The art of eating M&Ms

March 13, 2008

A bag of M & M candies

When you rip open a bag of M&Ms, how do you eat 'em? Pop one at a time, rapid-fire? Pour handfuls into your waiting maw? Or do you slide a single one into your mouth, suck on it for awhile, then finally swallow and consider, possibly, having another?

The way you answer that question could have remarkable ramifications for how you approach life in general. Are you the type of person who consumes new experiences at a phenomenal rate? Do you let everything go by in a rush as you focus on something else? Or, perhaps, do you savor each experience one at a time?

Interestingly, conventional wisdom might be right for once. Savoring one experience at a time lets you take in more, and more importantly, understand more. I once met a maharaja who visited my cultural anthropology class in New Zealand. He insisted that it would take many years to learn what he was about to try and teach us in an hour. Being young and inexperienced, after the lesson was over I privately scoffed at the seeming simplicity and easiness of the concepts. How could it possibly take years to learn this?

Now, eight years later, I understand.

Some things, like the meditative world view the maharaja tried to teach us, are intellectually very easy to disassemble... but very difficult to actually understand. Learning and understanding are two very different, though interrelated, concepts. In order to fully understand a lot of the seemingly simple productivity and personal growth concepts floating around the Web these days, you must experience them over an extended period of time instead of merely seeing them, analyzing them, and casting them aside.

So the next time you open up a bag of those metaphorical candy-coated chocolates, try savoring them one at a time. You might be surprised at how much more you enjoy them.