Have you ever planted a seed in the ground and come back an hour later wondering why hasn’t it sprouted yet? Where are the flowers and fruit? Nature is not a get-rich-quick scheme, though it can be a get-rich-slow process. The good news is there will be riches, if we plant the right seeds and have patience. We would never expect our plants nor our kids to grow up overnight, so why allow our impatience to drive us to the irrational with our health and wealth?
The dirt: Overnight success happens overnight
If you ask anyone who’s been accused of overnight success, they’ll be the first to tell you that their overnight success took years to create. Is this Nature’s cruel joke on us? Why must we wait for the fruits of our labor for weeks, months, years, even decades? In Nature, time is a necessary ingredient to growth. We are asking Nature to start with something simple and create the impossibly complex. Start with a seed and end up with an 80 foot oak tree. Wouldn’t that be like asking you to start on the ground and end up on the 78th story of a building? Could you just hop on up or would you take the stairs? While the end result may be the same, the method is what makes the impossible possible.
The truth behind it is that creation requires raw materials and work. Matter must be converted to energy and energy must be converted to matter. Also, more must go in than comes out, lest we violate the first and second laws of thermodynamics. Materials such as water and nutrients, energy from the sun and global warmth, all enter the process. Work is performed and plant life grows, adding leaves, flowers and fruits. While the process never sleeps, all of this takes time to show appreciable results. The fantastic concept here is given the same inputs, work, time and conditions, the same results are guaranteed. Remember these are laws of Nature, not hypotheticals of Nature.
If you insist on plucking green lemons, be grateful you at least have fruit, but don’t be sour about the bitter juice.
Imagine having the foresight and patience to allow our seeds grow into our harvest. How amazing could things be one day by using the minimal to achieve the great? It is interesting in that it is not always our impatience that impales us, rather our tardy beginning. That’s right, our impatience will have us tearing open the apple seed to look for an apple and killing the seed in the process but our tardiness will toss the seeds to the birds for 30 years until we suddenly realize that there are no more apples to be had and our famine overtakes us faster than we can now grow a tree that produces apples. These two concepts, instant gratification and delayed beginnings, are worth further exploration as it is here we find the two biggest violations of this naturally undeniable principle.
We should not confuse the delay between reaping and sowing as ‘waiting’. We’re not waiting for anything to happen, it is a deliberate process that happens without pause. It is development, growth, synthesis that leads to creation of something better than we had before. It’s when we shortcut the process that in our haste, we stump the growth and deprive the process of all those necessary ingredients for creation. Without creation, at best we have that with which we started, at worst we may be left with nothing. Open a caterpillar in its chrysalis stage, and you have neither a living caterpillar nor the captivating butterfly it was to become. As another curt but poignant example,
The Chinese Bamboo Tree starts as a seed that is planted and must be watered and fertilized continuously, without fail, until it matures. During the first four years, there is little appreciable growth. In fact, it appears as if nothing is happening at all and your efforts are for not. However, if faithfully cared for during these early years, in year five it will grow 80 feet in 6 weeks.
Did the tree grow 80 feet in 6 weeks or in 5 years? This is one of the greatest questions of the ages with respect to this principle. Of course, we all know the answer, yet how often do we refuse to accept it in every other area of life? We all know the tree was not dormant for 5 years, rather it had to build its foundation to prepare for the growth spurt. That if it tried to grow that big too soon, any adversity in the form of weather or animals would easily uproot it and it would die.
How often do we give up on our dreams, after working and grueling for years and yards, when we’re only minutes or centimeters away from the prize?
Imagine you are watering the tiniest of bamboo plants for five years without any appreciable outward growth. How long before those around you begin to wonder if you have a screw loose? In a society set on the completely backwards thought process of seeing-is-believing, you may even start to doubt yourself, even though there were generations before you that grew bamboo in the exact same manner. As anxious as we may be to have the bamboo wood, it is impossible to force the wood out of the seed any faster than what is physically possible. Delaying our gratification by attending to the work with the finished product in mind could help us both handle the delay and enjoy the fruits.
Sometimes we fool ourselves with fake wood and pretend all is well. The neighbors may even become ignorantly envious. That is until the storm roars and we need the strength of real wood to protect us as our faux-wood is strewn to pieces, exposing our weakness to all. Of course, are we really fooling anyone? Like the shiny “chrome” wheels of an ’84 Buick, whereby it takes only a casual glance to know they are plastic hubcaps bought on sale for $9.99 and not the $3500 DUB wheels, falsehoods always find the light. It is the instantly gratifying becoming the terminally foolish.
