Life in the garden blog post cover image. A row of vegetables planted in dirt.

I have spent much of my life in the garden. What I have discovered in the soil holds true in my soul: the time spent pruning, watering, and nurturing is never wasted.

Life in the Garden

As a kid growing up on the plains of central Kansas, I spent much of my time in the garden. My family grew a fair amount of our own food, and it was usually one of my daily tasks to spend a certain amount of time clearing the weeds from the produce.

Strawberries.

Rhubarb.

Tomatoes.

Carrots.

Beans

Cucumbers.

Peas

Corn.

We grew a whole variety of food. However, it wouldn’t take long in the humid days of summer to see weeds grow up right along with the crops.

So for thirty minutes every day, I’d be out there making sure only the good stuff grew.

As I got older, I started to hate it more. As a teenager, there were thousands of other places I’d rather be than in the garden doing work. Life in the garden blog post cover image. A row of vegetables planted in dirt.

Now, as an adult, I wish I had more time to devote to my own garden. The thirty minutes a week are far too few.

However, my time in the garden has made me realize the many ways I want to cultivate a fruitful and bountiful personal life.

Here are three takeaways from my life in the garden.

1.) Remove the bad, harmful, and damaging weeds.

I’ve already mentioned my disdain for gardening as a child. Part of it was my allergies. They were so bad growing up, my eyes would swell shut and I found it difficult to breathe. There were many days where a family member would have to escort me around the house because I couldn’t see, my eyes crusted over with goop.

If it were like that inside the house, you can imagine how bad actually having my face near the plants.

However, in those brief moments where I could concentrate and focus on getting something accomplished on a row of cucumbers, I always took satisfaction in seeing progress.

Weeding gave two primary benefits: clear signs of work done, and better yields.

In our own lives as leaders, we see the same benefit. When we weed out the poor, distracting, bad, harmful, and damaging ‘weeds’ of our lives, we see clear progress and get better yields.

Our souls are full of many bad weeds.

Pride.

Arrogance

Destructive relationships.

Bad habits.

False mental beliefs.

Spending time in coaching, counseling, mentorship, business alliances, and other thought-provoking and challenging ideas weeds out these self-perceived limits and gives the good, nurturing fruit of leadership space to grow.

2.) Prune and nurture the good.

As you clear out the weeds, you give the good fruit space to grow. At the same time, this good stuff needs to be pruned, fed, and watered. Carefully cutting off areas of less productivity and overgrowth gives the main plant more time to thrive.

In the garden, watering and fertilizing your plants also leads to bigger yields.

For the garden of your soul, the same beneficial steps need to be taken.

Limit the amount of ‘good’ in your life to pursue the ‘great.’

Take control of your calendar to get more of the right things done (and not just more things).

Limit (and eliminate) time with people who drain you, your time, and your resources.

Spend time with people who bring your more life, vitality, abundance, and joy.

3.) Cultivate beneficial species together.

A lesson I learned early from my life in the garden is the power of beneficial and antagonistic plants. In my raised beds, I made the mistake of planting tomatoes and cabbage too close together.

While it seems like no big deal, in terms of plant production, it was a very big deal.

My main tomato plants, living next to beneficial plants, grew and thrived. I was harvesting tomatoes and cucumbers on a regular basis.

The tomatoes that were planted near the cabbage resulted in both plant species struggling. The cabbage never had more than a few leaves, and the tomatoes stopped growing after a foot and never produced fruit.

Thankfully, I was able to transplant the cabbage, and now both are thriving (well away from each other).

Plants need the right environment to survive. This includes their relationships with other plants.

In our own lives, we have the same problems. When we are too near negative thinking, small-mindedness, hypocrisy, anger, judgment, fear, and limiting beliefs, we start to adapt to the same. Just like in my garden, there is a general failure to thrive when we are in the wrong environments.

Removing that negativity from your life and exposing yourself to like-minded people and beneficial thoughts results in more of the same.

Expose yourself to positive and be positive.

What about you? How have you seen one of your hobbies benefit you in your professional life?

A shadow cast on a brick wall of a giant in armor with overlay text slay your giants while you're young. Blog post cover art.

That’s why it’s so important to slay your giants while you’re young.

Her words hit me like a ton of bricks.

Not only is she incredibly beautiful and funny, she’s also really, really smart.

I’m lucky she’s my wife.

