​Mayonnaise jar

The Story – PART 1

A teacher walks into his class with a glass jar filled with big stones filled to the top.

He keeps it on the table & asks, “Is the jar full?”

“Yes” reply all the students.

He then empties his left pocket taking out small stones & putting it in the jar. The stones slide into the gaps. He shakes the jar & fills out to the top.

“It’s the jar full now?”

“Yes”, but only half the students reply this time.

The teacher smiles & from his right pocket takes out a pouch with sand. He pours out into the jar, shaking & filling it to the top again.

“What about now?”

“Yes”, the confidence is more this time.

The teacher laughs aloud, walks to the pot in his class. Brings a glass of water & pours out in the jar.

“Now”, he says, “the jar is full.”

The Story – PART 2
Can we fill the jar just as perfectly in any other order. I mean what if we put water 1st followed by the sand, shall stones & finally rocks? Would the same amount of content fit in?

This was a story i had heard for the first time. I was just a kid then. I was fairly awed by the reason why the teacher does this demo. 

In this version of the story, the demonstrator was a physics teacher.

He explains that the big rocks represent basics or fundamentals. 

The small stones represent theory.

The sand represents formulae derived from theory.

And finally the water is like the numerical problems or applications.

The Moral:

We must learn the fundamentals, theory & formulae in the same order in which we fill their representations in the jar. 

Only then we’ll have the ability to solve problems. Just as represented by space left for water in the jar. Even after being filled completely, packed with rocks, stones & sand.

Same Story Different Versions

Let me also talk a little about the other versions I came across. The first part in all these versions is more or less the same as above.

The lesson to be learnt from the demonstration however is different. I came across 2 versions myself. 

I even wrote 1 of my own imagining how a guru in the ancient Indian gurukul could use it to explain about scriptures. You can read it at following link:


If you prefer watching a video, I found this one is the best. This version is by a philosophy lecturer. He says big rocks represent your health, small pebbles represent friends & family, sand represents our belongings & he uses beer to show success, calling it as having time to spend with friends.

Another instance I read was in the book “It’s My Life”, by Harsh S Bharwani. He just talked about short term goals & long term goals in the same sense.

Other Applications

We could actually take the concept & apply it to categorise any big source.

For instance, if a consider the jar to represent college or university:

The big rocks will be management, small stones the adminstration, sand would be the departments or faculty & water would be students.

Management is critical in maintaining a level of seriousness in employees & is responsible to timely arrangement​ of investments & infrastructure. Administration is responsible for correction of fee & seeing up right rules & regulations for operation of college. Departments or faculty work within boundaries set by administration to Educate students. 

If all the above parts function in proper sync, more students will end up joining the college. Leading ultimately to the success of the college.

Same way, if we consider the jar to represent education:

The big rocks will be communication, small stones the knowledge or vidya, sand would be the understanding or gyan & water would be ability to apply.

Without communication, knowledge transfer is not possible at all. Without knowledge or ability to remember what is learnt, there’s no chance of understanding. Without understanding one cannot apply what he learns.

Education is only successful if the pupil successfully completes this loop. With every year passing, the student becomes more perfect at it.

Mayonnaise jar concept clearly explains why it’s said that “A good start is half done.” After all, when the first set of rocks enter the jar to its fill, the jar is already half filled.

So the next time you see something big, divide it in accordance with the mayonnaise jar. Then try to do it one part at a time in that order. It may take time, but once you are done with it this way, you’ll have it with you for eternity.


Mayonnaise jar is a worry proof path to success. It divides a problem into manageable parts. It’s well said that “Each small task, if done well makes a big difference.” 

Together with the ॐ concept of cycles, mayonnaise jar provides us with another four part system of working effectively. It hence becomes our driving FOURCE. That’s why we greet our fellow members – “Let the FOURCE be with us.”

Srikanth Rangdal
CADiMate + 4&by Team.


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