A criminal was sentenced to ten years of prison. His daily job demanded him to turn a lever bolted into the back wall. He imagined that a flourmill was attached to the lever on the other side of the wall.

Thinking how fortunate he was to be productive while imprisoned helped him remain sane. As he turned the lever, he would reflect at how much he was accomplishing. He imagined the bakers gathering his fine flour, and kneading it into dough to make fresh bread for the townspeople. This thought filled his life with purpose.

After ten years, upon release, the man was eager to taste of the bread, the fruit of his hard labor for so many years. With mighty strides he headed for the mill. But alas, as the man turned the corner, he fell to the ground in a faint.

There was nothing at the other side of the wall.

—Heard from Rabbi Chaim Binyomin Burston, adapted from the Midrash

Do not mistake activity for achievement.”

“Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates: There’s plenty of movement, but you never know if it will be forward, backwards or sideways.”