We were talking about the importance of marked leadership growth and reflecting on the life of King David in the Bible.

Setting the Stage

I was walking her through a talk I was getting ready to give, and we were reflecting on what David’s life might have been like as he neared the end of his life.

A Forgotten boy to a ruler.

From shepherd to king.

Giant-slayer to sage. A shadow cast on a brick wall of a giant in armor with overlay text slay your giants while you're young. Blog post cover art.

Desert dweller to palace ruler.

As he neared the end of his life, he had to spend time reflecting on all that had transpired. A surprising amount is written about David in the Bible. We see his faith and folly as he is featured across the pages of Scripture.

Someone described as “a man after God’s own heart” has killed giants, led a country, been to war, stolen another man’s wife, committed murder, written songs, and experienced rebellion and treason from his own family.

Throughout it all, he remained committed to God and in trying to understand how to lead well.

And as my wife and I were discussing this, we were talking about the many ways in which his experiences of God may have changed, but the need behind them hadn’t.

That was true throughout the Israelite story.

It’s true for us as well.

Having Experiences

We all have a quest and desire to connect with God.

Unfortunately, we also want to keep having that same experience.

When the Israelites that saw God in the pillar of fire still wanted to see him like that. The problem is that as circumstances change, so do the experiences.

That’s why it’s important to slay your giants while you’re young.

David experienced God when he slew the giant Goliath. But he was never supposed to become a perpetual giant killer. Once he accomplished that mission, it was time for a new one.

Slay Your Giants While You’re Young

As leaders, we are all called to progress.

Grow.

Adapt.

Change.

Overcome.

In new ways, every day.

Far too many of us, however, take pride in slaying the same giants over and over.

Battling with addiction instead of getting help.

Hiding behind our fears and weaknesses instead of soliciting a mentor to overcome.

Engaging in the same pointless battles again and again.

I’m reminded of a story I heard once. An elderly leader was being interviewed about his life and influence. Having just passed 80 years old, he had a lot of wisdom to share with the crowd.

The interviewer asked him, “What’s one battle you regret not winning?”

Immediately, the 80-year old replied, “Porn.”

At 80, he was still trying to slay the same giant as his teenage self.

Instead of being able to be a person of wisdom to his community, he was stuck in a cycle of shame.

Don’t fall victim.

Slay your giants while you’re young.

foggy forest with overlay text do you want to change, blog post cover art

In coaching, I’m willing to do anything I can to help you reach your goals. The one thing I can’t do, however, is make you want to change. That’s why I ask all potential clients, Do you want to change?

The Origin of the Question

While walking the earth, Jesus performed lots of miracles, engaged in teaching the masses, and healed people. In one such instance, he asked the man, Do you want to get well?

It seems rather odd, that question.

Who wouldn’t want to get well?

Well, it turns out, quite a few of.

In fact, quite a few of us like being sick in one way or another.

We feel comfortable where we are stuck. In the small beliefs we hold. We see it in the minor discomforts of life, that one way or another, we are all stuck and most of us like being there.

It’s safe.

Comfortable.

It’s also killing us slowly.

Jesus asking, do you want to get better expresses the true desires of our hearts.

Do you want to let that burden go?

Are you willing release your doubt and fear?

Do you want to experience something different?

Because if you do, he offers to help. But if you like where you’re at, he’s also willing to leave you there.

In coaching, I’ve seen the same thing happen.

Do You Want To Change?

Whenever I meet with a potential client, we spend a little bit of time getting to know each other. I need them to trust me and give them space in our first session to ask anything they want about me. I’ll disclose (within reason) whatever the need to feel comfortable.

It’s also a time for me to see where they are at. It’s a chance to make sure they are willing to engage in the process with both their head and their heart.

And one question I ask everyone is, “Do you Want To Change?” foggy forest with overlay text do you want to change, blog post cover art

I can do a lot for you: provide excellent coaching, recommend books and other resources, give you extra time, and other tools at my disposal.

The one thing I can’t do for you is make you want to change.

That’s the one thing you have to bring to the relationships: you have to want to change. To get better. To experience life anew.

If you’re unwilling to do that, there’s really not a lot I can do.

But if you honestly bring that one thing to the table, everything is suddenly a possibility.

Relationships renewed and restored.

Businesses thrive.

Health improved.

Lives impacted.

All because you agreed to show up fully in the world and agreed to change.

But it all starts with the question:

Do you want to change?

