the pebble and the pond image

The Pebble And The Pond

On April 12, 2015, a man threw a pebble into a pond.

The ripples were small, and almost no one noticed.  He threw a second pebble, with essentially the same result.  Unperturbed, he tried again.  And again.  And again.

In the seven years since, he’s thrown hundreds of pebbles into that pond. The ripples have gotten bigger, and more people have noticed.

Today, the story of the man, the pebbles, and the ripples.

A story that directly affects you.

7 years ago, a man threw a pebble into a pond. The ripples were small and hardly anyone noticed. Unperturbed, he tried again.  And again.  And again. Click To Tweet

pebble and pond

The Pebble And The Pond

How long do ripples last?  Is it feasible to throw pebbles into a pond, one after the other, with the hope that the ripples will never stop?  An interesting question, this issue of pebbles, ripples, and ponds…

Today, a metaphor.  

Initially, I considered writing this entire post as a metaphor, leaving the reader to figure out the meaning.  I changed course, and have decided to write a brief explanation before continuing with the metaphor.   I’ve thought a lot about this story.  It has a lot of meaning to me, and I hope it will impact you as well. 

We all choose the pebbles we throw.

Our best hope is that their ripples will make an impact.

The Explanation:

  • The Man?  That would be me.
  • The Pebble?  My first post.  (hard to believe that was 7 years ago)
  • The Pond?  The world.  You, me, and millions of others walking our own unique journeys.
  • The Ripple?  The impact the pebble has made on those who have read my words.

Now, back to the story…

boy throwing pebbles into pond

The Act of Throwing Pebbles

The man chose not to get frustrated by the lack of impact from those first few pebbles, nor by the fact that no one besides his family and a few friends seemed to notice.  Rather, he continued to gather pebbles.  Dutifully, he continued to throw them into the pond.

Week after week.  Month after month.  Year after year.

Today marks the 367th pebble he’s thrown into the pond.

The pebbles remained essentially the same size, but the ripples grew larger.  Sometimes, he got lucky and a pebble would skip across the water, creating multiple ripples from a single stone.  As the ripples grew, so did the people who started to feel the impact. 

Over 12,000 people have signed up for emails to get notified when a new pebble gets thrown, and he’s heard from folks all over the world who have been moved by those ripples.  He imagines a basketball arena full of folks watching those ripples, and still feels humbled and in awe.

He’s heard from folks swimming in the pond who have looked at every pebble he’s thrown.  (To those rare readers who have read every one of my posts, my utmost appreciation).

In early 2020, he threw a giant boulder into the pond, and the ripples continue to this day.

He’s pleased his pebbles are making a difference.

How Long Can Those Ripples Last?

After 7 years of throwing pebbles, the man’s pace has slowed. 

For the first 6 years, he threw a pebble every week. In the first 3 months of this year, he’s thrown only five. He’s realized he’s free to decide when to throw pebbles, and when to pursue his various other interests.  It was a difficult decision, this forgoing of the weekly pebble throwing, but he’s glad he made it.  He has no obligation to throw a pebble every week, and the pond seems to do quite well, thank you, without the weekly disruption.

While he still enjoys throwing pebbles, he suspects he’ll throw them less frequently as time moves on.  He hopes the pebbles he chooses to throw continue to make big ripples.  He enjoys knowing his effort makes a positive impact on the pond.

He still has a pile of pebbles at his feet, but he’s becoming more selective on which he chooses to polish.  He’s learning to take more time with those pebbles before he launches them, it seems to have a positive impact on the ripple they make.  With all of the “easy pickings” already thrown, it’s becoming more difficult to find the good rocks.  Yes, he has some pebbles left, but they don’t fill him with the same excitement those earlier stones did.

