I’ve been missing home lately… I always do in the summer/fall.
I grew up on the prairies, and there’s nothing like the prairies when everything is green and growing and producing tasty things.
Here in Toronto I don’t grow things. The few plants in my house are not thriving. I blame the light levels, but I think if they could talk they might mention my inconsistent watering habits.
Whenever I go home, one of the stops I make is my Oma’s garden. Oma is what I call my grandmother. She and my Opa continue to have an incredible garden, even though they’re well into their 80s.
They grow carrots, corn, potatoes, peas, flowers, beans, cucumbers and of course… tomatoes.
And those tomatoes… they surprise me every time.
You see… If you focus just on the plants… they look like the ones in my apartment: very few leaves, barely able to hold themselves up… not the picture of health.
But on every sick-looking branch …. there are bunches of fruit.
Honestly, they look like grape vines, there are so many tomatoes.
And no matter the look of the plants, my grandparents reap huge tomato crops almost every year.
The secret of tomatoes:
How? When I asked, I could see the twinkle in my Oma’s eyes.
“We cut them back. We cut all that extra growth, that way all the nutrients go right into making the fruit, instead of being spilt between the fruit and a bushy looking plant.”
Turns out the point of growing a tomato plant is not to have the healthiest looking tomato plan, it’s to grow lots of really good tomatoes.
Cutting back in order to get more of what you want…
No one really likes cutting back.
Cutting back on tasty dessert, cutting back on Netflix, or cutting back on your spending all seem to be things you know you ‘should’ do… but will definitely suck.
And the spending one can be especially tricky because some of you might look at your spending and say… this all makes sense. I want all these things. They’re important to me.
But there are lots of reasons to cut back.
Sometimes you have to because you can’t afford your life, and sometimes it’s about trying to focus your ‘nutrients’ on growing fruit, instead of growing out the plant.
Sometimes cutting back is the gateway to getting more of what you want…
Your plant VS your fruit
In my mind there are two things that we spend money on:
• maintaining the life we have
• pushing our life forward
Other people might use the word ‘lifestyle’ expenses to describe maintaining your life. But it’s basically the cost of your life – your monthly and annual costs that you’ve pretty much already decided you’re going to spend.
Then we have the big stuff we want to do. It might be paying off our debt, taking an awesome trip, saving for later in your life, or investing in your business.
It pushes our lives forward.
I know that the second one sounds way more sexy, but you can’t spend your money on ‘extra’ stuff until your life costs are taken care of.
In a way, it’s like your plant and your fruit.
Your plant’s health is essential in the growing of your fruit… but… like we see in my Oma’s garden, sometimes too many resources put into your ‘plant’ can reduce the amount of fruit you can grow.
There are a limited amount of resources, and you have to decide where you want to put them.
How to grow bigger, better life tomatoes…
Is there some big life stuff that you really want to get done?
Maybe you need to think about cutting back. Not because you’re not allowed to have nice things, but because you want to use your nutrients differently.
And here’s where we can learn from Oma’s tomatoes again.
There are all kinds of preconceived notions we carry around about what we need to do to ‘create fruit’.
But maybe that’s not the case.
Maybe we can do way more with way less, and the only way you’re going to find out is by doubling down on some experiments.
How much can you cut back before the base health of your life suffers? Which are the right places to cut back, and which places are non-negotiable?
I can’t encourage you enough to start to play with these ideas.. AND don’t decided before you start what the non-negotiables are.
Everything is on the table.
Talk to people who live differently than you do. Talk to people who are older than you and are way ahead in terms of experimentation. Come talk to me, either during OFFICE HOURS or through EMAIL… I’ve got lots of stories of how creative people are figuring it out.
Don’t assume you know the best way to grow a tomato… because maybe you don’t.
I sure didn’t.
Rags to Reasonable Community Outreach Coordinator
Emily Nixon is an actor/writer/director/filmmaking Swiss Army Knife. She is also a big money nerd and Community Outreach Coordinator for Rags to Reasonable.
She came to this work after becoming completely fed up with living paycheque-to-paycheque and being too afraid to look in her chequing account. She is passionate about empowering other artists and variable income earners to keep doing what they love and feel confident about their finances.
Email Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org
Terrific analogy. I remember in business school a similar analogy to team management- growing a rose. You need to do a lot of pruning to ensure a healthy, vibrant plant and flowers.
Plus there are thorns… so extra good analogy there. Pruning is often painful.
Thanks for stopping by!
Well said & well done. Keep up the good work.
Will do! Thanks for stopping by!