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  • Jan Rybeck

Sowing Seeds

I am a rebellious gardener.


Every spring I plan my vegetable plot with total disregard for how far apart the instructions said to space the seeds. Part of me figures that if it were really that important, they wouldn’t make the letters so darn small on those seed packets.

The other part just can’t imagine the tiny specks will actually grow to take up 3 feet of space. Even thinning the babies, the way they tell you to at 3 inches, doesn’t make sense to me. It doesn’t seem possible they will be that different in a few weeks. My belief suspended or perhaps comatose after a dark winter, I tell myself they don’t know what they’re talking about or perhaps those instructions were meant for other people, not me and my garden…we’re special.

And every single year my garden suffers from the exact same malady. Overcrowding with not enough sun touching the fruit and not enough soil and water available to nourish the roots.

I am not stupid, and I really do care that things grow well in my tiny plot.

I just forget sometimes about nature’s ability to always show up and do her thing.

And I lose track of how much space is needed for that to happen.


I suspect this is about trust and the courage to say no.

Creativity experts talk about the importance of generating a lot of divergent ideas at the start and then converging and distilling those ideas to a very few that most align with desired goals.

Yeah, I get it. But it can be so hard to let go of all those great ideas.

And yet, the right idea, in the wrong space, is not the right idea.

A company I worked with had a lot of great ideas at the beginning and pursued many of them early on in the hopes that at least one would succeed and lead to more success. The little possibilities resulted in little wins which was fine for a while but not sustainable. Once they set their sights on the one big opportunity that would allow them to clearly de


fine who they were as a company and distill their energy into a unified force toward that goal, they kicked butt.

With determined focus and relentless drive, they won the contract amidst a pool of others many times larger. This was not just a contract win; it was a great experiment that asked them to create space in their pipeline and trust that the opportunity was worth it.

While the win was still fresh, the leaders got together and came up with 3 words that best described what it took to win that contract. Those 3 words became their corporate DNA and is used to guide and inform decisions about what to say "yes" and what to say "no" to as they step onto an auspicious growth path.

I left my last corporate job with a clear picture of what I did and did not want to do. We had 2 kids in college, one yet to go, and my husband’s contract about to end. This was not a time to say no to work and yet, my purpose was clear and the more I leaned into it, the harder it was to do anything else.


My mantra was “ambivalence is a no”. With that clarity of direction, I said no to more work in a year than I had in the twenty years previous. It was scary making that space and yet, I trusted in my purpose and kept at it.

That year I doubled my income and worked about half as much as I had the year before.

What we focus on grows... assuming there is enough space.

How do you decide to say yes?


Think about time you went after something you really wanted, and it worked. What 3 words describe what that took for you to do.


How might you use those 3 words to guide and inform future decisions and direction?

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