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October 27th, 2018

Anyone new to gardening might pick up a seed and even after close inspection have no idea whether they hold a seed or a pebble.


Imagine such a novice gardener planting a small pebble and nurturing the soil tenderly with hopes that it will sprout and bloom.


Because of that initial mistake, there’s simply no amount of TLC that is going to get a pebble to sprout.  Much energy might be wasted, doubts may rise, motivation may resurge, and all manner of strategy may be employed, but in the end, a pebble is no seed.


The generation of ideas does well to take into account this mistake of seed and pebbles.  Often the generation of a new idea is more important than dwelling on the development of a prior idea.  This becomes a hazy and vague line.   It’s good to persevere and push through adversity, but doing so could just be adding to a sunk-cost that never yields any of the success we might look or hope for.  When is perseverance and pushing through adversity a good idea and when does it become clear that it’s time to stop and pivot? 


For example, it’s generally established within the scientific community that meditation does not yield noticeable brain changes for at least three months.  The subjective experience of such results might be difficult to pin down, but if it were fair to say that a person also does not experience much change in the way of subjective experience until this three month period is accrued, it would be a shame for anyone who stops after two and a half months.  Such a person might give up the practice, thinking that what they’d been nurturing was just a pebble when in reality they were feeding an Infernal Parking Meter  (See episode 78 for what constitutes an Infernal Parking Meter).


The problem of pebble or seed may be more a question of scope.  Plants and trees generally produce lots of seeds for the same exact reason that a  gardener should not fuss over any given seed that may be a pebble in disguise: even some of the seeds don’t sprout.  In this respect we have zoomed out to a larger picture.  We see gardening on a larger scale and realize that in order to grow a whole garden, we cannot obsess over the possibility of one small flower. 


We can take such an image and apply it to our individual financial strategy.  Wealthy people rarely only have one source of income, they have many.  While many of us devote the majority of our time and effort to one job, like a gardener who cares for only one plant, a wealthy individual is generally stimulated by the process of nurturing many incomes.   In this respect, it suddenly makes sense that losing one’s job is one of the most stressful things that can happen in a person’s life.  Losing just one source of income out of many is never mentioned in the same company.  For equally obvious reason: all is not lost if there are auxiliary sources of income in place.


The productive writer also benefits from such a practice.  Following the first idea just about never pans out.  One writer once referred to the practice as akin to sifting for gold: going through a lot of material and only occasionally finding small useful nuggets.    But tiny shiny pieces stand out from pebbles far better than seeds and the whole difficulty of whether to try and develop an idea or move on is lost. 


We might want to ask ourselves at this point:  how do I know if I have a pebble or a seed?  Should I just move on?


We can spend years gazing at the darn little thing, and we might make the mistake of thinking all those wasted years are proof that what we have is indeed no seed because it’s never sprouted.


The mistake here is of a different order.


If we never ship a project, we’ll never even have the chance to nurture it.

If we don’t write down the idea, we won’t see if it leads to a bigger idea.

If we don’t open up our business concept to the market, we’ll never know if it’ll yield another income.




If we don’t plant what we have in our hand, we won’t know if it’ll sprout.




This episode references Episode 78: Infernal Parking Meter and Episode 54: The Well-Oiled Zoom.

Check out the Tinkered Thinking   Reading List

Dive in to the Archives

Podcast Ep. 195: Pebble or Seed?

Tinkered Thinking

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