Are You Planting Seeds or Harvesting?

by Stephen Mills on September 6, 2009

Mighty Oak

“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”  — Henry David Thoreau

Sometimes a company will “harvest” an asset.  That means they are no longer investing in its upkeep and maintenance.  They are just using it up until it is gone.  Many, if not most companies, are now harvesting their employees as well.  They are sucking the life blood out of them without concern for their long-term health and productivity.  They are using them up for short-term gain.  Employees are carried as expenses not as assets.

In the corporate world people like to complain about this a lot.  But those same people are often doing the same thing in their own lives.  The very fact they are working for a company that harvests them is a choice they are making to harvest themselves for a paycheck.

You can be planting acorns that will grow into mighty oaks or you can be the person who cuts them down.  Which would you prefer to be your legacy?  You can be creating something timeless or you can be attracted to the distraction of the trivial.  Are you investing in yourself by planting seeds that will grow or are you harvesting yourself for short-term gain?

“The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.” — William James

It may seem harmless now, but someday you will regret the constant harvesting of yourself or others.  I’d like to believe that if we’d put our minds to it we could find things to do that are both pleasurable in the now and that plant instead of harvest.  It’s not that hard.  In fact I find that I am getting much more pleasure out of my planting than I used to get out of harvesting.  The benefit of the harvest is really short-lived.

When you decide how to use your time, you can decide to build sandcastles for momentary pleasure that will be washed away when the tide returns, or you can invest your time in something that will grow and produce for the future.  You can plant seeds within yourself by reading and studying or you can watch reality shows on TV.  If the former gives you pleasure, why are you wasting your time on the latter?

You can write something timeless or you can watch the latest celebrity gossip.  You can invest in a quality relationship or you can play endless hours of video games.  You can brighten someone’s day with a small act of kindness or you can bitch and complain your way into your grave.  You can create or you can waste.

“You have been given an extraordinary gift – your life.  You have an exceptional calling – to be the very best you God created you to be.  Your goal is to unwrap this gift and use all that you’ve been given in the pursuit of what matters most.”  — Chris and Kerry Shook

I’m not going to tell you what to do because there is no way I can know what’s best for you.  Some amount of time playing video games may actually be good for you.  But I am going to tell you to think about how you spend your time.  Don’t think about it for anyone else.  Don’t do what I or anyone else think you should do.  Plant your own seeds in your own way, but do try planting instead of mindless harvesting for a change.

I’m not against downtime.  In fact I consider it a requirement for your own personal maintenance.  But maybe the next time you take some downtime you can consider the quality of that downtime.  Are you just distracting yourself with the superficial and trivial or are you investing quality time in your own maintenance?

If you need some downtime to refresh your soul, try gazing into the deep cosmos instead of watching America’s stupidest home videos.  If you must stare at the tube, pop in a DVD of Planet Earth instead of vegetating over America’s biggest losers.  Why not take a Thoreau weekend:

“There were times when I could not afford to sacrifice the bloom of the present moment to any work, whether of the head or hands.  I love a broad margin to my life.  Sometimes, in a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a reverie, amidst the pines and hickories and sumacs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sang around or flitted noiseless through the house, until by the sun falling in at my west window, or the noise of some traveler’s wagon on the distant highway, I was reminded of the lapse of time.  I grew in those seasons like corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been.  They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance.”  — Henry David Thoreau

Live passionately and boldly, love completely, and leave a legacy.

“Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.” — George Bernard Shaw

What do you think? Leave a comment below.


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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

meatlessmama September 6, 2009 at 10:44 am

Lots of food for though here. I try to invest in myself by learning something new every day. But I must admit I occasionally like to spend some down time watching old movies. Nothing of value in it, but I do enjoy it.
.-= meatlessmama´s last blog ..How To Save Heirloom Seeds =-.


Stephen Mills September 7, 2009 at 9:55 am

meatlessmama, there is nothing wrong with watching old movies. You’ve got to have some downtime. Now if you are using that downtime to watch slasher movies, I would argue you are making a mistake by filling your mind with negative images.


BunnygotBlog September 6, 2009 at 6:10 pm

These are wonderful words you have shared with us today.
I especially love “Live passionately and boldly, love completely, and leave a legacy”.


Stephen Mills September 7, 2009 at 9:53 am

Bunny, thanks! I hope you have a great weekend.


ZuzannaM September 7, 2009 at 12:10 am

Hello, Stephen

Very well written and thought provoking lines. It hurts knowing that people became the expense, which sounds like a modern type of slavery. In private life do not waste time sitting in front of TV, there is not much there anyway…Be creative and productive, do something for your family, kids, spend some quality time with them. Watch the sunsets or listen to a nature sounds if you have a chance.… I love these lines: “You can write something timeless or you can watch the latest celebrity gossip. You can invest in a quality relationship or you can play endless hours of video games. You can brighten someone’s day with a small act of kindness or you can bitch and complain your way into your grave. You can create or you can waste.”

Thank you so much for the life wisdom that you share with us…Great article!



Stephen Mills September 7, 2009 at 9:52 am

Zuzanna, thank you so much for your kind comments and constant support 🙂


Diggy - September 7, 2009 at 8:03 am

Heya Stephen!

Great Post! I love the planting seeds idea. WHat you put in now is a fraction of the return you will get in the future!

I have a story that relates to this.

Say you were a bushman hunter many years ago, and to get food for your tribe, you had to hunt and kill buck and other animals. Sometimes you would run and track an animal for days before you could kill it.
Then, someone comes along and gives you a bag of seeds.

Now, the dumb hunter would say something like “ahh, seeds, yum, snacks for energy while I run after the animal”.