As finding pebbles becomes more difficult,  he’s finding other things that he’s currently enjoying.  Retirement is an interesting evolution, constantly seeking out new things which offer fulfillment in your hard-earned time.  He recently built a mobile wood storage cart for a new wood storage shed that’s being delivered in a few weeks.  He shared his latest project on his Instagram account (feel free to follow if you’d like to see what he does when he’s not writing throwing pebbles):

mobile wood storage cart
Woodworking Projects vs. Throwing Pebbles

Earlier this week, he took a two-day hike on the Appalachian Trail with a friend.  Hmmm…there’s a potential pebble worth polishing.  He wonders if it would make any ripples, and adds it to the pile by his feet:

hiking the AT
March 30th on The Appalachian Trail

The Impact of a Ripple

The man has heard from many that they appreciate the ripples he creates, and he enjoys the positive feedback.  Many folks claim the pebbles are making a difference in their lives.  Oh, if we could all be so lucky.

The joy of making an impact for good.

There are few things in life as rewarding as knowing the work you do makes a positive impact in the lives of others. I suspect there are many who only casually watch the ripples roll toward the distant shore.  Some, however, embrace the ripple.  I’ve received thousands of emails from you, the reader, telling me of the impact my words my pebbles have made. 

The changes they’ve led to in your lives. 

“Helping People Achieve A Great Retirement” has been the man’s Purpose for years, and he hopes the pebbles he’s thrown thus far make a lasting impact.  He’s pleased that he’s captured every pebble thrown for the benefit of those who are following behind him on their journey.

He hopes the legacy of those pebbles already thrown continues to produce ripples for years to come.

And yet, how long can one throw rocks into a pond?  

Finding New Pebbles

Many folks wonder where the man continues to find new pebbles.  He strives to find a new pebble every time he decides to throw one into the pond.  Sure, there are some “favorite pebbles” that seem to resonate.  But he’s already been there, done that.  It’s much more rewarding to search for new pebbles for every throw.

His most frequent source of inspiration is his daily walk in the woods with his dogs. As he walks, he picks up the pebble, places it in the pocket of his mind and carries it with him for future polishing. Inside secret: He also sends himself emails via voice typing while walking when a particularly attractive pebble appears on the trail. In fact, he took the following photo just this morning, as the thought of “The Pebble And The Pond” first entered his mind:

finding pebbles for the pond
Finding Pebbles

Competing Priorities

And yet, whereas this walking time was once dedicated to searching for pebbles, he’s finding his mind thinking about other things as he watches the sunrise over the Appalachian Mountains on those morning walks. What to pack for that hiking trip with a buddy on the Appalachian Trail.   How to solve that tricky slope on the next Freedom For Fido fence build.  How to organize his new wood storage shed.

He’s developing new Passions in his retirement, new areas of interest. 

New pebbles, for new ponds.

He and his wife are making a difference in the lives of low-income folks who live nearby, and he’s finding it rewarding to make an impact alongside the one he loves.  He’s creating new things in his woodworking shop, and it brings a smile of contentment.  He’s spending time with his granddaughter and impacting a future generation for good.  All good things, and all competing with that rarest of all commodities. 


The ever-fading element that can never be replaced.  The man is being selective in how he utilizes that time.  Is it best to continue throwing pebbles, or to grow other pursuits that can also make an impact?  He chooses to do both, knowing full well that both are negatively impacted by his intentional diversion of focus.  Life seems more fun to the man when he’s working on various passion projects at the same time.

As the man becomes more selective in finding pebbles to polish, one of his biggest thoughts is on the pond.  He’s done his best to explain his thinking.

He hopes the pond will understand.


The Retirement Manifesto turns seven years old on April 12.  I never thought we’d make it this far (or grow this big), and I’m enjoying the ride.  Like everything in life, things evolve as we age.  It’s no different with a blog.  Instead of the “traditional birthday post” I’ve done in the past, I decided to mix it up today.  To share some deeper thoughts in a creative way as we enter our 8th year together.  You deserve that, as a small token of my appreciation for your loyalty.  I hope you enjoyed the approach.

I love throwing pebbles.  There’s an innate satisfaction when I find a particularly interesting pebble and spend time polishing it to a shine. I love knowing the ripples are making a positive impact on the pond.

And yet, I know there are other things I want to pursue.  Life is all about balance, and I think about it often.

