Visit my show at the PSCCU Credit Union, Vashon, Washington May, June 2024 

Is it Time to Get Your Hands Dirty?

Planning and improvisation often go together. And you can’t start a business unless you are willing to plan….and then improvise, or as we say in the garden “go get your hands dirty”.

dirty hand

Have you created a business based on a plan alone?  You know – spent hours closeted with spreadsheets and marketing plans, expecting the world was going to match your vision?

I did, but only in B-school. Once I was out and creating my business in the “real” world, I learned that new business doesn’t work like that — it requires planning and lots of improvisation.  So as I am re-visioning my business, I know that my job is to create my plans and get ready to say YES AND to what I discover along the way.

I learned about flexible planning in the garden. When I started my current garden seven years ago, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.  After paying for some initial help with planning, I created a learning program for myself called “Dirty Hands 101.” I plunged my hands in the soil and prepared to make a ton of mistakes (and did!).

I wanted to learn by doing.

It would have been more efficient to wait until I had lived on my property several years and was sure what I wanted.  Some of my gardening friends tried to warn me.  “Start small,” they counseled, “take time to plan.”  But they didn’t understand that I had a great hunger to garden and wanted the land (aka experience) to be my teacher.

I jumped in and quickly over-extended myself.  In hindsight (isn’t it always great to be so wise?) I should have known better.  I created a maintenance monster!  This fall, I’ve had to start winnowing the garden down and pulling out some of my precious beds.

Yes, it was inefficient and a bit costly  – but I don’t regret jumping in.

Because I committed – and let my passion for gardening lead me forward.

Commitment is a principal of improvisational theatre.

When you play – whether it’s a scene or an exercise – you want to be ready to jump in wholeheartedly and commit to an action, even as you risk falling on your face.  Commitment makes everything in the scene more interesting – even the failures –  and it’s your only chance for greatness.

I’m not arguing against planning.  I still need my action plans, cash flow models, profit and loss statements – you know the works.  But I also need a big dream, the passion to realize it, and a willingness to keep improvising and adjusting as I move ahead.

In my B-school days, I spent hours fretting over my future.  I’d analyze different career options every night because I wanted to make sure I made the RIGHT choice.  I needed to know how my career would work out before I even started.  I was in deep analysis-paralysis.  Finally, I broke the death grip of planning and started to act.  I pursued one idea and I pursued it fully. I jumped into the scene!

I told myself that it didn’t matter if my idea worked out – as long as I had researched it full out – because if it didn’t work out – I’d go one to the next.

Because I loved horses (still do!), I decided to research careers in the horse industry. I  passionately pursued every angle I could think of.  I interviewed trainers. I met with the NY State Racing Commissioner.  I learned there were lots of horse trainers and professional equestrians working 16 hour days with little reward.  Then there were investors who never lifted a hoof and made millions through horse syndications.

Neither sounded like my cup of tea. I decided to pick another career and buy a horse for fun when I could afford it.  On to the next idea.

That’s how it went. I listened.  I said yes. I improvised.  Sure, I had some fear about not being sure what I was doing and some bumps along the way.  I tried out many ideas until I found my niche.

I never would have gotten there if I stuck to my stay-at-home plans.

I got my hands dirty.


Category:  Improvisation,  Entrepreneurship, careers


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