Spring has me reflecting on the concept of planting seeds. A dear friend sent me Rick Rubin’s book, The Creative Act: A Way of Being, a book on living the creative life, which was good timing as I am resetting my modus operandi with life on the other side of a six month pause with work. Rick Rubin has got me thinking about and reworking my way of living with opportunities, possibilities and uncertainty in my work life.
I am good at being focused with my work. Our culture celebrates that. There is a cultural reverence in the US for doggedly pursuing opportunities. But I have also found that there is a very fine line between focus, control and obsession. Combine this with the dream world of unique ideas we are so good at creating and living in as entrepreneurs and we can get into a wild, energy intensive roller coaster of identifying an opportunity – investing time, energy, work, and our precious attention into that opportunity – let’s say a funding source, and what it will mean for our lives, all the while having no control over the outcome. To boot – this way of working has us living in the future – and perhaps the past as we think about what so desperately needs to change from our present moment – maybe someone else can manage my books! Maybe I can finally go to some fabric shows!
And so I would find myself ping-ponging around with funding opportunities (!), new partnerships (!) – this is it!! – everything is about to change!! No more schlepping around with too few hands and resources. And then the bad news. The email littered with “unfortunately” or “we wish you the best on your endeavor”, with too few lines to be a stepping stone to a new reality.
And so I found myself these days with some promising opportunities and observed that I was beginning to tuck myself into the roller coaster. And I wondered – is there another way? Can I decide not to get on? The answer came in Rick Rubin’s book one morning: the concept of planting and nourishing seeds. Lots of them. Some of the seeds will sprout, some will die. Some will blossom this seasons. Some may take years and a long hard winter to germinate and bear fruit.
Instead of rushing forward with the first interesting opportunity we need to first sit at the edge of our garden and take a moment to acknowledge this fact of life. No matter how much we have bought into the lie that we can control what bears fruit, that we can will it into existence, we surely cannot. Alongside that realization is seeing the opportunities we are cultivating as seeds of various varieties in a garden.
An important realization stems from this understanding. Not only does it feel bad to get on and ride the roller coaster – a sort of profound powerlessness that results from our desire to control life – but Rick Rubin will also say that it is unwise to neglect your garden – to devote your complete attention to one opportunity, one seed. Because there is probably some part of you that remembers that you are of nature, and as such – you do not control life. When you forget this and obsessively work towards that one opportunity you very likely end up with a barren garden.
And so in nature, via Rick Rubin, I found a way of living with opportunities big and small. I am blessed to have some very interesting seeds in my garden these days. But instead of obsessively attending to the most exciting on any given day, I nurture each one day by day, week by week, then marvel at the fact that I can’t control which ones will bloom, that they will unfold on their own accord and surprise me. Our loving care combined with the special-sauce life force will create a garden beyond our imaginations in its own sweet time.
Go, fight, win.