There is an old Japanese parable about a successful business man and a Japanese monk that goes something like this.
Picture a guy like Donald Trump or a CEO from one of the car companies going to a Japanese Zen Buddhist monk while on a trip to Japan. He walks into the temple to visit with this holy man and get himself a blessing or some wisdom or something. He’s not sure what, but something has drawn him here, and he wants what this guy’s got.
So he enters the temple and is shown into a room with very little furniture save some big pillows for sitting and a small table. He doesn’t sit but stands and paces a bit waiting for the monk. After an interval the monk quietly enters, bows to his visitor in greeting, and bids the businessman sit on one of the pillows while he sits on the other. The monk begins to close his eyes, about to go into a meditation, when the businessman starts talking. He pronounces why he’s there and what is so spiritually uplifting about work and all the good he’s done for people and, more and more lately, the environment too. Because he really cares about the environment and the earth and all that stuff the creator has made and on and on and on.
The monk listens for some time and then raises a hand to silence the man. He says, “I think we should have some tea,” rises and walks out. Several long minutes later he returns with a tray carrying a steaming pot of tea and two cups. He sets them down on the small table and sits again on his cushion. He says to the man, “This is Japanese tea ceremony. Very ancient.”
He slowly bows to the man, reaches over with both hands to ceremoniously pick up the tea pot, and slowly begins to pour the tea into the man’s cup. The cup slowly begins to fill…a quarter way up, half way up, three quarters… the priest keeps slowly pouring. The visitor anxiously notes that the cup is almost full and getting closer and closer to the brim. The pour continues. The brim is reached. The monk does not move a muscle to stop. He calmly, wordlessly, keeps pouring. As the tea beings to overflow the cup the businessman begins to freak out. “Watch out! You’re spilling the tea! You’re making a mess! It’s going everywhere!” The monk slowly, wordlessly, stops pouring. He gently puts the tea pot down in it’s spot and sits back on his cushion. He lifts his eyes to the man’s eyes and quietly looks at him. FInally he speaks.
“You are that tea cup. You are so full of your own thoughts and beliefs there is no room for any more. Before you can learn anything from me, you have to empty yourself of your preconceived notions and beliefs.”
The great golfer, Jack Nickolaus was good at that. Even though he was certainly the best golfer of his generation and, until Tiger Woods breaks his record, still owns more major championships than anyone in history, every year he would return to his boyhood golf teacher and start over. He’s say to his teacher, “I’m a beginner. Please teach me how to play golf.