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How Does Your (Business) Garden Grow?

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Post How Does Your (Business) Garden Grow?   Sat Aug 13, 2011 9:46 am

Business insights from the good earth and the kitchen.

During the autumn of the year you will find me in one of only a few places:

-- At my desk (OK, you expected that!)
-- Kneeling in the cucumber vines
-- On my stomach, looking for red tomatoes in the thick bushes
-- Picking beans, beans and more beans
-- Hovering over a canning kettle
-- Roasting beets, brussels or celery
-- With my head in the freezer looking anxiously for more space

We are blessed with rich organic soils and our garden is abundant most years. Extremely abundant. Of course, we cannot eat it all fresh - so receiving all of this bounty requires creative transformation in the form of "stocking up".

It takes a lot of time - and this means hours away from my business. Conventional business wisdom says this is probably not a good idea, and early on in the adventure, I used to worry about it. No more. Over the years I learned that opening my freezer in mid-winter and pulling out a packet of peas - knowing exactly where it came from and how it was prepared - is priceless; and rewarding in a way that satisfies something deep within me.

This actually makes me better at my business. I also discovered, to my amazement, that there are a lot of parallels between gardening, stocking up, coaching and business...

Garden Teaching #1: Weeds are everywhere - what's your attitude?

Anyone who has ever even potted a tomato plant knows that weeds will grow, even if your tomato doesn't. If you produce on any scale, weeds can be an outright nemesis. Witness the plethora of chemicals developed to eradicate them. Of course we garden organically, so these quick fixes are not an option for us. This reality fosters creativity and a philosophical point of view.

Weeds - just like any other "problems" - are everywhere. The real variable in the experience of weeds - like problems - is in my attitude. I can allow it to be a point of continued aggravation; or something of value. For example, after a less than stellar day, yanking weeds seems very therapeutic. (Oh, and if you take care of them before they get big, they aren't so much of a problem...)

The Insight: it's all in how ya look at it. That choice is yours.

Garden Teaching #2: Artichokes grow in North Dakota - and life is full of similar, wonderful surprises!

An artichoke fresh off the plant has a flavor like nothing you will find in its supermarket cousins. And we can grow them right here in North Dakota. Who knew? Finding this out took an initial fantasy (Wow! Wouldn't it be great if...?); a little bit of research; a touch of experimentation; a bunch of patience; and yielded a delightful surprise. One, I might add, we now continue to enjoy year after year.

The Insight: Delicious opportunities can poke their heads up in very unexpected ways...if you are open to that sort of thing.

Kitchen Teaching #1: Happiness is pickles in the pantry. It really can be that simple.

I am a pickle freak. In fact, when I was a kid, people would sometimes give me the fabulous delights for my birthday, and I considered them to be the best gift in the pile. I sat rapt, watching my grandmother work her magic, transforming ordinary cucumbers into a small feast. Now I make my own and I love it - from playing hide and seek with the fruit in the patch, to smelling the cooking brine fill the house, to creatively packing the jars, to loading up the canner, to listening for the lids' satisfying pop when they seal. I sometimes go into my pantry and just gaze at them - all lined up.

It makes me happy. I am sometimes teased that simple things amuse simple minds. And I say, "your point is what, exactly?":-)

The Insight: "Big happiness" is created by lots of simple joys.

Garden Teaching #3: Everything is fabulous at some time, although usually not all at the same time - and this can be a good thing!

Several years ago our carrots were so astonishingly good that we and all who tasted them agreed they were the most delicious carrots we had ever had in our lives - and we had LOTS of them. We have not been able to replicate that, even though we do everything the same.

We still talk about those carrots, with dreamy little looks on our faces; we still appreciate them and are grateful for the amazing taste experience. This year, our squash is literally taking over the garden and approaching "Findhorn-ian" sizes. Yet the perfect sweet corn variety and yield continue to be a vision in progress.

And you know what? If it all happened at once, we wouldn't be able to deal with it; much less appreciate it. We'd be overwhelmed and grumpy about all the work.

The Insight: Foster appreciation for what you have achieved in the past, what you currently have and what you will one day enjoy. Allow it to unfold in its own sweet time.

Garden Teaching #4: Make Hay While the Sun Shines and Honoring Yourself

I have been waxing lyrical in this article and the honest truth is that some days I really don't feel like doing any of this stuff! It might be raining or blistering hot or overwhelming - or I might just feel like reading a book instead.

So I've thought about this dichotomy a lot - particularly on those days:

Make hay while the sun shines. If you miss the window of opportunity, it passes you by. In stocking up, this means if you don't process the tomatoes when they are ripe, they rot and then they are gone. In business, this means if you don't return that phone call in a timely manner, the potential client will find someone else.

Honoring Yourself: If you push yourself too hard, too long without listening to your inner knowing, you will experience stress, illness, frustration and other yucky things. Taking care of YOU is fundamental to your success with anything.

What to do? Finding the balance here is critical and not always so easy. These two priorities can present real conflicts. I doubt that THE answer exists. And I can share a few suggestions that have worked for me.

-- Plan as well as you can. Intentionally create the time and space for your most important priorities.
-- Ask yourself: does this feel fun and/or rewarding? If the answer is "no" - is it really necessary? If it's not, move it off your plate. If it is essential, is there a way to bring some joy to the task?
-- If you are an entrepreneur and/or an "A-type", default to Honoring Yourself.
-- Do your best. Then breathe and practice letting it go. Sometimes, the tomatoes will rot. They still make terrific compost.

The Insight Take care of business, take care of yourself, look for fun, always seek and find the right balance for YOU.

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