Don’t Water Dead Plants
Let it go.
One of the things I love about going on vacation is it gets you out of your normal routine and gives you time to process new ideas. For example, take this shirt I saw a guy wearing in Times Square last weekend:
Believe it or not, I have never heard that phrase before, but the second I saw it, I knew that it was a profound statement that has an enormous number of applications not just for people, but for cultures, movements, and even nations.
There are a couple of levels to it, the first being the equivalent of saying, “Stop giving time, money, and energy to people when it’s unlikely to pay off.”
You might be surprised at how much time a person can spend rehashing a relationship that fell apart in their mind and how much time you can spend wishing things could be different. Hoping against hope that you’ll have an opportunity to get another crack at it when you know that it’s unlikely to happen.
What about all the guys out there hoping that one day their female “best friend” will finally see them the same way they see her, when the odds against it ever happening are practically insurmountable? Have you been dating someone and thought, “Wow, they’d be perfect for me except for… ‘X.’” Maybe “X” is they’re alcoholic or the sex is really bad or one day they treat you like a million bucks, but the next day they treat you like garbage for no appreciable reason. Know what that is? It’s watering a “dead plant.”
Have you ever known someone who has been dating the same person for years and years hoping they’re going to marry them one day, but somehow, the other person is never quite “ready?” It can even happen with a friendship when you realize one day that your friend you treat like a million bucks, treats you like an afterthought, or is an energy vampire who always brings you down or just someone who just takes and never gives.
Of course, in the back of your mind, you’re always hoping for that miracle, right? If you’ve ever done a lot of gardening, you’ve had that plant you thought was dying or already dead, and then, unexpectedly, you have that green shoot in the spring, and it lives… usually to die in the summer. But still, SOMETIMES, it makes it. That’s why it’s worth it to make a real effort, talk it out and genuinely put yourself in a position where if that’s it and it’s over for good, you can look yourself in the eye in the mirror and say, “I feel like I made a real effort to fix that, it just didn’t work.”
But, once you’ve done that and you feel like it will take a miracle to make it happen, it’s time to stop watering that dead plant and start putting your energy into finding a live one.
We should be doing this same kind of thinking as a country and a society, too. Is our immigration system working for us? Is it bringing in the type of people we want? Is it making our country better or are people taking advantage of us? Is our welfare system giving people a temporary hand-up so they can get back on track, or do we have lazy people looking to live off of everyone else? Are the alliances we’re forming as a nation serving us or are we doing everything while our allies are sitting in the background, adding very little if they’re not grumbling? Are the things we encourage as a society making life collectively better or worse? If the answer is “worse,” why do we keep encouraging “Pride Month?” Is Critical Race Theory bringing people together or splitting them apart? Are the weird people insisting on having their own personalized pronouns better, happier, and more capable than everyone else, or the opposite? If a plant is dead, the first step is to stop watering it and the next is to look for a living, healthy alternative that may bear good fruit.
This segways to the next level of this whole concept, which is to consider the fact that none of us have an infinite amount of resources, so where are you putting your limited time and money? Into things that make your life better? That builds your skills, deepens your relationships, and takes you to where you want to be in life or into dead and dying plants?
Don’t get me wrong, we’re not talking about being a machine here and living a joyless life of work from dusk to dawn, but all the “plants” in your life are not the same. Some bear most of the fruit, some struggle along no matter how much your water them, and others are just dead. It’s the Pareto Principle in action:
What people, activities, and investments of your energy and time give you the most bang for your buck? How do you take the most enjoyable, most productive, best parts of your life and put more of your effort into those things and less of your effort into the mass of activities that only give you a minimal amount back? Simple. You water your best crops, and you stop watering the yellowing and dead plants.
Personally? I pay people to clean my house, mow my yard, do basic secretarial tasks, transcribe interviews, and fix things around my house. Could I do those things? Yes, but my time is better spent elsewhere. I also put in a lot of hours per day, but take more vacations than the average person. Why? Because I really enjoy vacations, but don’t get much out of things like watching TV or playing video games. You may be different, but the process should be the same. We can call it “not watering dead plants” or describe it as Bruce Lee did:
Get rid of the unessential in your life. Get rid of the dead and dying plants. Focus your time and resources on the more limited places where the juice is worth the squeeze. Whether you’re talking about a person, a culture, or a nation, that is good advice.