It was a rookie LAPD cop’s first day on the job.
He turned up for the briefing at his new precinct.
All the cops walked to the front of the room and picked a marble from a bag on the table.
Every time someone picked a black marble they punched the air.
Then, when someone picked the only white marble, their shoulders slumped.
The rookie asked one of the cops what was going on.
He said “We’ve got one really bad section in this precinct. It wouldn’t be fair to assign it to someone, so the Captain thinks this is the best way. Whoever gets the white marble has to patrol that section. You’re a rookie, so today you don’t have to pick. You just get an easy section.”
So the rookie did his patrol on an easy section that day.
And there weren’t any problems on his beat.
But he kept thinking about the bag full of black marbles.
And next day he turned up early for the briefing.
He walked to the front of the room,
He took the whole bag and turned it upside down.
Then he picked out the white marble.
Everyone looked at him like he was crazy.
They said “What the hell are you doing kid?”
He said “I came here because I wanted to be a cop. I didn’t come here to retire. I don’t want the safe, easy beat. I want the beat where I can find out how good I am. The beat where I can learn what I’m doing right and wrong and what I need to get better at. I don’t just want to pass the time until the end of the shift. I could do that in a factory.”
And every day he did the same thing.
He turned out the bag and took the white marble.
And pretty soon he began making arrests.
Because of the crime on his beat, he was making more arrests than the other cops.
And his record started to look really good.
Suddenly some of the other cops started to sit up and take notice.
They said “Hey this isn’t fair. He’s making more arrests because his beat is tougher. We’ve only got the easy beats. We can’t be expected to make as many arrests.”
And they told the Captain they wanted a crack at the dangerous beat too.
So the precinct Captain had to let them have a chance.
And they began making more arrests, too.
And a spirit of camaraderie grew between the cops who were working the tough beat.
They felt like the elite.
They teased the other cops about being already retired.
“Hey, you guys taking your slippers and cocoa out on patrol?”
Pretty soon no one wanted to be thought to be ducking the tough beat.
And, instead of being shunned, that tough beat became sought after by the cops.
The precinct’s arrest rate went up, crime went down, morale went up.
Nothing else changed in that precinct.
No more cops.
No incentive bonus.
No new weapons.
No new tactics.
Everything stayed the same, except the attitude of the people working there.
That changed because of one rookie.
And because that changed, everything changed.
Because people didn’t just want an easy life anymore.
Because the tough route became fun.
Not avoiding it, but going for it.
Like at the gym.
Not staying with exercise you can already do easily.
But stretching yourself, so you get better every time.
Think of that.
When other people are getting all the good briefs.
When you keep getting the assignment no one else wants.
Two ways to go.
It can either be a real drag.
Or it can be a chance to do something the other guys can’t or won’t do.
See, you’re either on this planet learning and growing.
Or you’re just passing time until your retirement.