TRANSCRIPTION: I came across this quote and the following parable recently, and thought it would be beneficial to share both. Trust me, I’m not here to lecture anyone. (I like to say that I do my best lecturing at home) but while I think it’s great that the internet has made information available on almost any topic we seek, what we choose to do with that information can be critical to a desired outcome, (especially in law and finance) as the following ancient story illustrates.

A young man nearing the end of his 10 year apprenticeship in the shop of a master potter has ambitions of starting his own business. For years, the apprentice has watched his master at work, kneading the clay to a perfect consistency before sitting down at his wheel. The young man observed every nuance: how the master sprinkled water on the wheel before he set the clay upon it; how he started the wheel slowly while his fingers grazed the surface with the lightest touch; the way he closed his eyes as his hands tightened on the clay.

The apprentice and master had worked side by side like two oxen in a yoke, stacking firewood in the kiln, loading each pot carefully in its proper place in the kiln, and keeping watch during the long firing. There was one step in the process that the apprentice knew he would not imitate in his own shop.

Before applying the glaze, the old master would hold each pot close to his face and talk to it while turning it fully around. Only then would the old man set about applying the glaze with patient concentration.

The apprentice promised himself he would not waste time with an old man’s strange habits. The apprentice soon opened his own shop, despite the master’s warning that there was still much for him to learn. He built himself a kiln just like the old man’s, and carefully followed his teacher’s formula step-by-step. But, firing after firing, pieces that went into the kiln perfect in every way came out of the oven with crackled glaze. Customers noticed the imperfections at once and laughed at the young man’s asking price; in the end, he settled for pennies just to clear his shelves so he could try again. But it was to no avail. Nothing he tried kept the fine glaze from cracking.

Soon the apprentice was forced to close his shop. With his head down like a shamed dog, he went back to his master to ask forgiveness for his false pride and ignorance. He found the master talking lovingly to a heavy milk pitcher. “And what woman will pour from you, my beauty?”, the old man was saying, turning the piece in his hands as he held it close to his eyes. “A fine, strong woman with big hands, I think, and an appetite for ripe purple plums.”

At that moment, the old man turned and noticed the apprentice. “I was wondering when you’d be back,” he said to the young man. “Take off your coat; there’s a load of wood to be chopped.” “You’re not the first, you know,” the master said as the apprentice set about his old duties. “I’ve seen many students learn the techniques until they can do them in their sleep, and then they convince themselves they’ve become master potters. But it takes many more years to learn the spirit of the work. To be a skilled potter you must master both the technique and the spirit of your work.

Technical skill alone is worthless. “Did you ever notice that I talk to my pots before I put on the glaze? A crazy old man talking to lumps of clay, you probably thought. What you didn’t notice was that, as I talk, my breath blows the fine dust off the surface and adds a bit of moisture to help the glaze adhere. Talk lovingly to your pots, wrap them in your spirit, and the glaze will never crack in the kiln,” the old man said, dipping his brush into a plum-colored glaze. A special thanks to Mehrad Nazari, PhD, Author of Enlighted Negotiation: 8 Spiritual Laws to Connect, Create, and Prosper, ( for permission to share this story.

Dedicated to your success,
David Soble



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