zenhabits : breathe

The Parable of the Modern Farmer

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Chris Guillebeau of The Art of Non-Conformity.

Once upon a time, there was a farmer. This farmer lived in a different age than his forefathers, who were also farmers.

Instead of specializing in tomatoes or cotton as his ancestors had done, our farmer was gifted with the ability to decide every day what to plant and nurture. By the time the next day rolled around, the previous day’s crops were ready for harvest. (In these fields, crops grew very fast.)

While making decisions about his daily planting priorities, the farmer also thought about the meaning of life. Was the purpose of his existence all about ears of corn and bushels of strawberries? No, of course not. The farmer knew he wanted something more than the tasks he worked on while the sun was coming up.

The farmer also knew that in some areas of his life, he wanted to slow down and breathe easy. He did that already, reading Zen Habits every day on his mobile device while plowing the fields. He did not check email until the sun reached high noon, and he maintained few possessions that did not bring joy to his life or regular maintenance for his tractor.

The farmer was in good health, had a loving family, and kept up a routine of picking through carrots and alfalfa each week.

But the farmer knew that this routine was not enough. Deep inside his soul, the farmer wanted a challenge.

The farmer decided he should set out to build something that would improve the state of the world. But what would it be?

At first he was perplexed. “I’m just a farmer,” he thought. But then, as he was bringing in a bumper crop of sweet potatoes one afternoon, he began to understand that there was much more he could offer the world than the vegetables he harvested during his day job.

Once he started to think in this new way, the ideas kept coming. Should he begin a community tractor pull, bringing together the neighbors for a friendly competition? Write a highly-trafficked blog on cotton pesticides (“7 Simple Ways to Keep Production High”)? Distribute his excess starter crops to an enterprising young farmer in a land far away?

He wasn’t exactly sure which project he would choose, and he knew he might change his mind later. But in determining to begin something, the farmer felt a surge of confidence rush over him. The possibilities were as plentiful as the colors in the sunset he viewed each evening from the rocking chair on the porch.

What would the farmer build? How would he ultimately change the world?

As the moon rose over his latest crop and the farmer sat in the chair, he thought about the possibilities and said to himself, “I’m ready.” And then the farmer got off his porch and went to work.

Chris Guillebeau is the author of The Art of Non-Conformity blog and bestselling book. You can download his new manifesto on creating a legacy project, The Tower, for free.



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