Enjoy your hot chocolate.


Sometime ago in Dubai, I was teaching on Corporate Governance and Leadership. In one of the classes, I shared a story along with some lessons that I would like to share with you.

Having become well established in their careers, a group of graduates met at a reunion gathering and thereafter decided to go and visit their old university professor who was now retired.

During their visit, they had time to reminisce on old times and the impact of their professor’s instruction on their lives. As the discussion progressed, the conversation eventually turned to complaints about stress in their work and lives. Each one spoke at length about how stressful his/her life was, essentially because of the demands of their various pursuits.

The professor listened with rapt attention. After a while, he went into the kitchen and returned with a large pot of hot chocolate and an assortment of cups – porcelain, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite. He told his guests to help themselves to the hot chocolate. He watched them as each one reached for a cup. In no time, the ornamented expensive cups had all been taken up while no one bothered to take any of the plain looking ones.

When they all had a cup of hot chocolate in hand, the professor said:

“Notice that all the nice-looking, expensive cups were taken, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. It is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves; however, that is the source of your problems and stress. Your focus and pursuit are usually on the external things while you ignore the very essentials of life.

The cup that you are drinking from adds nothing to the quality of the hot chocolate. In most cases it is just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink. The content of the cups has remained the same regardless of the container in which it was put.

What all of you really wanted was hot chocolate, not the cup; but you consciously went for the best cups. And then you began eyeing each other’s cups.

Life is the hot chocolate. It consists of your purpose of existence and the vision as well as the attitude that drives its fulfillment. Your job, money and position and every other resource society offers you are the cups.

They are nothing but tools to hold and contain life. No matter how beautiful or plain it looks, the cup you have does not define or change the quality of life you have.”

A good life can never be measured merely by material possessions. Exotic cars, fine houses, a sophisticated wardrobe, holidays in the most exotic resorts are all good and desirable things and I do not grudge those who have them. But to assume that those things in themselves evidence a fulfilling life is to live in self-delusion.

I have met so many rich but miserable and lonely people in my life that I am more than convinced that the happiest people in the world are not those who have the best of everything but those who have learnt to make the best of everything they have. It is more about resourcefulness than resources. When I see leaders harass the people they were “elected” to serve with such obscene ‘affluenza’ as one so readily sees in our daily realities in this country, I feel pity for such leaders because of the length they have to go to sustain the frustrating charade.

Contentment is not the same as containment. Contentment is all about enjoying where you are on the way to where you are going. When you concentrate on the cup, you can never enjoy the hot chocolate God has provided for you.

Every so often, we look for fulfillment in the things we have that help us measure ourselves with the Joneses. This is the source of most human frustration and pain. The real tragedy of it is that the Joneses are too preoccupied with their own mundane life pursuits that they don’t even have time to notice you!

Appreciate where you are now because some people never made it this far. Do not allow your life to lose its thrill because you are so preoccupied with what someone else has and how you can acquire the same that you totally lose sight of your ‘hot chocolate’. Changing the container has never changed the content.

You were created for distinction, not competition. Competitive jealousy has never been known to sustainably enhance the quality of anyone’s life. The winner of the rat race still remains a rat by the time the race is over. You have been given one life to live. Quit trying to impress people by the kinds of cup you are drinking from. Leave others with the comparison game. The container is not a substitute for its content. As for you, before it gets cold, enjoy your hot chocolate!

Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!

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