother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one would pop up.

Her grandmother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire, and soon the pots came to boil. In the first pot she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word. In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.

Turning to her granddaughter, she asked, "Tell me what you see."

"Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied. Her grandmother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The grandmother then asked the granddaughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, the grandmother asked the granddaughter to sip the coffee. The granddaughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma then asked,

"What does it mean, grandmother?"

Her grandmother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

"Which are you?" she asked her granddaughter.

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Some of the people I talk to, who have read this story, think that the message is that they need to be unique like coffee – all the time – and that they should eternally eschew the hardness of boiled eggs or the softness of boiled carrots. I think that adversity comes in all kinds of temperatures, not just boiling water. Maybe when adversity comes in the form of boiling water we should be like coffee. But what happens when adversity comes in the form of freezing water? Or a sweeping pile of snow? Or even room temperature? (i.e. leave the eggs out at room temperature and they will spoil. So would the carrots after a while). Also, beyond temperatures, what happens when adversity comes in a different form – like a fall from a cliff?

All these elements perform differently during different types of adversities. If anything, the message is really that we should learn from each of these elements and their respective ability to survive adversity. Learn to stay preserved during the cold like eggs. Learn to survive a fall like carrots (and not break like eggs or become scattered like coffee beans). And, of course, learn to flavor that pot of boiling water like coffee beans.

Part of the being able to survive in the jungle that is life is having chameleon like qualities. In the end, we have to first evaluate the adversity to determine which of the three elements we should become. There are times during an adversity when our hearts need to be like carrots and soften. During those moments, being hard like boiled eggs or being focused on changing others around us, like coffee in boiling water, might not be the right thing to do. If we are any one of these things all the time, we will only survive 33 1/3% of the time. My simple message to you today is to not be afraid to leverage all facets of who you are to deal with adversity. Enjoy your day.

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