What berry picking can teach us about running an abundant business

Jul 30, 2021

I have been meaning to write this post for at least 4 years. It's easy to get too busy and to forget the small things. It's easy to get too busy to reflect on a berry patch and the lessons it offers.  

Behind my barn is a disorderly tangle of wild black raspberries. They grow more plentiful by the year, edging out the lovely, refined lily garden we planted years ago. These are tenacious berries and despite our efforts, they flourish even more if we dare cut them back in the early spring. Needless to say, we finally gave up on the lily garden and let the wild black raspberries grow according to their whim and vigor. And flourish they did.

Picking berries is not as easy as it might seem.  Come July, I head out to the patch, bowl in hand. I go early in the morning before the sun is too intense. Covered in morning dew they rest, just awaiting the plucking.  My fingers flash quickly, like knitting needles. I pick one and then another, nimbly dropping the treasures into my bowl. However, inevitably my speed gets the best of me. I am moving too fast. I am not paying attention. I am almost greedily grabbing the berries when a thorn spikes my finger and I recoil. I am reminded to go slow.  

Slow down, Pat Deegan.  Berry picking is for the patient, not for the multi-tasker.  I learn that lesson over and over again.

Berry picking is meant to be slow, careful and intentional.  It is a type of meditation.  It must be done with mindfulness. Thorns are a good teacher.

When the time comes for harvesting berries I think of my friend Pemina Yellow Bird. She taught me a lesson that came from her Mandan, Hadasta & Arikara heritage.  She said when her people plant, they are careful to always plant more than they need. They understand that part of their harvest will feed the village and part will feed the birds, deer, and other creatures. Rather than trapping or cursing the creatures that eat the harvest, her people teach us to plant enough for all.

I remember this when I harvest berries. Slow down, Pat Deegan. Look around. Leave a few ripe berries on the vine so there is some left for the birds.  

I carried this lesson from Pemina into my business. I have always been dubious of the term "intellectual property".  How does one constrain an idea?  How does one own an idea?  

In my work, I have enjoyed the harvest other thinkers have planted.  In turn, I plant new seeds and am careful to plant enough to sustain my business and to nourish others who can take my ideas further. Rather than zealously defending "intellectual property" and copyright, I invite others to get in touch with me if they want to use my work to further their thinking. In addition to a copyright symbol or creative commons symbol, I add to the footer of my work, "To inquire about use, please contact [email protected]".  It's amazing how many folks from all around the world have contacted me and asked permission - not to steal my ideas - but to build upon them and innovate beyond them.  It's really inspiring to me.  It's the difference between a scarcity mindset and a mindset of abundance. I think a just and beneficent business is one that manifests abundance.  

No need to hoard. Like my berry patch, with enough seeds, there will be more than enough to go around at harvest time.