Monthly Archives: October 2015

The Coffee Cup Analogy

Heard this through a friend, and can’t find the original source. In any case, it matches my views on life to a great extent!

“A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life. Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups – porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite – telling them to help themselves to the coffee.

When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said: If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups have been taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress. Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. In most cases it is just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups; and then you began eyeing each other’s cups. Now consider this: Life is the coffee; the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain Life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of life we live.

Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee. Savor the coffee, not the cups! The happiest people don’t have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything. Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly.”


While I believe in the basic premise here, it’s important to note an important exception: the coffee cup must be fit to purpose. If it’s a solo cup, then you’re going to have problems with hot coffee. If it breaks, that’s a problem too, so reliability is important. There’s a minimum standard for being fit to purpose.

The minimum standard is also a good analogy for life. You don’t have to make the most money of everyone on the block. But you do need to make enough money to be comfortable. That amount is probably less than you think.