Empty Your Cup!

Tuesday, Jan 08, 2019
Daniel Wahba

Systems Analysis Project Lead

01 Posts

In order to live a life of continuous learning, you need to first learn to "Empty Your Cup"!

Too many questions are probably twirling in your mind. 

  • How can you fill your cup if you feel it is already full?
  • How can you learn about something if you already know so much?
  • How can you know someone if you already assume a lot?
  • How can you accept feedback if you already figured out what went right and what went wrong?

The list of question keeps expanding. 

"Empty Your cup" is a story that is goes back to a teacup conversation that famously happened long time ago between a scholar named Tokusan and a Zen Master Ryutan.

One of the different versions of the story goes like this: Once upon a time, there was a very wise Zen master. People traveled miles to seek his help and wisdom. The Zen master would teach them and show them the way to true enlightenment and wisdom in life. On one particular day, a scholar visited the master seeking  advice. The scholar approached the master and explained: “I have come to ask you to teach me about Zen”.

A few minutes later in their conversation, it was very clear that the scholar was had his mind completely full and convinced of his own views, opinions and knowledge. He interrupted the master continuously with his own stories and failed to listen and be attentive to what the master had to say and teach.

The master calmly suggested that they should have a cup of tea together. The master, with complete confidence, poured his guest a cup. The cup was filled. To the guest's surprise, the master kept pouring tea until the cup overflowed onto the table. It spilt the liquid even onto the floor and eventually onto the scholar’s jacket. The scholar was astonished and yelled, “Stop! The cup is full already. Can’t you see?”.

With a nice smile, the Zen master replied: “Empty Your Cup”, and added that the scholar is just like that cup "full of ideas and convictions" that nothing more can be absorbed, and advised him to come back with an empty cup.

Today, the same story happens in our lives every day. We think we know it all and that we don’t need to humbly listen and learn from others. Most of the time we do it unconsciously, but it remains very obvious to the people we are dealing with that we are not accepting new inputs to shape our thoughts and decisions.

Wikipedia defines Lifelong Learning as an ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for personal and professional reasons. Lifelong learning makes social inclusion better. It provides active citizenship and open vast spaces for personal development. It also boosts self-sustainability, competitiveness and employability; which are all direly needed in today's complex world.

I believe there are three main important factors involved in this process of continuous and lifelong learning:

  1. The will to change
  2. The will to empty our cups from the old
  3. The will to fill our cups with the new

The Will to Change

If we are not willing, voluntarily, to ,first, be open to and welcoming of new methods, ideas, ways of doing business, and even new insights about our personalities and characters, it is very unlikely that we can change. We need to accept that someone can challenge the methods we are using or shake up the paradigms we are seeing ourselves or others with. We need to be ready to challenge our own eyeglasses that we use to explore and interpret our worldview.

The Will to Empty Our Cups from the Old

To “empty our cups” from the old is a basic move that we need to act upon and have the will to keep doing. Emptying here means approaching the learning process with an attitude of a fresh first grader who is hungry and eager to learn. We need to have the courage to explore and discover new ways, techniques and skills. We need to take that leap to discover more about our potentials as if we have never tried or failed in our life. Our experiences are part of our lives. But, actually, they are part of our past not our future. We can still determine how our future will flow if we empty our cups from the old and seek to fill it with the new and fresh.

The Will to fill Our Cups with the New

The core of a lifelong learning process is to actually have a trusted master who can guide us through filling our cups with the new. Whether this includes learning new techniques in business, new ways of dealing with people, new perspectives or values in life; we need a master who can help us build the power to see what can potentially fill our cups and guide us in pouring the new in our cups.

Every single dimension or aspect in our lives has room to absorb new and fresh waters. It is key to learn to manage ourselves physically, emotionally, intellectually, professionally and even spiritually. Emptying the gallons of water that has already filled our cups is not an easy process. Yet, it is a healthy, mandatory process that can be done on phases as needed. We wont be able to experience a new state of mind, fresh mentality and genuine perspectives unless we have the courage to refill our cups.


No comments yet

Some of our features will not be working properly on IE. We recommend using this website from our supported browsers ex: Google Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Microsoft Edge