SEVEN LESSONS YOU CAN LEARN FROM THE BERRY PATCH
By Coach Lorne McAlister
I had one of those phone conversations with my sister, Ruth Stellmacher, the other day that always starts the same way. "Lorne, I've got to tell you something. You won't believe this. Yesterday, my dear husband John and I picked enough Saskatoons to make nine pies."
Doing! Is it that time of the year again? Am I too late to bag some Saskatoon Berries? I snagged my berry pails and headed for the banks of The North Saskatchewan River and voilà, there they were in all their luscious beauty, big, juicy, delicious, free fruit.
If you are into bluegrass music, you're familiar with the phrase "pick'n and grin'n". Yesterday with berries whispering from the limb "pick me, pick me", I did some pick'n and think'n.
Here's some tips, some life lessons, some thinking thoughts from the berry patch on top of the river bank.
First: Timing and Location is Everything
You've got to pick 'em while the picking is good. There is only one opportunity to pick berries and that's when they're ready. When they're ready, you better be or get ready or you're not going to get any berries. Planning isn't picking. Only picking is picking. Peter Drucker says "Planning doesn't work. You can prepare yourself, learn what you ought to know, and expand your experience and professionalism, but ultimately opportunity comes in over the bow and that means you have to be flexible, ready to seize the right opportunities when they come. Too much planning can make you deaf to opportunity. Knowing what you want to do and being prepared and equipped to do it is more important than the specific "how". Opportunity knocks, but it only knocks once. You have to be ready for the incident."
Two: No Stain No Gain.
You already know the athletic rant "No Pain No Gain." The berry picker's pants and hand prints chant "No Stain No Gain." I guess I sort of envy the white pant, white sneaker neat guy who always wears work gloves and never needs to "Goop" his way back to present ability and get back in the home with your clothes still on return ability. My work clothes and my soon to be work clothes all have stains, tears, paint and caulking on them. You can't pick berries with gloves on. If you are going to do some jobs, you simply are going to have to get dirty. Don't miss the berry blessing because of the berry messing. Let the stain remind you that something is better in your world, something got fixed, some pies got made because some berries got picked. Every berry picker looks at the stained fingers not with regretting but rejoicing.
Three: Watch Your Step and Watch Where You Step.
The wail explodes through the patch with a painful hail of verbiage: "I dumped my pail." Watch your step. If you don't, ants will be crawling up your leg, wasps will be charging, you'll have a new slide in your stride as you pull your foot out of the stuff that accompanies animal exhaust. Watch your step and watch where you step.
Be courageous but also be careful. Take care crawling through the barb wire fence. Ask permission before you pick or at least get to work on an authentic apology. Stay alert. Beware and be aware of where you be. "It's better to be safe than sorry" is the way grandpa used to say it. Watch and pray and you'll be okay. Watch and pick and you won't get bit.
Fourth: I Only Pick My Berries Once.
My long friend, Neil Brown, dropped by the river bank berry patch on his way home from Sherritt. We picked up our conversation where we left off over six months ago. He ate a few Saskatoons and made the comparing comments about this year's crop being better than but worse than the Saskatoons from some other years. (How does anyone remember that detail?) He helped me fill my pail while he reprimanded me for my picking style and informed me that: "I only pick my berries once." Our other mutual berry picking friend, Ron Saul, who's a get-all-you-can, can-all-you-get pick-aholic, spends each winter designing ways to pick over his berries. Neil's motto is "I only pick my berries once." I live with this tension. I like lots. I like clean.
Here's the lesson: "If you haven't got time to do it right the first time, where are you going to get time to do it right the second, or third or fourth time." Practice doesn't make perfect. Practice makes permanent. How you do anything is how you do everything. "Pick clean."
Fifth: While You're Filling Your Pail, Put a Few in Your Mouth.
"Don't muzzle the ox while it treads out the corn"
is the instruction from the Bible. Eat a few. I picked a few berries recently with Graydon my grandson. We picked and chanted, "Some in the pail and one in your mouth. Not some in your mouth and none in the pail. "
The idea is to fill the pail but pass a few past your taste buds as you do.
When doing life, enjoy the journey not just the destination. Don't deposit all your pleasure on the goal line.
Sixth: You Won't Find the Best Patch Until It's Time To Go Home.
The biggest, plumpest, juiciest, thickest patch of berries will not be found until it's time to head for home. It's always that way. It has always been that way. It will always be that way. Accept it. Get busy and pick where you are. Stop wandering through the woods. Pick your way home and as you do, you'll find the perfect patch, just when you're out of room in your pail, out of time on your clock and out of light in the sky.
Get excited about the task at hand. If you don't get busy at and excited about the task at hand, you will never find a job you can get busy at and excited about.
Don't miss the NOW as you're dreaming about the NEXT. Pick your way to the best patch.
Seven: Listen for Your Brilliant Ideas in the Berry Patch.
Here's my best creative thought, my most brilliant idea from the Saskatoon patch. Taste Of Alberta Restaurant. Serve food grown in Alberta, like Alberta Beef and Alberta Buffalo and offer deserts, dressings, sauces and syrups made from Alberta Berries like Saskatoons, Raspberries, Blueberries. I got so pumped over the thought I soiled my cell phone calling my buddy with this brilliance. Like all brilliant ideas, this one just might be stupid. When it comes to creative thought, I'm often wrong but never in doubt.
Listen for the creative stuff that whispers to you in the silence and solitude of the berry patch. That solution, that concept, that policy, that plan, that on-time answer you've been searching for just might be waiting for you in the berry patch or some other quiet-yourself-down-zone where you are finally calm enough to hear, to harvest and to harness your creative thoughts.
Pleasant picking. If you find a good berry patch and want a picking partner, I'm available.
THREE ACTION AND TRACTION QUESTIONS FROM COACH LORNE
What brilliant ideas have you come up with?
What are you going to do with it?
Who could help you develop a workable go-forward agenda for this idea?