Monday, August 2, 2010

The Leaky Bucket

Once upon a time in ancient China, there was a young monk who drew water from the well and carried it back to the temple everyday. The young monk carried two buckets of water slung on a bamboo pole across his shoulders.

One of the buckets was perfect while the other one was a leaky bucket with several holes on the sides. Every time the young monk filled up the two buckets and got back to the temple, the leaky bucket would be half empty as water sprinkled out through the holes on its sides.

The leaky bucket was sad that it was imperfect and water was leaking from its sides. One day, on the way to the well, the leaky bucket plucked up enough courage and spoke with the young monk with an apologetic tone:

"Master, I am sorry that I am imperfect and could not keep the water from sprinkling through the holes on my sides."

The young monk smiled slightly and nodded his head knowingly, and silently in acknowledgement.

When at the well, the young monk drew the water and filled up the two buckets as usual.

On the way back to the temple, the young monk said to the leaky bucket, who was very quiet.

"Look to the side of the road where the perfect bucket passed over. It is barren. Not even a blade of grass grows here."

Pointing to the blooming flowers on the other side of the road, the young monk said to the leaky bucket.

"See these beautiful flowers? These are here only because of the water you sprinkled on them everyday. They owe their existence to you, and we are able to enjoy these beautiful flowers, only because of you. Your imperfection has brought benefits to people around you."


The water in the pail reminds me of our gifts and we are like the leaky bucket. All of us are imperfect and all of us have gifts - gifts that will bring value and benefits to others when put to good use.

Our imperfections are the channels that allow our gifts to flow to where it is most useful.

Embrace our imperfections and find ways to combine it with our gifts to create value and benefits for others.


  1. Always love what you share. Keep it up, Sir!

  2. Dear Joseph,

    thank you for your encouragement. I am glad that you found this useful.

  3. embrace imperfections? I tot the conventional way is to eliminate imperfections and go for perfections?

  4. Dear P,

    thank you for your comment and the opportunity to think deeper about this topic.

    I believe in the NLP presupposition that "whatever we focus on expands".

    So I am inclined to focus on developing my gifts rather than "perfecting my imperfections". By focussing on my gifts, my imperfections will also be affected as everything is interlinked.

    I believe my imperfections will be made useful when I focus on developing my gifts. You can say I "perfect" my imperfections by focussing on my gifts.

    Indeed, I believe that the combination of my gifts and my imperfections will produce something that be better than just my gift alone could produce, hence, I said "embracing imperfections". I view imperfections as allies to be shaped rather than enemies to be subdued.

    I am excited by this discussion.

    Looking forward to your thoughts ;D

  5. Hi,
    That is a whole reframing mechanics that you have in place. But what if that imperfection is obstructing your way to perfection? Things like habits and beliefs that are dragging your feet to focus on your gifts?

  6. This story reminds me of the Leonard Cohen lyric: "there are cracks in everything. That's how the light gets in.