I hope my words have encouraged each of you to search for your own pebbles to throw.

Find a way to make a few ripples.

Never stop searching.

Never stop learning.

Never stop throwing pebbles in the pond.

Your Turn: 

  • What pebbles are you throwing? 
  • Are you making any ripples? 
  • What new things are you pursuing? 
Let’s chat in the comments…


  1. Could be your best post yet. Makes you think about life in general and not just retirement and money…and that is what it is really all about. Thank you.

  2. I love your metaphor Fritz!

    I never quite thought of a blog as tossing pebbles into a pond. I must confess, we didn’t have any ripples at first either! Yet, over time and with practice, those small pebbles became more polished. Ever so slowly, people began to notice.

    Then, our words began striking a chord, touching others and making a difference. That’s when everything fell into place feeling worthwhile. My wife and I still have many more pebbles to toss and intend on living a great retirement.

    Happy Birthday and congrats on your anniversary!

    1. Shannon, only one correction to your comment: that first pebble you threw DID have a ripple, it just didn’t have the impact that your more recent pebbles have had. Every pebble makes a ripple, right? Keep throwing those pebbles!

  3. Fritz, I am not one of the read every post, however what I have read still ripples today for me. So thank you for “scratching the itch” of sharing your journey and enlightening others of what’s possible in retirement. You are an inspiration for being engaged, curious, and “bursting bubbles” of what we are told about retirement. Thank you and yes I still want to grab lunch with you in Blue Ridge, I have a place west of Murphy and make my way to BR when I am in town.

    1. As I began reading this post my mind initially assumed the metaphor was about the power of compound interest (ie – the growing impact over time of a dollar invested today). You obviously went much deeper than that.

  4. Fritz, your pebbles don’t make ripples, they make big waves. Thanks for that, from a friend and fellow pebble tosser. But I am sorry you decided to explain the metaphor. Give us some credit man.😉

  5. Very apropos Fritz, quite insightful of the journey we are all on. Reminiscent of the song “Ripples”, by Genesis: “ Ripples never come back, they’ve gone to the other side”. Life’s experiences (ripples) mold and change who we are, over time, so it’s important to recognize those and enjoy that most precious commodity …….. time.

    All the best.

  6. Your approach to retirement is so similar to mine, or mine is to yours, with the volunteer work, the hiking and soon to be our cabin in the woods, oh and blogging (though on a much smaller and less read scale in my case). I know many people struggle with life and especially with retired life, but to me its literally a walk in the woods, its fun and its easy and its an adventure. I think you are not just good with metaphors but you are good at modeling out what a well planned and well lived retirement looks like. And those are some good and helpful ripples to send out there to people not as far down life’s path as you and I are.

    1. Retirement is a walk in the woods….hmmm, sounds like a potential metaphor for that Appalachian Trail post, should I decide to polish that pebble. We are, indeed, walking very similar paths. I enjoy watching your ripples, and appreciate you watching mine.

  7. Great article Fritz! I think this will resonate with readers and initiate some deep thinking. Another term for your “ripples” is inspiration; a feeling after reading this may just motivate a person to “pay it forward” with acts of volunteering or just doing a good deed for the day. I highly encourage others to get a shopping cart for an elderly person or just open the restaurant door for them. The smile you receive back will provide “sunshine” for your heart and soul.

    Your ripples upon your readers multiplies Fritz; many times I have forwarded your posts to others I know would benefit from your words of wisdom.

    Building homes for strangers is probably the most rewarding time I have EVER spent on God’s Earth. You get back SO much more than you give. You know? 😉

    God speed to all of you, Steve

    1. Ripples are, indeed, the inspiration we bring to the pond. I agree that doing good for others is “the most rewarding time” we can find in retirement, and that God will lead those who follow to the pebbles he intends for them to throw. Thanks for adding to the discussion.

  8. Well said Fritz. Looking back on the ripple effects from pebbles I’ve thrown (both intentional and unintentional) causes me to reflect on the best way to throw pebbles in the water. Thanks for making me be more aware of the pebbles I throw.

