Big Rocks and Beer Brewery

Jan 10, 2023

Sooner or later, everybody has a first job. These days, it seems like the older you are the younger you were when you had your first money-making venture. I was doing an icebreaker activity at church once when we all had to share what our first dip was in the career pool.  There were a few babysitters and lawn mowers. A lifeguard. A hod carrier. A corn detassler. A couple of camp counselors, an umpire, and some that asked if you’d like fries with that. Are you thinking back to your first job? The one where you first started to develop your work ethic?  When it was my turn, I nonchalantly told them that my first job was loading gunpowder into bullets for my neighbor…a dime per bullet. Apparently, that’s not normal. I mean the looks on their faces clearly showed that. I guess I never really thought about it. It was my normal. I was 8 or 9 at the time and happy to have my first paid gig. I mean someone’s got to put the gunpowder into the brass, right? If it makes you feel any better, my neighbor was a police officer…does that help?Even stories as benign as a first job can apply to marketing left brain methods and right brain moxie.  Here’s how…

Right Brain Marketing Moxie:  If you donors aren’t inspiring you, then you’re spending too much time behind the keyboard. Get to know them, talk to them, and tell their stories like it’s your job—because it is.

Left Brain Marketing Methods:  There’s never enough time in the day, so you have to be strategic and spend minutes like dollars. At a time where resolutions are being made, how do you know what to resolve and what to resign? Let’s talk about it.

It’s Wednesday, Hump Day, and maybe a good day to enjoy some big rocks and beer! 

Digital art gif. Two foaming beer glasses smile and laugh as they lean forward and tap each other giving a cheers.

Right Brain Marketing Moxie: Several years ago, I was having a cup of coffee with one of my favorite donors and for some reason our first jobs came up. He mentioned that at a very young age, probably around 5, that his parents ‘hired’ him for his first job. With a big pile of rocks in front of him, it was his job to remove the little rocks and place them in a coffee can that his parents provided—I picture an old empty metal Folger’s can. Once the can was filled, he would show his parents, and then empty it into a new little rock pile to earn a whole nickel per can. A nickel a can!

Granted, this would have been in the 1930’s, but even so, that’s a lot of work for a nickel. You can see why my friend, Jack, credited his parents with his lifelong work ethic. They started him out young, with a job most kids today wouldn’t do for a dollar a can, much less a nickel. Can-by-can, Jack, and most likely his brothers Bill and Dick, learned the value of a hard day’s work and the humility of true gentlemen through this menial task. I like to think Jack’s wise parents knew that hard work + humility would = generosity.  As the co-owners of Irving Brother’s Gravel Company, Jack, Bill, and Dick humbly worked hard and have a lifetime of generosity to show for it.  

Jack’s story is what reminded me of an old stand-by left brain marketing method…Big Rocks.

Left Brain Marketing Method: You’ve heard the story, Big Rocks, right? There are many different versions of the story, but it’s worth a refresher if you’ve heard it and an introduction if you haven’t—it’s a game-changer. This version’s called Big Rocks and Beer.

A meteorology professor stood before his Meteorology 101 class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly he picked up a very large and empty glass jar and proceeded to fill it with big rocks. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a jar of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open spaces between the big rocks. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar and, of course, the sand filled up the empty space. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous yes.

The professor then produced two cans of beer from under the table and then proceeded to pour the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the grains of sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The big rocks are the important things — your family, your spouse, your health, your children, your friends, your favorite passions — things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.”

“The pebbles are the other things that matter, like your job, your house, your car.”

“The sand is everything else — the small stuff.   If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the big rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.”

“Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical check-ups. Take your partner out dancing. Play another 18. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party, and fix the disposal. Take care of the big rocks first — the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of beers.”

Back to Right Brain Marketing Moxie:  I’m sure with countless years and hours spent at the quarry, Jack knew the big rocks lesson well. He could have written it himself, but instead he simply lived it out every day of his life. He was a friend of the Community Foundation and one of the most generous men I’ve ever met. I enjoyed every cup of coffee I ever drank with Jack–black with cream only. And the hugs he’d give me before he left the office demonstrated that he was a cheerful giver.

But my favorite part was what happened just before Jack walked out the door. I’d always thank him for his abundant generosity and then he’d get a feisty look in his eyes and humbly say, “Don’t thank me yet…that check might bounce!”  Anyone who ever felt the years of hard labor in a Jack’s handshake knew that no check of his would ever bounce.  And his generosity all started, not with a cup of coffee, but with a coffee can and a bunch of small rocks—work ethic built a nickel at a time.

Oddly enough, I bet Jack generously donated a nickel for every little rock he ever picked up–because his parents knew that work ethic, humility, and generosity could be taught. I hope with all my heart that this isn’t old-school thinking; that adults are teaching, and kids nowadays are still learning, about the big rocks of life.

Sadly, Jack passed away on August 10, 2017.  But hard work, humility, and generosity did not. They live on in Jack’s family, through all who knew him, and in our community. But they can live on through you, too. After all, I learned it through making bullets for 10 cents a shot. 

Moral of the story: You likely never met Jack, but you feel like you know him now. Wasn’t he wonderful? Did he remind you of a donor you have? The spirit of Jack resonates with you because you have donors just like him! Telling the stories of your donors, the kind of people they are or were, the tools they used to give, the reasons they gave in the first place will resonate with other donors and potential donors who read your blogs or newsletters in much the same way. You must write and tell these stories. Your current donors will inspire your future donors through the stories you tell. Use the Big Rocks method to make space for this important storytelling task.

And, if you’re not sure if your left brain practices are working in a big rocks way, it’s worthy of a renewed conversation with one of your colleagues–perhaps over a couple of beers at your favorite Big Rocks and Beer Brewery. And if you don't mind, just for me, would make a toast to a generous man named Jack and the donors you have who are just like him. Cheers!

 All My Best,

[email protected]
dawn brown creative, llc. 

P.S. Fundraising is hard, even though you make it look
oh-so easy! ♥

Frideas--Friday ideas are filled with
info and inspo!

Want to participate in some Knowledge Generosity,
here's your opportunity!

What do you do with an idea?  You change the world!

Get a Fridea: a Friday idea!

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join my mailing list to receive the latest news, updates, and ideas for days!

Don't worry, your information will not be shared.

I seriously hate SPAM, like for real.

So, I promise to never sell your information, for any reason.