The smart hunter would use the seeds to plant them and grow trees and shrubs that the animal wants to eat, so the animal will come to the hunter, and he can just patiently wait and come up behind it and kill it.

Sorry for the killing metaphor, but you get the idea:)
Doing things now that will over time grow into much bigger venues from which you can reap the rewards!

Stumbled your post!
Have an awesome day! 🙂


Stephen Mills September 7, 2009 at 9:48 am

Diggy, great story. Nature is a giant killing machine so I don’t mind at all. Thanks!


Lisis | Quest For Balance September 7, 2009 at 8:40 am

Hey, Stephen! I’m a huge fan of living life to the fullest and making every moment count. I love exploring nature, reading thought-provoking books, staring out into the cosmos, and even watching Planet Earth.

But I also believe not every moment needs to be a carefully-crafted productive moment. Sometimes, it’s nice to just veg, or do something silly or stupid, or totally out of character. If every single thing I did had a long-term purpose, I’d be exhausted. Sometimes it’s nice to just goof off… not think, learn or do anything.

There is a time for everything… a time to reap, and a time to sow… a time for productive, purposeful activity, and a time to goof off and just be. Nothing wrong with spending all morning building a sand castle that will be washed away in the afternoon. The enjoyment of the moment is reward enough.


Stephen Mills September 7, 2009 at 9:47 am

Lisis, I agree. Don’t get me wrong. I think a day at the beach building a sandcastle is great if you are in the moment and enjoying it. That in fact is part of that downtime that you require to refresh. That was intended as a metaphor and the point being that you don’t spend all your valuable time creating something temporary. Don’t take everything so literally! You can’t write an article with every possible subtlety or it would be a million words long. 🙂

I don’t think there is anything harmful about building a sandcastle, but in my opinion watching celebrity gossip is negative and harmful. There are positive and negative ways to vegetate.


Lisis | Quest For Balance September 7, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Perhaps… but I still don’t think there’s anything harmful about watching celebrity gossip stuff unless that’s ALL you do. If you think Britney is your close personal friend because you know every bit of trivia about her, you definitely have a problem.

If you catch a show here and there just to kill 30 minutes between brain-taxing activities… meh, no big deal… says me. Plus, it’s a bit like people-watching at the airport, or in Las Vegas. You can see some pretty entertaining things “out there”.

Do you think watching ESPN is negative and harmful? ‘Cause that, to me, is a complete waste of time and seems to encourage needless competition and aggressiveness. Maybe this all comes down to what boys and girls consider interesting, and worth pursuing?

I’m really not arguing with your point… just rambling. It’s one of those days. Do you ever have THOSE days? (Feel free to ignore my musings.)


Stephen Mills September 7, 2009 at 3:14 pm

Lisis, well I seldom watch ESPN, but I actually think watching sports releases pent up tension and competitiveness in both sexes but far more in males. There is something biological about warfare and supporting your tribe. However, I do think it is mostly a waste of time especially when taken to extremes. I don’t think most men on their death bed will say I wish I watched more sports, although some probably would.

Now if watching celebrity gossip releases pent up gossip in you so that you will actually do less of it in real life then I guess it is a benefit to humanity 🙂


Lisis | Quest For Balance September 7, 2009 at 3:33 pm

Haha! Good point! Maybe that’s it.. the productive outlet for pent up gossip! 🙂
.-= Lisis | Quest For Balance´s last blog ..Adventure: Lessons From Niagara Falls =-.

John September 7, 2009 at 11:11 am

Sweet post, Stephen. Get your butt off of the boob tube and the computer and start living life. Television mostly depicts other people living their lives while you just sit and watch theirs.

Really motivating post. Thanks for this, man. 🙂


Stephen Mills September 7, 2009 at 3:16 pm

Hello John. Thanks. I agree and that’s what I hate about reality shows. Instead of doing something with your own life you are watching fake lives of other people. Not for me for sure.


Zeenat(Positive Provocations} September 7, 2009 at 7:57 pm

This is a very motivating post.
It has the feel of telling you “get off your butt and do something meaningful NOW”
I loved it! And what i love more about this post is that I could feel the passion with which you wrote it. Very moving.
I repeat myself..its something i have told you before too….Write a book….your words have the capacity to stir the soul!
.-= Zeenat(Positive Provocations}´s last blog ..What Each Must Seek{Inspirational Quote Of The Week} =-.


Vin - NaturalBias September 8, 2009 at 8:09 am

Take care of the golden goose … or as Covey would say, your ability to produce.

Also directly related to this concept is modern farming. The soil is the producer and farmers harvest their crops time after time without replenishing the soil with nutrients to preserve it’s ability to continue producing.

This is a great message that can be applied in so many different ways!
.-= Vin – NaturalBias´s last blog ..How to Not Hate Mondays =-.


alex - unleash reality September 9, 2009 at 5:36 pm


probably the best article i’ve ever read here.

well done stephen.

really liked the intro part. really got me in the mode.

i think the biggest problem is that people see “planting seeds” as an effort. but it’s not. it’s almost the best part. and you can do it while you harvest. it’s not a mutually exclusive thing.

i think it’s an attitude thing overall too. generally people either just exhaust things or replenish them, abundance or scarcity.

all the successful people i know replenish 🙂

inspiring stuff.

stumbled & tweeted
keep well mate
.-= alex – unleash reality´s last blog ..Dancing Stories and Real Life =-.


Henway December 22, 2010 at 10:09 pm

I often spend my leisure time just soaking in some sunshine, and admiring mother nature.. I dun need to talk, or do anything really… just sit in stillness and admire the beauty of being.
Henway´s last blog post ..The Holiday Colon Cleanse


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