This is a statement that I have heard many times from numerous motivational speakers, business leaders, coaches and salesmen through the years. It is a common sense statement that is not commonly observed—like most common sense. I like the metaphor of digging a well for three reasons.
First, even in our industrialized western civilization we know what a well looks like because we’ve seen them in movies. Wells are deep. Digging a well is hard work and takes a long time. It is a major investment of time and labor to dig a well. You don’t get to take a drink of water from your well at the end of your first day of digging. Or your first week. It takes months of hard work before you get anything at all for your labor. It is a vivid example of the Law of Delayed Gratification.
Second, once a well is dug, it provides water not just for the rest of your life but possibly for generations of people after you. Once the well is dug, you can continue to draw water out of it seemingly indefinitely. It’s not like gathering nuts for the winter where every nut you store equals one future nut you can eat. Each hour spent digging doesn’t provide you with X number of gallons of future drinking water. Digging a well, and completing it, taps into a vast supply of water that can keep you sated without having to keep digging from season to season. It’s a clear example of the Law of Increasing Returns.
Third, water is vital for life. Everyone realizes that if you wait until you are thirsty before you start digging your well, you will die. I don’t think this is indicative of any particular law of success, but it is a reminder of the urgency of preparing now for the future.
When a speaker or author invokes the Dig Your Well aphorism, it is used most often as a warning to take care of your finances. Save for a rainy day, keep some dollars stashed away for emergencies, contribute to your 401K, buy my success seminar.
This is because most people spend the majority of their lives earning money. There is nothing wrong with being financially secure. In fact there is nothing wrong with being downright wealthy. But don’t be like the Hollywood cliché of the businessman who allows money to become his idol; who pursues it to the exclusion of all else in his life. He may have a deep, flowing financial well but a very shallow life.
I contend that this statement, dig your well before you’re thirsty, is applicable to every area of your life not just your financial statement. That there are many aspects of your life that can and should be insured against disaster. There are other wells that need to be dug before the eventual drought comes.
You have a marriage well. You have a health well. You have a faith well. You have an attitude well. You have a personal development well.
Being able to provide for yourself financially is not an adequate substitute for a deep spiritual well when you have a crisis of faith. It will not help you to salvage an estranged relationship with your spouse if you have allowed the marriage well to run dry. Especially if your focused dedication to chasing after wealth is what caused the rift to begin with. Nearly every wealthy man on his death bed would gladly trade all his riches for another day of health. How many executives do you know who have traded their health for their career? Traded their relationships with their families? Traded their spiritual faith? How many people have dug so long and so hard in their financial well that they no longer have any joy in their life?
Perhaps some of your other wells have been neglected. Maybe some of them you haven’t even begun to dig. Some of them have been poisoned by your neighbors. The reason there are so many unhappy people, so many marriages ending in divorce, so many people falling out of God’s favor—so much violence, hopelessness and despair—is because there are so many people that are thirsty.
What are you doing today so that you, your family, and your descendants will not be thirsty?