You’ve probably never heard of Bitter Weed. Growing up on a little cow farm in south Atlanta, I learned about them early. The weed had a yellow flower with a huge seed head. Handling the weed meant a permanent noxious smell that only wears off with time. If you’re allergic, well let’s just say the experience was less than pleasant.
This demon weed wasn’t good for anything. It was especially bad for cows so it had to be eradicated from the farm. At 8 years old, I found myself looking out across the pasture at a sea of the yellow legion that stood defiantly in the Hot Georgia July sun. I thought to myself, “This is impossible”.
My father was a child of The Great Depression. A simple, hardworking man, tough as nails with a leather neck and unbreakable spirit. Everything he had was either earned or built with his own two work-worn hands.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but he took every opportunity to teach me life lessons from everyday experiences. I remember him kneeling down and grasping a handful of the nasty weed and pulling it from the baked red Georgia clay. He said, “To do this job you need to grab the weed low, by the root. If you don’t get the root you didn’t do the job; the weed will grow back. It’s ok, kneel down, just don’t let me catch you sitting.” He held the weed toward me showing me the seed head, “You see those seeds? There is around 100 of them. Every plant you miss will grow 100 more next summer”. Next, he unpacked a plan to guide me on my quest. He said, “90 percent of how hard a job is, is your attitude about it, the rest is consistent effort over time following a plan. Spend an hour a day pulling these weeds, work in a pattern and you’ll succeed.”
I had no idea the reach that this simple exchange would have on my life.
Number one, don’t get caught sitting down. It’s more comfortable to sit flat, but in this position, you can’t react quickly to changing demands on your business. Kneeling is ok, you have to kneel to look close and see the real problem. Servants kneel just like Jesus did to wash his follower’s feet. Great leaders humble themselves and their people will walk through fire for them as a result.
Number two, get to the root of the problem. Business people spend far to much time dealing with the most visible issues and trying to build rules that manage problems after they have already been birthed by a series of underthought, unconnected and otherwise poor processes.
Number three, don’t ignore any weeds you find in your business. Seek them out and Methodically work toward systematically eliminating all of your issues. If you ignore problems long enough they will kill your business.
Number four, your attitude defines you. Work is only work, if you let it be. Embrace the path you’ve chosen, if you don’t enjoy where you are and what your doing, change it. Life’s to short to be miserable. If your miserable your missing your life’s purpose.
Number Five, have a plan. If your plan isn’t documented it’s a wish, You can’t slay giants with wishes. Someone once said, “Plan your work and work your plan.” This is the only way to make progress.
Sixth and finally, plan on failing, but fail forward. Despite my efforts, that first year I failed. The weed dropped seeds from where they lay. I figured out they needed to be collected as they were pulled. Even after that discovery, it was 4 years before that farm was Bitter Weed free, but I succeeded.
As a young person, I didn’t always appreciate my father or the work he did to provide for us. I also didn’t appreciate the fishing, hunting and other playtime I had to sacrifice because of the work we had to do. Today I cherish the accomplishments that grew from that little farm and I wouldn’t trade a minute of working side by side with my family to make a life worth living.
So you see, deep roots can grow from bitter weeds. Seize your opportunities to learn and grow today. Wholly embrace the work that seems impossible, because it is probably the most important factor in your life’s success.
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