Years ago a mentor of mine explained that the world, like an orchard, was divided into two groups: planters and pickers.

The planters, he said, see something that doesn’t exist and go to work cultivating thesoil, putting in seeds and plants, protecting their crop from weather, insects and other enemies.

Planters vigilantly nurture their fields despite risks and setbacks. Eventually, this sustained effort pays off as a great reward.

Pickers, on the other hand, arrive after the long months or years of labor and remove the fruit from the trees. Their involvement and financial reward is much smaller.

Pickers are interested in immediate gratification—no matter how meager. Pickers are not suited to the entrepreneurial life.

From the moment I heard this analogy, I knew which group I wanted to join. What distinguishes a planter from a picker? Here are four traits that set planters apart.

See Possibilities

Bugsy Siegel is credited with turning the desert town of Las Vegas into an entertainment destination. In a documentary on the history of that city, the narrator talked about Siegel’s vision and how alone he was in thinking something so unlikely would happen.

“Where others only saw sand,” said the narrator, “he saw a playground.”

Stephen Covey reminds us that one of the habits of highly effective people is they begin with the end in mind. That’s true for any kind of planter. No matter how far away the end may be, that vision is present at the beginning stage of any undertaking.

Plant a Lot

When I was putting in my first garden, my Aunt Agnes came to assist me. After we’d planted rows of vegetables, we still had a large corner that we hadn’t used. “Let’s just broadcast the flower seeds over there,” she advised.

I didn’t know what broadcasting meant, but she quickly explained it was scattering the seeds in no particular order. When my garden sprang to life, it had tidy rows of plants and  a wild flower patch at the end.

That garden was a lot like successful businesses: some parts are tidy and others are wild. The important thing is to keep planting seeds, making new connections, trying out new ideas, using different methods.

The neat and tidy parts will be satisfying while the wild and unruly parts will add surprise and color.

You’ve heard it said hundreds of times: you reap what you sow. In business, unlike horticulture, planting is a perpetual activity, not a seasonal one.

Protect Your Plantings

Cowards abandon their dreams at the first challenge leaving them to wither and die. Maybe they don’t understand that dreams, like seedlings, are fragile things and need protection from the assaults on their growth.

Just as plants need proper temperature, light and humidity for optimal growth, you need to create the conditions that nurture your dreams. You also need to protect them from damaging forces.

When actress Hilary Swank was asked about dropping out of high school at the age of 15,  Swank said that she had several teachers who kept telling her to give up her little acting hobby.

Even those who weren’t so overtly discouraging played a part in Swank’s decision, she said. “I couldn’t get inspired by teachers who didn’t want to be there.”

Recognizing the damaging forces and removing our dreams from those situations is equally important if we expect to bring our own to fruition.

Enjoy the Growing

The planters among us are wise enough to know that each stage of growth is necessary. They don’t look at their seedlings and demand an immediate  bushel of fruit.

Paul Hawken, who once said that all entrepreneurs should study horticulture to learn how to run a business, writes, “I am constantly reminded that plants that grow too fast are not really healthy, and that plants growing too slowly are not thriving, either.

“If you try to speed your business up, you won’t get it right and will have to do it over….Do you want to be a mushroom or an oak tree? Spores beat out acorns every time in growth rates, but never in longevity or durability.”

Then there’s this lovely image from Dawna Markova:

To live so that that which comes to me as seed

Goes to the next as blossom

And that which comes to me as blossom

Goes on as fruit.


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