Monday, October 12, 2009

Plant a Garden!

In an interview, pro-blogger Merlin Mann ( asked the following question of fellow blogger Leo Bobauta ( "If you had 60% of the time and resources you needed to do anything you want, what would you do?" I don't remember the answer, but the question has gnawed at me for months. What would I do if I had 60% of the time and resources I needed to do anything I wanted? In my engineer's mind, the question quickly became "How can I achieve acceptable results at something I want to do with 60% of the time and resources that I need?" The answer is "Do something that will successfully scale back to 60%" and "Do something that is less dependent on external resources." And then I remembered growing up on the farm. My Dad never had the resources he needed. Yet every year, he plowed, planted, and cultivated, and every year we harvested. Every year, Dad did all that he could with the resources he had. And it was always enough. If I had 60% of the time and resources I needed, I'd plant a garden. (My wife would sew a quilt!) Instead of 100 square feet, I would prepare, plant, cultivate, and harvest a garden of sixty square feet. By scaling back, I would need to expend only sixty per cent of the time required to prepare the soil and cultivate the plants. I would only use 60% of the seeds, 60% of the fertiliser, and 60% of the water to make my garden grow. And I would still reap a harvest! If conditions are favourable that harvest may even produce better than 60% of what would have been produced with full resources. Perhaps, my garden would even produce the seeds for a somewhat larger plot next year! Half-way toward forming my answer to this question, I realised that we never have all of the resources we think we need. We could always use more. At the same time, I realised that people have been doing awesome things for years and years with very limited or no resources. My Dad raised four children on a subsistence level farm. We all grew up to be reasonably responsible and productive adult members of society. From the day my children entered this world, I never felt that I had the time and resources I needed. No parent ever does. Nonetheless, my children also became reasonably responsible and productive adults. Pareto's law of work says that you generally need only 20 per cent of the resources to get 80 per cent of the results. Life isn't about what you can't do with what you don't have; life is about doing great and wonderful things with what you do! Do something great and wonderful. Plant a garden. Make a quilt. Raise a family. You may not even need sixty-percent.