Three Valuable Lessons Gardening Taught Me, and One Unexpected Lesson That Changed It All

NOTE: If you have been following my blog, you have probably noticed that it’s been pretty quiet as of late. And for good reason, I haven’t published anything for two months! So, as the warm part of Spring has finally arrived – unless you live in Denver, I saw it snowed there last week – I am breaking free from the literal ice of Winter and ploughing into a new season of writing. Enjoy.
Are you as glad for Spring as I am?!? Spring is one of my favorite seasons. This is somewhat attributed to the fact that I look best in jeans a t-shirt. But mostly because it’s time to plant a garden! I love tilling the ground, planting little things and watching them become big things.
Gardening Together
Photo Credit: Helen Phillips
It’s been a joy to share that love with my family over the past few weeks. I was eight or nine when I first remember making things grow, and it has been a couple years since I had a dedicated plot of land to myself. But all the valuables lessons I have learned over the past 21 or so years of gardening are slowly coming back to me.
First, there are so many difficult lessons the garden teaches. Such as the following:
  • Putting water on your hot shoulders only intensifies the impending sunburn.
  • If you plans twenty zucchini plants you better freakin’ start liking zucchini!
  • Weeds should be managed and are completely overwhelming if you let them get too big!
I have learned to anticipate and prepare for many of these challenges over the years. I am mindful of protecting my pale skin from the sun, I plant more variety, and I clear the weeds every few days. It’s toilsome. In fact, working in the garden is always harder and takes longer than I expect. But as is often true in life, hard work doesn’t always pay off immediately but it usually does eventually.
This leads to the second lesson:
  • I have learned to reward myself along the way.
For example, I love to work barefoot, nothing is quite like the feel of freshly tilled dirt under your feet! I’ve learned to plant flowers to brighten up the garden. This year we planted cornflower, one of my favorites!
  • The best harvests can come from where you don’t expect.
There was always a “volunteer” watermelon growing near the compost pile that produced the sweetest fruit, and I loved the year that a bunch of yellow peppers came up when I hadn’t planted any.
These lessons are easily applied to most things in life, but blogging was where my mind was tonight. I started this site with the best of intentions, but I did not anticipate some challenges that are obvious now. I did not prepare for endurance and quickly became overwhelmed by the task of writing. I had too narrowly defined my own expectations of what I wanted to accomplish with this blog. And tonight, I had to tackle deeply-rooted fear just to sit at my keyboard again.
But, even in this short time, it has definitely been rewarding. I had forgotten that I learned this in college, but I really love writing. I am also learning to process my thoughts in a new way. Finally, my dear friend, Tracy, who I haven’t seen in a long time met wife last month at a party and shared how much she enjoyed my writing – I didn’t even know she was reading it!
But the surprising part is I have made some new friends through the Internets. Oddly, they have been the ones who have actually engaged with me about my writing. Just in the last couple weeks I got these two unrelated messages from online acquaintances:
  • “Hey man…haven’t heard from you for a while. How are things?” – Chris
  • “How’s everything going? Hope you’re enjoying some spring weather… How’s your writing going?” – Robby
Oddly, I was ashamed when I got both of those notes, and actually never responded to their questions. At first I thought I was ashamed that I had let my writing go stale so long, but I learned a long time ago that shame is rarely what you think it is, and is usually indicative of a deeper .
So, I had to root out the reason for the shame. I let the question seep back into my subconscious and today was struck with the answer while I was watering my garden:
  • This blog has been all about me.
I know, it seems silly as I type it out, but that revelation changes everything. I was feeding on page views, comments, and my own pride of my writing. But that only fueled me for so long before I burnt out.
So, I always thought best part of a garden is when it gives you something wonderful you weren’t expecting, like the strawberries that grew in the rubbish heap. But my unexpected lesson for today is this:
  • The best part of a garden is being able to share something that you helped nurture with others.
That’s what I hope to accomplish with this blog too.
By the way, Chris has a great blog about writing and pursuing your dreams that is really fun to read, you can find him at He is an extremely generous and talented guy, and he’s recently discovered an amazing way to share his unique skills with teachers who are looking for ways to change careers. I’m really excited to watch him change the lives he touches! And Robby has taught me so much about focus and defining my goals for life from reading his blog. He is a natural leader and he freely shares on his blog the lessons that he has learned on his path. As one who tends to ramble, I admire how clear, concise and deliberate his writing is. He is at They are also both family men and I have seen that they are both dedicated to honoring their wives and children through their work and their lives.

There Are Two Types of Problem Solvers, Which One Are You?

I have made a recent observation that there are two types of problem solvers in the world. It may be more accurate to view them at two opposite ends of a spectrum, but let’s keep it simple.

Some people create problems just so they can fix them. You know who I’m talking about. They may appear to be good listeners, but they just want you to dish so they can know what’s going on and swoop in at the critical point as a the hero. But often they’re unreliable in “normal” life situations and consistently have trouble honoring their word when no one is watching.

Then there it the other type of person. They are humble, honest, and people trust them with problems. They are the ones who will cry with you and also rejoice. They will be there when you need someone, but will also respectfully tell you when they are not available. THey are self-aware and others-aware.

The truth is, I am both of these people. The difference is whether I choose to listen and act. It takes both. I can observe problems, but then just gossip, or tweet about it. Or, if possible, I can do something to make a difference.

There are two types of heroes in the world. One is fake, and only exists in comic books and on the screen, the other is real and powerful. Most positive actions are unseen and underappreciated, and they are done anyway. And that’s the way it should be.

The Surprisingly Violent Reality Of Reaching Your Goals

I watched Fury last night. I was expecting an epic World War II tank movie, and was not disappointed. The movie was splendidly filmed, cast, and acted.

Photo Credit: JPO97Studios via Compfight cc

In one scene Brad Pitt’s character coolly helped a young soldier resolve the horror around him with the explanation that “Ideals are peaceful, history is violent”.
I paused the movie to write it down. It makes sense, especially in the application of war, but I’ve been thinking about it all day. I’ve realized it applies to goal setting in a a unique way. 
I am a young man. I’m trying to make sense of life and make a plan for my young family. Over the past few years I’ve set many goals for our standard of living and benchmarks I expect to hit. Yet, as I have worked to fulfill some of those goals I consistently fall short. Way short.
The temptation is to make expect that I will always fall short, and either overcompensate by increasing my projections, or lower my expectations of my ability. I don’t like either option, they’re both depressing and overcompensating is exhausting. 
This evening I realized something though. I’m an idealist.
That’s not really news to me, but I never understood it like I do tonight. I have never made a plan that included the expectation that I would hurt someone’s feelings, or not meet their expectations. I have always stressed immensely over other people’s opinion of my choices and outcomes. 
I need to stop. 
Any big goal that is worth doing will face opposition. People will stand in the way. Challenges and obstacles will be prevalent. You don’t go into battle with your happy face on. You go after being well trained, wearing armor, and with lots of guns.
I need to to start setting goals that way. I need to recognize that I’m going to face challenges, that people will stand in my way, and I’m going to hurt some feelings, and plan accordingly.
I may have the same idealistic goal in the end, but I realize I am more likely to succeed if I expect violence on the path to get there. Idealism isn’t a bad thing, it helpes me dream big, but now I recognize it’s only half of the equation. I have preparations to make if I’m going to reach my goals.