Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Life is like a Box of Chocolates–and a Bowl of Pistachios

Shelling pistachios taught me a lesson about life's challenges.

bowl of unshelled pistachios

Forrest Gump’s insight on life was a little incomplete.

Tom Hanks, while acting as Forrest Gump, was right when he said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” But he would probably agree that dealing with the challenges we face is a lot like shelling a bowl of pistachios.

I thought of this as I was snacking on a bowl of unshelled pistachios. I kept picking up and putting down the ones with the shells that were the toughest ones to crack. After eating all the easily shelled nuts, I turned my attention to trying to crack the rest. It occurred to me that we tend to deal with life’s tough problems in quite a similar way.

We usually crack the easy nuts first - but should we?

I think it’s human nature to tackle our easy tasks and problems first. We often procrastinate and put the harder chores aside, to work on after other ones are complete. Time management advisors frown on doing this; they say you should tackle tough issues early in the day when you have the most time for them. In her article, How to Stop Procrastinating And Start Accomplishing, Caroline Castrillion points out, 

“The more challenging the tasks are, the more energy and concentration we need to complete them.”

Sometimes it’s ok to leave the tough nuts until last 

Do the hard stuff first is good advice… but, think about that bowl of nuts. Would you methodically pick out all the barely open pistachios and work at cracking all of them open before you enjoy the others? Of course you wouldn’t, unless someone offered you a challenge or told you that was what you had to do.

What this says to me, is that we can choose to do the hard things first, but it takes a lot of discipline. I’m not saying the experts are wrong, just pointing out that their advice can be hard to follow. Their way might be the best way, but it’s good to keep in mind that it's not the only way.

Trying to shell tough nuts (or complete tough tasks) can become less frustrating and less daunting once you’ve already had success with the rest.

Shelling a tough nut may seem more impossible than it is 

A pistachio nut may initially seem impossible to open, but after practicing on the easy ones, you may have learned patience and some new techniques. You mastered the skill of twisting the shell open but learned your fingernails are not strong enough to pry some nuts apart. 

If you use a knife blade as a fulcrum, from your experience with the easily shelled nuts, you’ll know just where to insert the point and how to twist to open this one. 

 One advantage to doing easier tasks first is they may show you difficult ones are not as hard as you first thought, because you’ve figured out a different way to do them.

scattered, partially shelled pistachios

Not all nuts can be cracked

Most importantly, I think, my bowl of pistachios taught me that not all nuts can be cracked. In a bag of pistachios, you will encounter a few nuts that have no discernable seam down the middle. Short of bashing them to pieces with a hammer, there is no way you can open them. 

Some tasks in life are like that too. Sometimes we have to just give up and leave them in the bowl … or find someone better trained or skilled (to act as a hammer) to do the task for us.

Life is full of surprises and challenges

As Forrest Gump said, life is just like a box of chocolates and always full of surprises. We never know just what will happen next. 

It is also full of challenges of varying difficulty. It is good to remember that, like a bowl of pistachios, sometimes we have to find different ways to deal with them, but almost all our challenges can be successfully dealt with, even if we sometimes have to get some help.


  1. True enough. Mind you I think that some people faced with touch nuts try very hard to convince themselves that they don't like them which is a perfect excuse not to attempt to crack into them.
    I really don't subscribe to many 'hard and fast' rules. Compromise and adaptability serve me much better.

    1. True. Compromise and adaptability both serve us very well.

  2. I SO agree, Susan! I think we are here on this earth to learn and grow. And we do it by solving problems. In different and varying ways.
    (And then there are those nuts that, when finally opened, are spoiled. Ugh.)
    P.S. I use the shell left from an easily shelled nut to open those that are harder to crack! ;)

    1. Oh yes -I forgot all about the spoiled ones! And I am going to try your trick of prying them open with another shell. Good tip!

  3. Such a great analogy. I had to stop and think how I do it.

    1. Thanks Carol. Do you have any pistachio shelling tips?

  4. I can totally relate! Well said!

  5. As a pistachio lover (I prefer unsalted in the shell) I do crack the easy ones first - mainly because I'm hungry and want something in my tummy before I tackle the harder ones. Some days, though, I put the ones without a crack back in the bag and hope that the next time I encounter them, they would have magically started to crack. I've read the ones without a crack aren't fully mature so don't spend a lot of energy on them. The lesson here? I have no idea.

    1. Maybe the lesson is that sometimes we just have to mature a bit before we tackle some problems. ?? But, now I'm curious Alana, have the nuts you've put in a bag ever opened up?


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