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  • Timothy Iseler

Avoiding Obstacles To Growth

A few days before leaving for vacation I made a sad announcement to the family: I think the shishito pepper plant is slowing down.

The shishito plant had been one of the best performers in our already well-performing garden. It grows quickly, produces peppers early and often, and - aside from a simple garden stake for support - needs very little maintenance. The whole family likes eating them, as well as the ‘pepper roulette’ aspect of never knowing when one will surprise you.

For most of June and July I had harvested about 15 peppers per day our one plant, which was a real treat. Sure, none of the shishitos had really blown my hair back in terms of spice, but I reckoned that they would get spicier later in the season. I was disappointed to notice a decline in the plant’s output.

It rained for something like 5 of the 7 days that we were away. The people who agreed to water our garden didn’t have to check in, so no one harvested the vegetables. (Technically, everything in our garden - tomatoes, beans, okra, cucumbers, peppers - is a fruit. But it’s easier to call it a vegetable garden, so that’s what we do.)

It rained again on the afternoon that we returned home, but in the evening I checked on the garden. A funny thing had happened while we were gone – the shishito plant was not only full of peppers, the peppers were large and healthy!

It was a real-life example of what Tim Ferriss describes in "The 4-Hour Workweek” – removing myself from the process not only resulted in superior growth, but it also made obsolete the self-imposed obligation to check the garden twice a day to be sure I harvested at exactly the right time.

Too often we confuse activity with importance, toil with progress, time spent on a project with desired outcome. I’m as guilty of this as anyone: I do it with my job, with household chores, and I even do it while spending time with loved ones. I focus too much on doing and not enough on enjoying.

A busy schedule is not the same as a productive day. Time spent choosing a bottle of wine is not the same as a great visit with friends. Actively monitoring accounts is not the same as making good investment decisions. Putting a lot of effort into cooking a meal is not the same as enjoying a meal.

Experiment with limiting the amount of time you spend making decisions of little consequence (I suggest less than 30 seconds), the number of options you consider while making a decision (I suggest no more than 3), or the hours during which you check your phone (I suggest enabling the 'Do Not Disturb' function 2 hours before you go to bed). Note any negative consequences from these changes. If there are any, are they easily reparable for little or no money? If there are no negative consequences, expand the experiment to include other time consuming activities.

My new standard for harvesting shishitos is that I want to look at the pepper and think ‘whoops, I should have cut that yesterday!’ If it doesn't pass that test, I leave it for another day. The result has been no noticeable decline in volume with larger and more flavorful peppers. (The same has been true for our jalapeños.)

The report from the garden this morning is: 28 shishitos, 40 green beans, 1 jalapeño, 5 okra, 2 cucumbers and 3 bell peppers. I could check again tonight, but I'd much rather take a relaxed attitude and enjoy my evening.

Timothy Iseler, CFP®

Founder & Lead Advisor

Iseler Financial, LLC | Durham NC | (919) 666-7604

Iseler Financial helps creative professionals remove stress while taking control of their financial futures. As both advisor and accountability partner, we help identify current strengths and weaknesses, clarify and refine your long-term goals, and prioritize understandable, manageable, and repeatable actions to bring long-term financial well-being. Reach out today to take the first step.

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