The Spoon and the Ocean … Doing the Impossible

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The following is a short book about doing the impossible contributed by the Ohio State University Leadership Center.

Making Work Work: The Positive Solution for Any Work Environment
Shola Richards, New York, Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. (2016)

“What if the spark to change the world lived within each of us? We don’t need superhuman strength, a prestigious job title, or fearlessness. We just need a reminder of what the human spirit is capable of achieving.

Let this story be your reminder.

One day a man dreamed of doing the impossible.

He desperately wanted to change the world in a positive way, and after years of just talking about it, he was now finally ready to do something about it.

As soon as he was ready to take action on his dream, the villain in the story appeared. The villain’s name was Apathy.

Apathy decided to play a game with the man. Apathy’s motive was a simple one: to destroy the man’s spirit before he took any action to achieve his dream.

The villain looked sternly at the man and said, ‘If you’re serious about doing the impossible, prove it to me.’

The man nodded as Apathy led him to the beach. The villain smirked as he handed the man a spoon and a bucket.

‘Empty it. The whole ocean. Use this spoon and bucket to get started.’

The man paused as he looked out at the ocean.




Impossibly huge.

The villain smiled because it was obvious that the man was ready to give up before he even started. The man’s spirit was clearly broken.

The villain was wrong.

The man defiantly got down on his hands and knees and started to spoon the ocean into his bucket one spoonful at a time.

The villain began to laugh at the man.

The man kept spooning.

All of a sudden, the villain looked concerned as a curious onlooker walked toward the man.

She had a spoon and a bucket.

She knelt down beside the man and started to spoon the ocean into her bucket too. She brought a friend with her who did the same.

The villain’s concern suddenly turned into fear. The man and his new friends had to be stopped for the villain to survive and the villain knew it.

The villain tried to discourage the man and his friends by telling them that the task was impossible. The ocean cannot be emptied. If it were possible, it would have been done by someone else by now.

At that moment, the villain caught a break. Storm clouds moved in and heavy rain started to fall.

The villain then smiled confidently as the downpour continued to fall on their heads. All their hard work had been for nothing.

The villain laughed more loudly than before.

The villain’s laughter stopped instantly when it was clear that the group was not listening to the laughter.

They chose to use the rainstorm as an opportunity to bond more closely together. As the rain fell harder, their dedication grew stronger.

And they kept spooning, even in the pouring rain.

Their enthusiasm for this incredible task was contagious, as more people from all walks of life joined in with their spoons and buckets.

There was now a visible difference in the ocean.

Excitement began to build and the rest of the world wanted to be part of the process. Millions of people came to the ocean with their spoons and their buckets to participate in something bigger than themselves.

The villain could no longer reach these people.

The group had now become a movement.

Apathy’s voice had been rendered irrelevant by millions of excited ‘spooners,’ each doing their little part to change the world.

The ocean was now empty.

The villain was defeated.

The world was officially changed forever.

And it all started with a belief that it could be done and by a single person picking up a spoon to do the impossible, one spoonful at a time (p. 555-560).”

Making Work Work by Shola Richards is available from the OSU Leadership Center.

Learn how the Ohio State University Leadership Center is inspiring others to take a leadership role that empowers the world at the OSU Leadership Center website.

Jim Canterucci

I don't know everything. But I want to. The focus of our firm, Transition Management Advisors, is to develop leadership capabilities to create a championship culture, generate innovation, and successfully lead the resulting changes.

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On April 9, 2018
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