"When I see a plant that has died, I do not mourn, rather I see it as a sign that it is now the time to replant"
Not too long ago, I found myself on a road trip from San Diego to the San Francisco Bay area.
The first step of the journey is simply to drive directly north on Interstate 5 to Los Angeles. This is really the only practical highway.
Once you’ve arrived in LA you can choose one of two methods to continue your northbound journey, you can continue on Interstate 5 through the farmlands of the central valley or deviate to the more coastal route of U.S. 101.
Most of the time I’ll travel via the more scenic U.S. 101 despite the fact that it generally takes an extra 2 hours to go this way. But on this occasion, time was a bit more critical so I decided to use Interstate 5 instead.
Over the course of 5 hours, I drove through some of the most fertile farm land in the world. There I saw grape vineyards, fruit orchards, walnut trees, and large open fields of alfalfa.
It was the spring, so farmers were busy plowing their fields to ready the soil to plant this season’s crops.
Living in the high-density urban environment of San Diego rarely gives me the opportunity to see working farms.
As I drove my car down the straight highway, my mind began to wander as I began thinking of the life lessons that could be ascertained from farming.
Today, I wanted to share a few of these thoughts with you...
The Uncertainty of Seeds
Almost all life begins from a single seed.
A long time ago, back in elementary school, I once had a teacher who thought it would be a great experiment for her class to grow plants from seeds.
One day she brought a brown paper sack to class, full of various seed types for us to plant. We were each instructed to take a few seeds to plant in our Styrofoam cups. We asked our teacher what each of the seeds were... but she said that this was part of the experiment... the uncertainty of what would grow from the seeds we planted.
We all sowed seeds and added water to the cup. After a few days, a few sprouts emerged from the soil though not all the seeds produced a seedling. Some seeds remained in the dirt unopened.
Although we had now had seedlings, it was still difficult to know exactly what types of plants were growing in our cups.
After a few more days, several of the plants began to display certain distinguishing characteristics... but it wasn’t for several weeks did we know for certain what type of plant was actually growing. After even more time, our seeds had matured into ripe plants, and we were soon being nourished by our hard work and efforts.
This was supposed to be a science experiment... but our teacher used this as a life lesson.
She explained that most great ideas start simply as unknown seeds... some will germinate... while others remain unopened in the ground. Often, when good ideas first begin to sprout, they are hard to differentiate from other bad or mediocre ideas.
It is only after they are allowed to grow are they readily identifiable and if nurtured can grow into something tangible and beneficial.
Creating a Bridge Between the Present and the Future
If you plant a carrot seed, that seed has the immediate potential of producing exactly one carrot (discounting the fact that if you wait for the carrot to flower you could potentially end up with hundreds of seeds to plant the following season).
The carrot might be ready to harvest in only 30-40 days from the time the seed was planted but the nourishment from that one carrot is limited.
If you grow a tomato plant, you will wait a little longer to harvest fruit (maybe 90-100 days). However unlike the carrot, you may be able to harvest fruit from that single bush for several weeks thereafter. A well-tended, healthy tomato plant may produce up to 50 or so tomatoes over the course of one season allowing you substance for many weeks. After the season is complete, the tomato plant dies and will need to be replanted the following season.
If you grow an apple tree from a seed, the first year you will not receive any fruit from your labor. Nor will you in year two. Perhaps in the third year, the tree will produce 1 or 2 apples. The following year, you may perhaps get 6-10 apples.
But each year, the apple tree will continue to grow and will produce more and more apples.
One apple seed could, in fact, produce thousands of apples over the tree’s life time.
However, if a new farmer were to only grow apples, he would ultimately starve because he would have no nourishment to sustain him over the three years he would be waiting for the first apples to be produced.
The key to most successful business models is to have carrot customers (those who produce a quick one-time sale), tomato customers (those who take a little longer to cultivate but will ultimately produce some repeat sales however these same customer will eventually die off after awhile) and apple customers (those who take years to grow but who will produce more and more revenue for your company year after year)...
Every business needs carrots, tomatoes and apples...
As I drove down the highway, I noticed that many of the fields contained nothing but overgrown weeds.
Science and experience has demonstrated that even the most fertile soils need the opportunity to rest. Continuous planting robs the earth of essential nutrients needed to sustain long-term growth.
The ancient Egyptians practiced a three-field rotation where a cereal crop, such as wheat or rye was planted the first season, a vegetable crop the following season, and during the third season, the field was left fallow.
And so goes our lives...
Our first season is for our work. Spending our time and energies to produce something tangible...
Our second season is left for ourselves and our families. Being engaged with our children, our significant others, and our friends. This is a time for creativity and education. Preparing us to our work...
The third season is for sleep and rejuvenation. Although we can continue on, our productivity will be diminished and if we continue to push forward we will strip ourselves of the nutrients needed to perform at an optimal level.
One of the great keys to a successful life is constantly rotating our attentions, carefully balancing the important with the urgent so our days are filled with feast rather than famine.
Farming is the backbone of any civilizations... not only for the food it produces but also for the lessons it teaches us.
Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we continue to plant new ideas which will bring us all a bountiful harvest in the future...
Jim Kalb President
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