When I was seven or eight, my father took me and my twin brother into Little Rock to participate in a community egg hunt. We were both very excited. This was at a time when kids didn’t eat candy everyday like many do now. Of course there was Easter and Halloween; guaranteed sugar fests. Christmas could yield candy canes and homemade fudge…and fruit cake. I loved fruit cake. I always got a Zero Bar at the public pool at Beebee, but that was only once or twice a summer. And though I bought a Snickers Bar with my one dollar allowance once and awhile, I usually spent it on a ninety-seven cent Hot Wheels car. So the promise of a little extra Easter candy was getting us seriously worked up.
The hunt was to be held at a small public park, and when we arrived I could see that there would be a lot of competition. There were a lot of kids and some of them were big. I had imagined that the hunt would be over hills and dales with all sorts nooks and crannies containing plastic eggs filled with wonderful sweets. It would require expert hunting skills to emerge victorious. But that’s not what this was at all.
The planners had created a circle no larger than a little league baseball diamond. In it was a big mess of little candy covered marshmallow eggs. None were hidden in any way.
Every candy season has the bottom of the barrel item. In Halloween, it’s the peanut flavored taffy wrapped in black or orange wax paper. In Christmas, it’s the candy cane. And at Easter it’s Brach’s Candy Marshmallow Easter Eggs. I’m not sure if they even make these anymore, or perhaps parents are just too afraid of disappointing their children with them. But when all was said and done, we always ate this stuff. After all, it was candy, and candy is better than nothing.
Amongst these crap eggs, were a few big plastic eggs. The announcers called them “prize” eggs. In the egg would be a prize that could be redeemed at the event table. I thought it would be a good idea to get one of these prize eggs. And for some reason, it hadn’t occurred to me that all of the other kids would be thinking the same thing. We all vied for good positions around the circle as the announcer was wrapping up her instructions. She would say the classic “on your marks, get set, go!”
We were all shoulder to shoulder. Also, it didn’t occur to me at the time that there may have been more kids than eggs. But what did it matter? I was fast. I had sharp eyes. I was going to wrack up on eggs! I fixed my eyes on a golden egg just a meter and a half in front of me. This is where I would start, and then I would start picking up the rest. I glanced next to me. There was a freckly kid a year or two younger than me. He looked ravenous. He was rocking back and forth in a running stance. So I got into my runner’s stance. “On your marks! Get set! Go!”
Before I even took a step, that kid dove full length onto my egg. I was stunned. I just stood there looking at him as he got to his feet and dove to get ANOTHER prize egg. I ran around in a panic, looking for a prize egg, but every time I saw one someone quicker than me picked it up. And before I knew it, they were all gone. So I decided to downshift into candy egg collecting. I stood in the middle of the circle looking all around. Most of the other kids had already left to claim their prizes, and they had taken all of the candy eggs with them. There was not a single egg left. I ended up with absolutely nothing.
I walked back to my dad and found that my brother had gotten a prize egg. He had already redeemed it…for a 2 liter bottle of warm Sunkist orange soda; my least favorite. I saw it, and I realized that if that’s all I would have won, then I would have just gathered the candy.
It was a lesson I have never forgotten. It is simple, but I will break it down.
The prize egg is something that is scarce that is of high value. The candy egg is something that is plentiful and of less value than the prize eggs.
1.) If you intend to take a prize egg, then be prepared to be more aggressive than the other guys.
2.) Understand what the prize is. Is it a new bike or an orange soda. The more you know about your goal, the better you can gauge your strategy.
3.) if you decide to compete, but you don’t care about the prize, then find profit in the candy egg. They may be worth less, but there are more of them and if you jump in early you will get the most. And when you have the most, you have something very valuable.
4.) If you don’t know what the prize is then you have to decide if betting on something that could end in you walking away with nothing is worth it.
It is something I’ve used to make decisions my whole life, and I’ve aced the big ones. My process usually starts with recognizing the egg hunt. I find myself saying, “David, are you going after a prize egg?” 3 examples:
1.) Marriage. When I saw all of the other boys looking at the girl I loved as if she were a prize egg, I moved quick. I was like that freckle-faced kid who got my prize egg. I JUMPED. And she was a lot better than any stupid old warm orange soda.
2.) College. I studied my options. Prize eggs become known to me. Julliard, Indiana, Eastman, all the best music schools. Everyone wants to go there, but few will make it, and even fewer can afford it. I had a good enough egg right in my backyard: OU. I got everything I needed from there, and I saved a bundle.
3.) I’ve had nothing but success in my entire career. Not all my doing… will get to that. My first job was a candy egg. Time was running out to get a teaching position before the fall semester and I couldn’t find the job I wanted. I had too little experience to get a prize, so I took the candy egg. But my second job, I moved fast and was the most aggressive of the lot. My current job? My biggest career prize egg and it was handed to me on a platter. That’s something you don’t plan for or decide into being. Just a God thing.
And then there’s every time I’m searching for a parking place. You figure it out.
Let’s not forget that this is an Easter story, so God is here. I’ve made good decisions, but I don’t make eggs. That’s God’s job. He’s always there, giving me opportunities. He gave me my wife, my education, my career, and my children. And he gave me the sense to gather it all up into a very blessed life.
Perhaps I suffered a small trauma because of the worst planned egg hunt ever, but I’m glad for it. There are far worse ways to learn this lesson.