    Until our paths cross again,

    David Baumgartel

  9. Your pool of water, whether it is making ripples, smooth as glass in calm times, rough with white caps during stormy times, whether you are IN the pond swimming, or along side walking the dogs …… the pond has ALWAYS been an inspiration Fritz. You are amazing. God blessed us all when He created you …. and the pond you swam in on!

  10. Congratulations Fritz! This is a wonderful post and reflection! Your post does really convey what this time in life is about. Your reminder about being selective really resonated. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences and for the encouragement and support you deliver!

  11. Please continue to throw your pebbles when the inspiration strikes. You continue to provide insightful advise along the path we are on. I know I have personally shared your insights with several. Thank you, God bless you (and your wife) as you continue this journey of life!

  12. Great post Fritz, and every post has been more than worth reading. You have had a great impact on my retirement journey, helping me realize more than ever before that retirement is more about how you spend your time rather than your money. A ripple in the pond is a great metaphor, we are in this life for such a short time and your blog is helping me make the most of it, helping me focus on a purposefully lived life. Thank you for all the time you have put into making our lives better.

    1. “You have had a great impact on my retirement journey…”

      31 – a sincere “Thank You!” for being one of those in the pond who have seen every pebble and studied every ripple. It’s impossible to describe how honored I am to know my pebbles are impacting many lives. Thanks for your loyalty and continual encouragment, much appreciated.

  13. Thanks Fritz … I am now also searching for the innocence of childhood, my friend.
    As for ripples, in most circumstances, that ripple runs out of energy and dissipates. The pond remains the same. But every now and then and with a little bit of grace, a pebble drops in. A ripple runs out, and it meets another ripple. The two grow together. Another ripple joins in and then another. Pretty soon a large swell is growing in this otherwise serene setting, and you are suddenly going somewhere, perhaps quite unexpectedly. This is the power of our intentions and little actions. Thanks for your inspiring actions and words.

    1. Adriano, if my memories serves correctly, I saw on FB you were recently heading to Portugal? Perhaps that’s the search for childhood innocence you mention?

      I love the mental image of ripples joining together to join a larger swell. The power of little actions, indeed! Good luck finding that innocence, my friend.

  14. Well-deserved congratulations to you! I have followed your blog religiously since it’s inception and only recently discovered Roger Whitney’s The Retirement Answer Man. I mention this because while listening to that podcast archive, I stumbled upon the “Can I Retire” series, and when I heard Carl’s (Karl’s) voice, I immediately shouted “That’’s Fritz!”.
    It was quite a treat to follow along as your blog was conceived in thought, then born, and now several years later thriving and reaching so many. Keep up the outstanding work and know that the time and effort you put in positively impacts so many.

  15. I continue to love every pebble you send out. I retired shortly after you did and I found your posts before and after that point in time invaluable.

    Pebbles in the pond is a great metaphor for many things in life. Your blog is a great example of how you have taken small words and had a huge impact on people. Pebbles can also be that first step towards being more active, the first pound lost to get to a healthier weight, the first unwanted item out the door to clean up a cluttered space. It can also be that first minute of spending more time with family, making the first reservation for a bucket list trip, researching the first step to learning more about your family history. So many small pebble firsts lead to so many great ripples in life. Thanks for the reminder that pebbles are all around us. All we need to do is to pick one up and see where it leads us.

    1. Pat – what a great list of “pebbles”, thanks for helping other readers expand their minds into alternative ways to apply the metaphor in their lives. Pebbles are, indeed, all around us. As I wrote in my book, the most important thing is to take that first step and see where it leads.

  16. Great piece of writing Fritz, love it. I would love to see you continue to throw the pebbles into the pond. When I consider your metaphor in my own blogging journey, it’s not as clear. While I’m sure your audience continues to grow – esp judging by your engagement – mine is shrinking. I continue to get fewer pageviews and readers and seem to have peaked in 2020. So far this year I’m even struggling to match 2019 blog numbers. I did the whole thing to help people as you clearly are doing, but I’ll have to continue to evaluate what pond I want to throw my pebbles into. We’ll see.

