The Lost Pink Pearl
It was a very warm Sunday evening of Labor Day weekend 2022. I just got in from a day of hiking and reading by the lake.
Sun-scorched and starving, I emptied the dishwasher, preparing to cut up fresh vegetables that my brother and I had picked from my garden the evening before to make dinner.
As I stacked my beloved Mediterranean-style dishware in the cabinets, a small piece of something broke off and bounced on my hardwood kitchen floor, just beneath my feet. At first, I thought I chipped one of my favorite bowls.
Out of fear that the piece of porcelain would get stuck in fellow feline paws, I put down the dish in my hand and searched my kitchen floor for it.
Lo and behold, there it was: a tiny, perfectly-rounded, pearl-like… something.
My future sister-in-law recently sent me home with a container of delicious, homemade cupcakes, perfectly and delicately adorned with tiny, white, pearl-like candied chocolates to satisfy my most recent chocolate craving. I assumed the broken piece I found was a rogue chocolate pearl that fell out of the dishwasher. Without giving it another thought or questioning it, I threw it away and continued stacking my dishes.
Fighting for the Good Life—and Chocolate Cravings
Hours later, after indulging in a refreshing, delicious dinner, I sat on my back porch, enjoying a glass—or two or three—of whiskey, listening to nothing but the quiet and peaceful New Hampshire solitude and the sound of crickets, singing their end-of-summer songs.
I glanced down and realized the light pink pearl on the ring that I always wear on my left hand was missing…
Nearly a decade ago, a family friend conducted an in-person demonstration where we could pick an oyster from a batch of fresh oysters, open it, and collect a pearl. The oyster that I opened contained a light pink pearl, which represents health, success, and romance.
As a Christmas gift, my mother took my pink pearl and had a ring made for me, with the pearl nestled between cubic zirconia diamonds. Next to the diamond ring that my paternal grandmother willed to me after her death, this pearl ring was my second prized piece of jewelry.
When I realized that the pearl “chocolate” I had thrown away was the pearl from my ring, I instantly felt sick.
And, like any woman who lost a piece of sentimental jewelry, I began to cry.
After yet another summer of heartbreak, difficult choices, an unknown career path, and just an all-around feeling of discouragement, disappointment, and despair, losing my pearl was just icing on the (cup)cake.
As I choked back tears and fought bouts of nausea from just… everything, I then recalled a story my father told me when I was younger. When he was 18 years old, my grandmother asked him to take their trash to the town dump. He threw the trash into the trunk of his 1968 Camaro and then drove the short, two-mile drive up the hill to the dump.
Before unloading the trash, he took off his class ring and placed it on the bumper of his Camaro. After unloading the trash and its containments, he drove off—leaving the ring on the bumper.
After realizing he lost his class ring, he then walked the two miles back to the dump in search of his ring, which could have been anywhere…
However, as luck would have it, he found it.
As I recalled this story, I stopped crying, and anger suddenly rushed over me.
After years and years of fighting to keep my business alive, fighting to keep my kidneys healthy, and fighting to find my one, true soul mate… dammit… I deserved a life of health, success, and romance. I wasn’t giving up. I worked too damn hard, and I was becoming too damn old.
That pink pearl ring represented everything I wanted and felt that I was owed.
So I did the unthinkable. I downed the rest of my whiskey, walked into my pantry, pulled out my trash bag, and dumped its entire containments onto my kitchen floor.
In my slightly inebriated state, I watched through blurry eyes and as dried tears caked my face as potato peels, raw chicken and sausage packaging, and shards of food and vegetable rinds vomited all over the floor.
After what felt like hours of digging through empty coffee pods and cat food cans, I picked up an empty hummus container, and before I discarded it back in the pile of disgusting slop, I did a double take and saw it… my pearl.
I found it!
Of course, after picking up the garbage off my pantry floor—and washing my hands with what should have been turpentine—I rinsed and sanitized my pearl and put it safely in my jewelry box until I could have the ring professionally repaired.
How to Change Your Thinking
Now, as an entrepreneur, creative, writer, and strategic thinker, I recalled a chapter from the book Smart Thinking by Art Markman, PhD that I read earlier that afternoon at the lake.
How could I have approached—or thought about—this situation differently? How could I have prevented this mistake?
I made an assumption, and therein lies the problem and perhaps the biggest mistake I repeatedly make in my life.
Rather than stop and take a moment to consider all the possible scenarios as to what the “chocolate pearl” could have been, I threw it away, assuming it was a stale piece of candy rather than an incredibly valuable and expensive piece of jewelry.
Now, would I have been wrong to make this assumption? Absolutely not. It was completely plausible.
However, in this case, I was very wrong.
How many other people, opportunities, or valuable items have I thrown away because I ASSUMED they were garbage?
If I took the time to stop, think, and question my own assumptions, it would have saved me from the pain, suffering, and disgusting experience of digging through garbage.
So what does all this mean, really?
Here are some basic things we can all do better to ensure we make good decisions, avoid assumptions, and live with an open mind.
Learn to Ask WHY
One of the best ways we can apply “smart thinking” to our everyday lives is by asking WHY. Many of us make the mistake of taking things at face value. We just assume they are correct, or maybe we don’t want the responsibility of questioning them. Maybe that pushes us deeper into something than what we are comfortable with.
However, by asking WHY, you not only break down the barriers to truth but you also gain a deeper understanding of how things work and wisdom. It also shows you where your gaps in knowledge are—what you understand versus what you think you understand.
For example, if you were to describe—in detail—how exactly a zipper works, would you be able to do it? Sure, we all know that a zipper fastens the two parts of your jacket with its mechanical teeth. But would you be able to describe how exactly the mechanism inside the zipper works? Maybe, maybe not. This is what I mean by a gap in knowledge, and the best way to overcome it is by asking WHY.
Question Assumptions and Your Own Thinking
Making assumptions can wreak havoc in life, relationships, and work. Rather than easily give in to assumptions, learn to become aware that you are making them and question them. Overcoming assumptions can tear down the roadblocks that prevent you from reaching genuine wisdom.
The next time you have a thought or listen to another make a statement, learn to think pragmatically. For example, you can challenge it by asking yourself:
- Is it true?
- Is this based on facts or feelings?
- What facts or evidence are used to back it up?
- Are you thinking abstractly or specifically?
Changing Your Thinking will Change Your Life
Of course, the story about losing my pearl is arguably a trivial problem on the larger scale of life. However, the meaning that I interpreted from it might resonate with all of you.
Succumbing to the same old ways of thinking and, therefore, approaches to life will inevitably lead to making the same mistakes and finding yourself stuck in the same toxic and disappointing patterns—and digging through the garbage.