Monday, February 3, 2014

How To Succeed At Gardening (And Almost Anything Else)

I came across a great post recently:

Earl Nightingale researched and taught about success for decades, and he took his job seriously. 

His work is often forgotten now, but if you can find it, it is definitely worth your time. It was very helpful to me.

One of Earl’s more interesting lessons was this:
If you spend 30 minutes – every day – learning about one specific subject, you’ll become a legitimate expert in six months.

This is true. And I know it’s true because I took Earl’s advice and became an expert.

Perhaps it will take longer than six months for a difficult subject, but 30 minutes per day – if you actually use the time for serious study every day – is a LOT of focused time.

How to Do It

This is far easier than you might think, as long as you can make hard decisions and run your own life… and refuse to live by the expectations of others.

That means that you have to be able to say “no.” That means that you can accept the fact that others will be disappointed in you. You must be able to do what you think is right, regardless of their repeated objections.

When I first did this, it involved NOT having lunch with the people I worked with. I went off on my own and read while eating. Some of my colleagues thought I was being rude or weird, but I did it anyway.

Then, when my co-workers went out after work, I went home. I smiled, explained that I didn’t like drinking and that I had too much to do at home. And then I went home and read. They shook their heads but soon stopped asking.

So, when the other guys go out to lunch, sit by yourself and read. When they go out after work, go home and study. If friends or family don’t like it, do it anyway. Be different. Assure them that there is no insult intended, but take whatever heat is required and do what’s best for you...

(Read the rest here)

I didn't start out a gardening expert or a good writer. And I didn't pick up the guitar or a paintbrush one day and play ripping solos or paint a great landscape.

I learned what skills I have through lots... and lots... and lots of research and practice. Right now, 13 years after I graduated from art school with a lot of crummy postmodern philosophy in my head and very little in the way of solid art skills, I'm working at my craft of painting again in a systematic way... the way I should have done it to begin with.

One day, back when I worked a "real" job, I remember showing a piece of ridiculous art I'd created to one of my colleagues. His response was "You've got too much time on your hands."

We don't, though. We really don't get that much time. And what time we do have is often wasted watching TV and surfing the 'net in search of mindless entertainment. Even making something ridiculous gives you some practice.

If you want to get good at something, you need to stay at it. You need to make it a part of you.

If you do that in the garden... you'll eventually become a master. Do that with your painting and you'll rise above the pack. Do it with a martial art and you'll become graceful and deadly.

Just don't sit around.


At February 3, 2014 at 8:39 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Subtle, but true. Sometimes reading an article like this is enough to change a life. :-)

At February 3, 2014 at 9:16 AM , Anonymous SomeGardenGuy said...

As simple as this post is, too many otherwise intelligent people never realize that this is all it takes.

Your example, along with a few others, prompted me to stop being depressed with my life and to get out there and take the risk you talk about.

Thank you, David.

At February 3, 2014 at 9:20 AM , Blogger David The Good said...

Yeah. One of the things that has helped me is just slowing down and taking the time to do something right. When a person has lots of ideas and interests but no patience, he never does anything well. That was me for years... and I still fight it. I have some of the ugliest grape trellises ever because I just wanted to plant grapes RIGHT THEN, rather than build something nice and plumb. Now, after looking at them for almost three years and being reminded of how impatient I was, I'm about ready to tear them down and start again. Would've been better to just work towards my best the first time around...

At February 3, 2014 at 9:21 AM , Blogger David The Good said...

Good for you. If you're breathing, there's hope.

At February 3, 2014 at 11:31 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you have any suggested readings for Florida gardeners?

At February 3, 2014 at 12:18 PM , Blogger David The Good said...

Good question. I think I'll do a post on that tomorrow.

At February 3, 2014 at 1:50 PM , Blogger Herrick Kimball said...


Good post. I can relate to you going off and doing your own thing (reading a book). I went to one year of state college here in New York when I was 19 years old and had a great time NOT doing what everyone else was doing, at least when it came to the crazy stuff. I loved going to the library…. for hours at a time, perusing the books and magazines, lounging in a comfortable chair and soaking up things I wanted to learn. There was a private college in the same town and I used to go to their library too. I guess I was a total nerd, but I had so many interests and have always been a "self-learner."

Years later, when I got a job in the state prison system, my co-workers would waste their spare time sitting around and talking about non-sensical things. I put the time to good use by writing books and doing illustrations. I wrote seven books in prison in my spare time (there's a lot of spare time in prison, even for employees) while everyone else did nothing productive. Those books contributed in a tangible way to being able to retire from the state job at 55 years old.

At February 3, 2014 at 1:55 PM , Blogger David The Good said...

The library was a big part of my childhood. I read through the entire Biology section (one shelf) of our local library as a kid... couldn't stop.

When I worked for a large ministry it was similar to your prison experience. There was only so much to do in the office before all the tasks were completed. Another guy in the office was really good at inventing faster and more efficient ways to get things done. We worked together on tightening up our radio broadcast production times until we had the actual work hours for our relative positions down to about 20 hours, rather than the 40 we were paid for. This was a problem. I remember spending a lot of time looking out the window and thinking, as well as practicing guitar and writing. We tried to talk the boss into letting us go home, however, he basically just wanted us there all 40 hours. We got quite adept at "looking busy" when folks were around, then working out chord progressions when they weren't.

There's definitely something wrong with the "work by the hour" approach to managing employees.


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