Drop Your Bucket Right Where You Are!

By Keith Varnum

With a leprechaun glint in his eye, my grandfather used to whisper in my ear, “If success were any closer to ya, it’d bite yer nose off!” Being an all-knowing teenager, I felt he was nuts. I couldn’t spot my fortune anywhere around me. I couldn’t see how I could accomplish any of the myriad of dreams I had laid out for myself at fourteen.

Now, after he is long gone to heaven and probably kicked out already, I can finally understand what the old coot was trying to get though my stubborn skull. The very goals we seek are close at hand—only we are blinded by our ideas about what form the achievement of these goals will take.

A Fun Exploration

Try an experiment right now. Before you read any further, make a wish list of everything you want in life. We’ll return to your dream list in a moment after a short true story—the most potent kind of story there is.

A Flash from the Past

In the 1800’s a Portuguese sailing vessel was heading to Brazil. The schooner got caught in the doldrums of the Atlantic Ocean—a dreaded fate of no wind for weeks that could be fatal to ship and crew. The trip had taken longer than expected and they were precariously close to running out of water. All onboard were getting severely dehydrated—and they were still hundreds of miles from port. Just as the commander began to realize they weren’t going to survive another day with the water left on board, the aft lookout spotted another clipper. But since neither had the wind to sail closer to the other, the two sloops had to resort to their naval flag system to communicate.

A Distress Signal Goes Up

The captain of the troubled vessel commanded the flagman to hoist the message, “We’re out of water. Do you have water?” Immediately, the second ship signaled back, “Drop your bucket right where you are!”

Well, if the skipper and helmsman weren’t so weak from dehydration, they’d have laughed themselves off the deck into the Atlantic. “What could they possibly mean?” wondered the captain, as he ordered the signal man to repeat the first desperate plea, “We’re out of water. Do you have water?” Shockingly, the second ship flagged back the same enigmatic reply, “Drop your bucket right where you are!”

Now distraught and upset, the captain cursed under his breath, “How could they joke at a time like this?” Again, he directed the crewmate to flag the same frantic appeal, “Do you have water?”

What Are They Thinking?

Incomprehensibly, the second sail ship responded with the same unfathomable, seemingly pitiless reply, “Drop your bucket right where you are!” Perplexed and out of options and sanity, the captain of the distressed vessel declared to one of his men, “What the hell. Just do what they say. Drop your bucket right where you are!”

A Sailor’s Grace

So, in the course of a now historical discovery, the Portuguese sailor found that when he drew his bucket back up from the placid sea, the bucket was filled with fresh drinkable water!

You see, the volume of flow of the Amazon River flowing into the Atlantic is so great that the river current carries fresh water hundreds of miles out into the ocean, saving this crew—and hundreds more over the years to come—from certain death from the doldrums and dehydration.

Back to Your Future

Now turning your attention to each desire you wrote on your wish list, ask yourself this question, “Is it possible that the fulfillment of this wish might already be available right where I am—but in a form, or from a source, I haven’t yet recognized?”

Is it possible I could “drop my bucket right where I am” to find the objects of my dream—or at the very least, discover a step or opportunity that will take me closer to that dream?

The Elusive Melody

Ten years ago I heard a musical recording at a public conference that touched me to my core. I was not able to identify the name of piece at the time. I spent the next ten years asking every person I met on my travels around the world if they had every heard such a musical score. I didn’t know the title or the artist of the tune. In all my searching. I never found this song that spoke so directly to my heart. I gave up my pursuit.

One lazy winter afternoon last month, I accidentally let a favorite CD of mine play out to the end of the disk. I loved the songs at the beginning of the CD so much, I had never listened to the last cut on the CD. From the final track rang out the song that I’d been seeking all over the world for ten years!

I cried. Then I howled with amusement. I had carried this favorite CD of mine all over the world with me on my travels the whole time I was searching for that song. I’d had the song at hand all along.

What Riches Are We Not Seeing?

Then I asked myself, as my granddad would say, “How many other objects of my desire are so close they could bite my nose off?” Where else in my life could I “drop my bucket right where I am” and be instantly fulfilled?