If our penchant for forcing unmerited results and our adverse reaction to the delay of those results will not be our downfall, then certainly our sloth in even beginning the journey will have us arriving at the party much too late to win. Delaying the work required to succeed is not independent of our desperation for instant gratification, rather it is the “Liquid Schwartz” that fuels our hastiness and need for the quick fix. Why do we retard our efforts, our success, and our lives so much? Are we really lazy? Are we incompetent? Do we expect someone else to do it for us? Are we distracted by shiny objects? Are we acting like the dreaded C-word? Let us examine each.
Laziness sounds like a great excuse, but it truly doesn’t hold any water. I don’t believe we are lazy. Perhaps a bit unmotivated, lacking passion to do something great, or even disillusioned about our role, but we’re never lazy when it really counts. Imagine your kids trapped in a burning room, with nobody in the immediate vicinity to help you. Are you going to hope for help, wait for the right time, or think about things for a while? Of course not. You are going in to save them, without delay and likely without care or caution to yourself. Why is this scenario such a no-brainer? Don’t we always take care of that which is important? There’s not a lazy bone in the body of a properly-motivated person.
Are we truly incompetent? As already discussed, absolutely we are in most things. However, it doesn’t take long to build competence in anything we wish, if it’s important enough to do so. Don’t most people have the basics down, like eating, bathing, pooping, and not getting eaten by a bear? That non-exhaustive list requires a level of competence for survival, which is important to anyone alive who wishes to remain so. Therefore any lack of competence in the important would be a choice of the lazy or dead. Dead people no longer choose and the lazy really aren’t lazy when it counts.
Maybe we’re waiting for someone or something to come along and do it for us. Have we become overly-dependent on help from government and our employer? There could be a solid argument here as we inch closer to the real issue. Why would we ever expect others to help us with something they have not yet been able to help themselves? Ask your parents what benefits the government and their employer used to provide and compare that to what we have today. Is it getting better? Either way, do you really want your entire family’s future in the hands of anything NOT you?
Distractions are here, there, and everywhere. So what? In the example of our precious children suffering a terrible fate in the burning building, does it really matter what’s on television, who’s calling, or how many ‘likes’ you got on your Facebook post about your overpriced lunch as their screams fill your ears? What if distractions are not there to suck your attention away, but instead are there to fill the void when we decide to stop focusing on that which is important? Since the days, hours, and minutes will not wait for us, we must choose whether to invest our time or spend our time, not much different than how we handle our finances. We can get something in return for our non-renewable resource of time, or we can allow it to waste away. We must make this choice, for there is no other option since any choice other than to invest is an automatic election to spend.
Then we have one of the vilest C-words ever found in the English language. Of course you guessed it correctly: Comfortable. Look, I don’t begrudge anyone being comfortable. On a beach in Maui, drink in your hand, toes in the sand…In our soft bed after a hard day’s work with the rain slowly pattering on the roof….those are the places to be comfortable. In life and business, though, being comfortable is akin to the kiss of death. It’s in this comfort zone that we are not in enough pain to get off the proverbial nail, nor do we have examples of greatness around us for inspiration. So we forsake thriving for surviving, blink a couple of times, and 60 years has flown by, only to leave us playing the ‘what if’ game. What if when I was younger, what if when I had the opportunity, what if I knew back then what I know today, and so on. The cruelty is that we end up torturing ourselves in said manner for the rest of our lives, leaving us with the irony of a self-deprecation that derails us still from creating a different future. And then we die.
These are all more or less plausible, but allow me to add one final possibility. Do you know where you’re going in life, business, or even this year? Without a destination, would you even get in the car? Why leave the house to wander aimlessly? Consider most people have zero (zilch (nada)) worth of direction in life. Imagine a piece of wood floating down a river. The wood doesn’t choose where to go, it just follows the current, smacking rocks, other wood, and the riverbank along the way. It doesn’t know where it’s going, and it doesn’t ever stop going lest it gets stuck. Suppose we were the piece of wood and the river were time. Time carries us through life, hitting us with this and that, causing us to react, and deflecting us to the next hit until we either get stuck or go over the waterfall to our ultimate destination. Doesn’t that sound just wonderful?
What if we had a clear destination in mind, were honest about where we are today, leaving only the relatively simple choice of which route to get from here to there?
I do not intend to simplify the issue, rather set a baseline. No matter how motivated, energized, dedicated, focused, and competent we are, if we cannot see the finish line with clarity, there is an infinitesimal chance of getting there. The good news is that if we treat time like an ally, it can produce wondrous bounties in our lives. Like money, time benefits those who treat it well, respectfully, and honorably. Ignored, disregarded, and abused, it will ensure the demise of our life, even if we haven’t yet passed away.
“The pain of regret is far worse than the pain of discipline”
I appreciate you for spending time with me. I challenge you to share this with eight of your spoiled friends. It just might save their life. I’ll meet you at the top, ’cause the bottom is still too crowded.