Growing up on a dairy farm where we also grew crops to feed the animals and planted gardens to feed ourselves, I have an appreciation for sowing and reaping. There was something very special and satisfying about harvesting a good crop of planted field corn and hay for the cattle. It always felt like an accomplishment. When we dug potatoes, picked corn, or pulled carrots from the ground the smell of the crop was exhilarating, and the anticipation of the supper table delights was something to look forward to. Not to mention, I loved eating carrots right out of the ground.
The difficult part for me was the planting and cultivating of crops, including pulling weeds and leading or riding our farm horse so that the plowing or the cultivating would stay in a straight line. I loved horses, but it could get really hot and dusty for a young lad during the heat of summer. Nurturing what was planted was very important. If we didn’t our crop would be greatly diminished. So, the work I disliked still had to be done.
My father took care of the seed selection for the most part, and that too was very important. Without good seeds, the crop harvest would surely suffer.
I have learned three additional things about sowing and reaping: 1) you always sow what you reap, 2) you always reap after sowing, and 3) you always reap more than you sow. Some may call these the Law of Sowing and Reaping.
When we planted potatoes in the spring on the farm, we harvested potatoes in the fall. We never dug up beets, turnips, carrots, or anything other than potatoes. We could fertilize them as we may, but nothing but what we planted ever grew. We got back a crop the same as the seed we planted. We reaped what we sowed.
Before we benefited from a single plant, we first had to prepare the land and seed, plant the seed, care for the planting, and then in time, harvest the crop. Never did we plant and harvest on the same day. We always reaped months or at least weeks after we sowed.
When we planted potatoes, we often planted one potato cut into 2 or 3 pieces (depending on the size of the sprouted spud). Typically, the yield was several if not many potatoes when the time came to dig them out of the ground. We reaped more than we sowed.
Yours and my human experience with life, behavior, and habits are of the same nature. Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”
These are often pretty scary concepts for we flawed humans. And if you are in a leadership position, this may even be scarier. It’s ok! It is better to learn from what we have done than to ignore it and learn nothing at all, good or bad.
The analogy of the planting of seeds and harvesting of crops in comparison to personal behavior and skill development is a clear illustration of the sowing and reaping concept. Let’s begin with a seed. Whatever we take into our heads, minds and eyes act as seeds and will create a product to come out of us in the form of thoughts, communications, emotions, and actions.
Don’t be mistaken, I am not referring to talent as seed. We have no control over our natural talent. It’s a gift. I am referring to the development of skill, wisdom, and maturity. Think of it this way – our talent is not something we give ourselves. Talent is like soil that is untilled, unplanted, and without nurturing. It is merely a place for growth to occur, or as in the case of humans, behavioral development such as various skills and our attitude, which is something we can control. It doesn’t mean that we will all become geniuses or superstar athletes, but it does mean we can improve in every aspect of our lives.
The author of Broken, J.B. McGee, explains it another way – “Cultivate your craft. Water it daily, pour some tender loving care into it and watch it grow. Remember that a plant doesn’t sprout immediately. Be patient and know that in life you will reap what you sow.”
My frequent readers know that I use the term “Continuous Improvement” a good deal. It isn’t always easy to live that way. Setbacks occur; circumstances change; there are obstacles and even opportunities that distract us, and our perspectives and attitudes flex. That is why revisiting our purposes and plans to accomplish those purposes is important. We need to always stay between the guardrails of the highway to take us to our destination.
Do as J.B. McGee says, cultivate your craft! Also, cultivate your attitude and cultivate your good behavior and deeds! Don’t give up! A small increment of improvement is far better than none at all.
Galatians chapter 6, verse 9 of the New Testament Bible reads – “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”