A Cup of Water

By Thomas Jakobs January 08, 2012

A Cup of Water

By: Thomas Jakobs

Blogging is a funny thing. Sometimes a topic comes up and I think “nah, I don’t want to write about that.” But when it keeps coming back, eventually I give in.

I don’t think anyone will be surprised to find out that InvoTek is a small company. Lately the question that keeps coming up is “given the enormous challenges facing people with severe disabilities, how can InvoTek (and me in particular) think that we can make a significant difference? Aren’t we just too small?” It is a good question. InvoTek does a lot of things. We do research on new computer access technologies for people who can’t use their hands, we are developing new communication approaches for children who don’t speak, we are developing a simulator to help caregivers do a better job of dressing elders with dementia, we make products, and we help the Be Extraordinary program. We don’t do any of this on our own— we work with experts all over the country – but still, isn’t it impossible to really make a difference? My answer to this question is a story told to me a few years ago. 

Back in the 4th century there was a hermit who lived in a cave. He was renowned for his wisdom and purity of spirit. A city dweller kept coming to the hermit asking him to be his mentor. The hermit resisted, but eventually gave in. One of the tasks he gave to the seeker was to bring a woven basket to the cave. The hermit put some sand in the basket and told the seeker to pour a cup of water into the basket every day.

The seeker thought this was dimwitted. Nothing was happening. It was a waste of time. He kept questioning the hermit about it, but the hermit told him to continue. After several months of pouring a cup of water every day, the seeker came back to the hermit with an empty basket. All the sand had been washed away, and in the process, the seeker found the wisdom and the spirit he was looking for. The lesson was that nothing of real value happens quickly, one has to be patient and trust that perseverance (and humility) will eventually achieve the goal.

I hope that InvoTek and Be Extraordinary are an occasional cup of water on the mound of challenges that our clients and customers face. As we do our day to day work there doesn’t appear to be much happening. We constantly question whether we are doing our best to make a difference. But as I look back over the past year I can see a dent in the challenges, so I think there is hope and that we might be on the right track.

I think all of us struggle to know whether we are going in the right direction with our lives. I am grateful to the people who question me – it comes from a sincere desire to help me and InvoTek – and it helps to keep us focused and to point out where we can do better. Together maybe someday we’ll see an empty basket, but if not, I can’t imagine a better way to spend 2012 than trying to be a cup of water.

Happy New Year to all of you!