Years ago, I read Eugene’ Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. To be honest, I don’t remember much of the book, but the title has long stuck with me.

It’s become a continual mantra for the daily habits, beliefs, thought patterns, and actions that I use to guide my life.

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

It’s fairly typical for me to have a panic attack on Monday morning. I suffer from anxiety; from the fear of what could be.

At times, it’s overwhelming. couple hiking remote mountains with overlay text a long obedience in the same direction, blog post cover art

Debilitating.

Paralyzing.

In those moments of lost despair, I’ve trained myself to recall the phrase and title of the book, a long obedience in the same direction.

The fear comes from my desire to do it all.

To break free of that fear, I have to remind myself that I don’t have to do it all right now.

My destination is not complete today, instead, I am on the journey.

So what would obedience look like today?

That’s a much simpler proposition:

  • Network
  • Respond to emails
  • Call clients
  • Spend time with my family
  • Eat well
  • Exercise
  • Encourage someone
  • Get to bed on time
  • Repeat

While the specific formula to each day may look different, I guide my life by answering the question: what do I need to do today that could get me one step closer to my goal?

Once I have that figured out, I create the plan for obedience.

Create The Plan – Then Execute

One of the phrases we use throughout coaching is, to begin with the end in mind.

Where do you want to end up in life?

What do you want to accomplish?

Who do you want to be?

Then we can look at your current situation.

If you continue to make the same choices, will you end up where you want to be?

If so, great! Continue to amplify those decisions and live more purposefully.

However, if you won’t end up where you want to be by making similar choices, then it’s time to make a change.

Chart a new path.

Choose a new direction.

Create momentum that will propel you to your ideal life.

Then, practice obedience and begin a long obedience in the same direction.

Blog post cover photo abundant generosity text over a coin jar with a plant

The capstone of great leadership is a life capable of resisting burnout, and that happens through a life of abundant generosity.

You cannot have that, without financial health.

Ultimately, you will never be able to fully resist the pitfall of burnout if your financial life is in order.

Getting Started

In the early days of my coaching practice, this is exactly where I found myself. I wanted to be there fully for my clients, but often wondered how quickly they were going to pay. If it wasn’t soon, I wasn’t going to be able to pay my bills. That sort of internal struggle makes it hard to be fully present.

Maybe you can relate. Maybe you’ve woken up with a knot in your stomach wondering how you were going to make it through the growing pile of bills.

If you’ve ever lived at a point of having more month than money, you know the stress of too little money.

But a life free of burnout goes one step farther. It’s never just about having enough money, it’s about giving back. To be free from burnout as a leader, you give of your time, your resources, your skills, and your expertise. The final commitment is to give your money.

Great leaders not only get their financial life in order, but they also practice living a life of Abundant Generosity.

Abundant Generosity

Abundant generosity is about giving extravagantly. It’s charitable giving, yes, but it’s so much more. It is the openness and willingness to propel others to their own successes.

Abundant generosity is a joyful state of abundance.

It calls for greatness out of yourself and others. Blog post cover photo abundant generosity text over a coin jar with a plant

Abundant generosity opens up the well deep within your soul to provide monetary donations, wisdom, and acts of service to better the causes, communities, and people you care about most.

A number of years ago, I changed part of my pricing package to include a “generosity” option. In short, when people purchase a certain coaching contract with me, I move part of that money into a separate fund that provides scholarships for people that can’t afford full coaching services.

The individual receiving coaching wins by receiving free or discounted coaching services.

I win because I get to help more people.

The person who made the donation wins because they get to practice abundant generosity.

But as I’ve said, finances are only a part of the picture. Sometimes, they know the person who receives coaching. They nominate someone in their organization who then gets the added benefit of a promotion because of their growth through the coaching process.

The end result is a recurring cycle of growth in individuals and organizations where all are giving and receiving. Abundant generosity, in this case, is about bettering the community.

As we wrap up this eleven-part series, I want to encourage you to practice abundant generosity where you have the chance. Give freely and deeply. Bless others. With your money, your time, your gifts, your resources, your network, your business, and your passion.

Start by freeing yourself from the burden of debt. Then, accumulate as much knowledge as you can and give it all away.


The Wrap Up

If you or someone you know is facing burnout, please get help. Email me to set up your first appointment.

Looking for more ways to fight against burnout? Here are 50 self-care tips.

 Want the entire series as a Kindle book? Go here.