Are You A Magnet Or The Iron Filings?
When I was a little girl, I found a small black rectangular object near my grandparents cellar door. I didn’t know what it was, but it felt heavy and important. I ran into the house and asked grandma if I could keep it. She held it between her crooked finger tips and said, “You found a magnet!”
She handed it back to me, with permission to keep it, and explained that magnets attract things. She said if I move it around in the dirt very slowly, I could find all kinds of little treasures. I couldn’t imagine what the word “treasures” meant. Did she mean diamonds?
Grandmother then told me to wait at the kitchen table as she went into her bedroom. When she returned she held an old cigar box in her hand. She put in on the table, lifted the lid and blew inside of it. I could smell the combination of dust and tobacco. She slid the box over to me and suggested I use it to collect my future “treasures”.
I felt proud as I walked home with my new treasure box. The magnet only seemed like a side benefit at the time.
Little did I know, that little magnet would help prepare me for some of the greatest lessons of my life.
The Mother Load
The first day of treasure hunting I tried dragging the magnet in the sand just like grandmother said, but nothing happened. I moved to several different spots and still nothing happened. Disappointed, I gave up on it for several days.
Over time I began trying again different things. It didn’t take long before I began to see little black specks sticking to the magnet. “Are those treasures?” I asked myself. I expected diamonds, rare coins, or something really special.
“Those are iron filings.” My brother said as I showed him my find. “Not treasures exactly, but they’re still kind of cool.”
Day after day, I’d bury the magnet to find a few more iron filings. The first time I left it in for 7 days my heart went crazy pulling the magnet out. For the first time I got to see the Mother Load! Hundreds of black iron filings piled on top of one another.
I didn’t know what being rich meant at such a young age, but I sure felt rich. I carefully lifted the magnet and opened the lid of my treasure box. Removing them carefully they all fell into the sea of iron. My hands were shaking and I accidentally dropped the magnet – PLOP! – right into the box. The filings began to jump and move toward the magnet as if they were alive. Some of them made beautiful designs while others simply clung.
After cleaning off the magnet again, I closed the lid. I laid the magnet on top of my box and heard noise from inside. I lifted the lid and saw iron filings clinging to the top of the lid, in the exact spot where the magnet laid on the other side. That’s when i discovered how to create really cool designs.
In that moment, no one on earth was richer than me. I felt like the magnet queen of iron filings.
I knew my family wouldn’t share in my euphoric high, so I called my Grandmother. When I shared my exciting news she said something I’d never forget.
“Oh good! You just proved that real treasures are found through hard work, persistence and patience.”
I asked her what persistence meant and she spent time explaining. Her words rang in my ears over and over again. I proved that real treasures are found through effort, persistence and patience.
What Gram didn’t know is that she taught me about having a great marriage, a great business, a great education, a great career and great relationships. She taught me that all of it depended on how much effort I was willing to put in. And if I was willing to be persistent and patient with my efforts, then I would eventually see great results.
We’re All Like Magnets
I’ve attracted people from every walk of life, from homeless people who wanted food in Seattle, to the president of a university wanting my advice. From a prostitute who wanted my help with spiritual freedom to best selling authors who wanted me to endorse their books. We all look for a magnet with which to create something more beautiful. The question is, when.
- We either attract people or we repel them
- We can be used to contribute something beautiful or selfishly consume
- We can be used in the healing of others or enable their unhealthy habits
Not Everyone Loves Magnets
There are many people who greatly dislike magnets. They feel magnets try to control them. They don’t want to be pulled into something beautiful because that makes them uncomfortable and accountable. They’d rather be consumers than step into a community where they can generously create. I call these people the 7-day iron filings. They take more time to be attracted to unselfishness. The great news is they have a purpose! They make magnets work harder and to bring their very best selves every single day. We need these type of iron filings to keep us balanced, humbled and mastering our own ability to love unconditionally.
The challenge is, their roots are deep. They often make shallow comments because they do not know they are good enough. They seldom find fulfillment. They put down others who live with purpose, with great faith or with integrity, just to make themselves feel better.
Exceptional magnets know how to become stronger at loving these people. The average magnets will avoid them so as not to feel drained by them. Both are important. Being discerning is vital.
Whether you’re in a time period of being the magnet, or being the iron filing, always remember that your real treasures will be found through great effort, persistence and patience. My grandma said so.