Classic Anecdote | 10 Inch Frying Pan Story

by Jade Handy on August 9, 2016

10 inch frying pan storyTwo fishermen are fishing near each other at a lake.

One man noticed something very peculiar about the other man. He was catching a ton of fish, but always putting the big fish back into the lake and only keeping the little ones. This goes on for quite some time. The man keeps every fish smaller than 10 inches and throws all the bigger fish back.

Curiosity got the better of him and he just had to ask, “Say, I see that you keep putting the big fish back but keeping the small ones. Can I ask you why?

The other man responded: “That’s easy. I only have a 10 inch frying pan.” His frying pan was only 10 inches. ∎


This 10 inch frying pan short story is about small goals vs big goals. A anecdote about not stretching your capabilities. A narrative about self-imposed limitations. A story about awakening and enlightenment and wisdom.

Quotes that tie it together:

If you always do what you’ve always done. You’ll always get what you’ve always gotten. – multiple attributions

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over again – and expecting a different result. – Einstein misattribution?

Related cliché phrase:

Take the road less travelled.

Marching to the beat of a different drummer.

Other inspirational anecdotes for speakers to drive home the point or for semantic priming, the story of the grandma that cuts off the ends of the ham (or roast) unnecessarily. Maybe even insert the square pumpkin story.

Dark anecdotes like the pine processionary caterpillars (revealed in my next post) that march blindly in allegiant military formation on the bell jar to an untimely death illustrates the idiom and metaphor of the blind leading the blind which has a bit more spotlight on the leader.

Add the sometimes humorous persuasive parenting cliché: Begs the question a parent would ask of a child, “if your friend jumped off a building would you?”

Related: Processionary Caterpillars Story

–Meta Post–

Classic Anecdote series consists of my all-time favorite metaphorical short stories (with a side of success psychology) used by multiple well-known speakers and authors through many years. The uniqueness of my versions are the result of boiling down multiple versions to their common denominators and/or essential elements.

There have been plenty versions of the 10 inch frying pan story through the years, but the above are the common denominators. Hours of Power by Robert Schuller was the catalyst for this post. Thank you.

“Fabre conducted a famous study on the processionary pine larvae where a group of them were attached nose-to-tail in a circle with food just outside the circle; they continued marching in the circle for a week; he described the experiment in his 1916 book The Life of the Caterpillar.[8]” on wikipedia

Photo Credit: Lars Plougmann via Compfight cc Thank you!

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