    1. “Great piece of writing Fritz…”

      Coming from you, Dave, that’s a real honor. I consider you one of the best writers in the blogosphere today, strange that your audience doesn’t reflect that. I’m at a loss to explain that one, but you clearly have a gift for writing and I hope that you continue to throw those pebbles. This man certainly enjoys your ripples.

  17. Fritz,
    Thanks once again for a thoughtful and introspective post. Your pebble tosses/posts do have a great effect, as we of the pond, have had the privilege of being a part of your planning and execution of retirement. I thank you for opening up your life to so many. After meeting you I realized just how much of your life you have shared with others. It seemed as if you were a family member that I hadn’t seen in many years but had heard much about. That is a gift to all of us. Thank you.
    It now seems that your pebbles are becoming more difficult to find but your pond is looking forward to more pebbles and ripples. Perhaps the stories of others journeying, to and in retirement, could be a new source of pebbles. Afterall, each of us has a unique and multi-faceted path to retirement and in it. The two sides, pre and post, are so different as to require two contributions of writing our stories for your pile of pebbles. Real life is the essence of blog posts like yours and it helps give all of us perspective. That perspective gives us empathy and the opportunity to quit judging others based on the veneer we perceive.
    Wishing you many great walks and the beautiful leaves of spring.
    Your Blairsville neighbor.

    1. Hey Neighbor! The “Fido Family” is meeting at Grumpy’s again tonight at 5:00, stop by if you happen to be over this way! Too funy how we ran into each other there a while back.

      Thanks for the suggestion of profiling others’ stories – I attempted that in my book (the final “homework assignment” was to write a guest post for my blog outlining the reader’s story), but the response has been less than I’d hoped. I smile when I think of my editor’s question, “Are you sure you want to do that, you may get slammed with responses?”. Definitely a thought to consider, thanks for the input.

  18. Enjoy the AT hikes – if you’ve not read it, Bill Bryson has a GREAT book about hiking the AT – “A Walk in the Woods.” Also made a movie of it, but the book is better (as it always is!).

    1. My sister gifted me that book, but I’m afraid I put it on a shelf somewhere, unread. I did see the movie, I’ll have to find the book and give it a read. I’ve heard great things about it. Thanks for the “push”!

  19. Hi Fritz, I enjoy reading your posts. This is one of your best posts, I had to put my thinking cap on!

    I’m an avid hiker and I have had the pleasure of introducing friends and family members into hiking and they are now hooked. I’ll be hiking more in the near future and who knows, maybe our paths will cross.

    You are awesome!

    Thank you!

    1. “This is one of your best posts…”

      I could ask for no greater compliment. Hope to see you on the trail someday. If a guy who looks like me introduces himself with his trail name “Scriber”, you’ll know you’ve found me!

  20. Here’s an early congrats on the 7 years of blogging, my friend (I’ll hit that same mark a few weeks after yours!). I’ve loved following along with you over the years and, of course, becoming friends outside of the blog “in real life” along that timeline.

    Love the metaphor and always enjoy seeing what you’re up to on Instagram… though I’m a little jealous of The Appalachian Trail hike. Keep up the good work and here’s to another 7 years!

  21. Thank you Fritz for the terrific metaphor and for all that you have contributed.

  22. This made me wonder how many posts I’ve published on my personal blog that I’ve been writing since 2007.
    The grand total is 1,823.
    I had no idea it was that many!

  23. Fritz, thanks for your great post today and blog through the years. I’ve been following you and Roger since Can “Carl” Retire? Appreciate your take on life and retirement. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the picture you chose is also the one I used for my new book called Your Life’s Ripple Effect. It’s based on people who almost died and what they saw when their life flashed before their eyes. They confirm we get to feel and see our entire life’s Ripple Effect on others (positive and negative) when we die. So there’s tremendous validation in your words.

