Note, this page doesn’t explain why we need to work on big things next to smaller improvements. See why in


About rocks, pebbles and sand

Chances are you’ve already read or heard the story about the jar with the rocks, pebbles and sand. The origins of the story are unknown and depending on the angle, people adapt it to their own interpretation.

Who better than ChatGPT to explain in a beautiful poem what this story is about?

In a jar, first went the sand, space scarce, no stand,
Then pebbles, amidst grains they found their way,
Last, rocks, no room, above they lay, askew, unplanned.
The wise reversed; rocks first, beneath the sun's ray,
Pebbles nestled in gaps, sand filled last, a lesson grand:
Life's big rocks must lead or dreams might slip away.

If you’re more empirically inclined, try the following.

Take a jar and a roughly equal volume of sand, pebbles and rocks. Start by filling the jar with the sand, then the pebbles, then the rocks. Take a picture of the jar. Now do the inverse. Start by filling the jar with the rocks, then the pebbles, then the sand. You’ll see that you can fit more into the jar

Life, and definitely startups, are all about resource allocation. Where do we place our bets? What do we spend our precious time on? If we first plan all the small stuff, we won’t get to the big swings.

Assuming fixed resources (= the jar), the liberating truth is that we can maximize the stuff we get done by first planning the big things, then filling up the time with the smaller things.

This is not just a product thing. The human brain only remembers the big picture. This is more true than ever given the amount of stuff that is coming at us every day. In messaging to the market (both 1 to many marketing messaging as well as 1 to 1 sales messaging), we need to bring big picture stuff so people remember us and choose us.

What it means for us

At Awell we want to use the rocks, pebbles and sand analogy for what we ship in our product that is closely tied to our marketing and sales efforts.

As mentioned above, there is no standard definition of what constitutes a rock, pebble or sand. The below is our guidance on these.

  • Rocks are big steps towards our vision whereas pebbles and sand are incremental.

  • Rocks make us so excited we want to talk to others about them. Pebbles & sand less so.

  • Rocks are what makes the audience applaud (iphone launch) whereas pebbles & sand makes them nod in understanding (faster processor, higher screen resolution).

  • Rocks are what we think will really move bring the business to a new reality whereas pebbles & sand feel more like business as usual.

  • Rocks move the state of the art for the whole industry whereas pebbles & sand are tablestakes features

  • Rocks generally require more effort and time whereas pebbles & sand.

  • Rocks are new products and big flagship capabilities whereas pebbles & sand are upgrades, improvements and fixes.

  • Rocks are what product, marketing and sales spend significant time on to align delivery, messaging and launch whereas pebbles & sand get included in the day to day flow.

Examples of rocks at Awell

We’ve had rocks in the past at Awell, so we’re not executing against a theoretical framework. Our rocks included Awell Studio, Awell Hosted Pages and our Extensions marketplace.