Did I ever mention that I’m a farmer? Well, a wannabe farmer anyhow. I was born in a rural farm town, surrounded by crops and cows. Once we moved to California, my Dad always had a garden box in the backyard, growing tomatoes, beans and whatever caught his fancy. I loved eating the fresh vegetables, warmed by the sun. So a few years ago, in my middle-aged nostalgia phase, I told my husband I wanted to grow fresh food and have our kids experience that as well. Ever supportive, he dutifully built me a beautiful garden box – shaded with a watering system – and we planted our first “crop.”
Well, being a farmer – albeit an urban one – is hard work. First, you need some serious patience. Planting seeds that first year, you’re excited and antsy. Why can’t they just hurry up and grow already? Then, if you make it past that, you need to be diligent in how you tend to your garden. The soil is our area is laden with clay, so it took a lot of fertilizer and added nutrients to help nurture the plants. While the watering system is a nice safeguard, the weather in L.A. is hot. Watering a few times a week was not enough. We had to supplement it every day, and knew quite quickly if either of us had missed a day (brown, withering leaves are hard to miss). And, while it sounds a little kooky, plants need love too. Love comes when you spend time with them, care about them and want to see them grow.
I’ve just celebrated my one year anniversary with my “new” job. And lately, this first year at work has been reminding me of that first year with my garden box. Whenever you start something new, you want to make an impression – do something big to prove yourself and your worth. Maybe you do have a win early, but the real measure of who you are and what you can contribute comes with time. You have to be patient, and patience is not always my strongest suit.
Then, you need to tend to your craft, to your relationships or to your growth. Reaching out to learn more, to ask questions or to seek out a mentor, strengthens you. No matter what came before or how successful you may have been, you’re in a new environment. Recognizing that you don’t know it all and that there are many people you can learn from (and who, in turn, might also learn from you), helps cultivate your skills and strengthen what you bring to the table.
Then, comes the “watering” part – I think of this as the communication part of the journey. You can lean on technology, emails or phone calls to help along the way, but nothing goes further than spending time with someone face-to-face… checking in. Make sure you’re on the same page, and then do it again and again. When you’re new and still “learning” the people you work with, you’re more prone to misunderstandings. You haven’t found your rhythm yet. Keeping those lines of communication open goes a long way to fostering healthy relationships.
Finally, everyone needs a little “love.” In your quest to make your mark, don’t forget that there are many others around you who want to succeed as well. Maybe you’re on the front lines. Maybe you’re the leader. Maybe you’re the popular new kid on the block. Whatever you are, you’re part of the team, and the team’s job is to win together. No one person wins alone. It’s your job as a teammate, a leader or the new kid, to spend time with others, care about their success and work together for the win.
To be frank, I’ve been a little impatient lately. I want success to come more quickly… to make a bigger mark. As I shared this with a coworker, he said something that struck me. He thought I’d been “planting seeds”: cultivating knowledge and relationships, laying a foundation, and investing in others along the way. As I thought about what he’d said, I realized that if I’d accomplished all of that, then my year was a massive success.
It was so because we’re in it together, building for a future that will pay off immensely if we allow the work time to grow and bear fruit.
My first year with my garden box was not fantastic, let’s be honest. I grew a few tomatoes and onions, but it was no great bonanza. I could have done better. But when I think about the office? Maybe I’m a farmer after all.