  24. Within any generic population anywhere…
    You will find 1 person out of 1000 (men+women)…
    Who passionately (effortlessly and regularly) throws a stone into a pond…
    In approximately 20 to 30 years…
    The cumulative ripples become a Tsunami.

    You are on your way.!

  25. Make me wonder what ripples that I am making with my life. Are they good ripples or are they scaring away the fish in the pond. I think you have made many more good ripples than bad ones. Thanks for your blogs.

  26. Fritz, I’m a relatively new reader since late last year. This post is so helpful framing my own thoughts about starting to share my own journey….if nothing else just to document my thought process as I ramp towards retirement (46/yo hoping to exit in 9-10 years).

    Every time I think of how to start I get stuck in the rabbit hole of thinking I have to have so many answers for so many things or else people won’t be interested. Because of that mental churn I delay my own little pebble.

    This metaphor really highlights how action and momentum over time are essential to building success in most things in life. Thanks for making a big ripple for me on this one!

    P.S. My wife and I are vacationing in May through TN, GA and NC. Just booked a night in Blue Ridge. Can’t wait to check out your great town!

    1. Cool that you’re coming to “my” town! Hit me up, maybe we can grab a coffee while you’re in my environs. And, as I say in my book, don’t get too hung up with the rabbit holes, just take a first step and see where it leads. Hope to meet you soon!

  27. Fritz
    Your posts, interviews, and book have impact my wife and made ripples in our lives
    Thanks Gerry

  28. Dear Fritz,
    Thanks a lot for this article which seems to be the reply to the feelings I am going through in these days. I have just launched my website and I have thrown 4 pebbles in the pond and very few people have reacted. So I feel a little bit frustrated. But following your example, I will go on and on trying to create interesting contents , hoping to reach more readers. My source of inspiration comes first of all from my personal experience , and on special occasions for example when I go out and do different things than my normal routine, meet creative people , go to an art exhibition , find out cultural hubs in my serroundings.
    I have just picked up two or three nice pebbles……..

  29. Thank you Fritz for sharing your journey.
    I was a year away from an early retirement (63) pretty solid on most of my retirement financials but I hadn’t tackled sequence of return risk.
    Roaming around the internet I found your blog. Your explanation of the Bucket System was brilliant and simple.
    That led me to your book. I read it 3 times during my final work year and every time, I came back with something new. I was prepared when my boss came to me with a short term, low hour contract offer. My wife and I feel we’re ready to address any relationship speed bumps. I’ve put mechanisms in place to help maintain relationships with my friends.
    Today is the first day of my retirement. I’m excited and unafraid.
    God bless you Fritz.

    1. The FIRST day! Congratulations on crossing The Starting Line! I’m pleased to hear that my book was helpful in putting your “mechanisms in place.” Nothing better than being prepared when you get a golden offer from the boss. Enjoy your life on this side of the line.

  30. Thank you for your words!!!! I just caught up and read the previous post as well!!!! I have always been a Mr. Cheepo. So cheep the birds would call my name everyday on my daily walk to work (cheep- cheep cheep). Now i need to step back and make some waves with the pebble and the gifts that God has given me.

  31. Fritz, you have had more impacts than you will ever know. I’ve been reading since the very beginning. Those ripples are big and wide. While I rarely comment and I certainly miss the more frequent pebbles, I still greatly appreciate the ones still thrown. Keep throwing the pebbles, keep walking the dogs, and keep building the passion projects…you have found that, which we all seek…enough. You are a fortunate man.

    Enjoy a life well designed and well lived.

  32. Hi sir. A reader of my blog sent me this. Funny you should post this on my birthday which also happens to be 5th birthday of my blog (pebble throwing every Friday) March 31st.
    I resonate with your musings as i wonder what path my writing (about a man at 40) will take un 2 years when i turn 50.
    You’ve eased the pressure. Thank you

  33. fritz, your blog was only a couple of years old when you kindly welcomed me to the blogosphere with my first comment ever. i’ve always appreciated that.

    it’s fun to write and the more you do it the better you get (i hope). plus, you can say whatever you want when there isn’t a lot of money on the line. cheers!

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