Unploughed Ground

May 25, 2009   //   by Steve Wooding   //   A Slice of Lemon  //  No Comments

To make the most of ourselves we need to invest in ALL of ourselves.

“Break up your unploughed ground, and do not sow among thorns.”
[Book of Jeremiah, Hebrew Scriptures / Christian Old Testament]

“Every loaf of bread begins with a seed sown and watered.”

[1313 words, estimated reading time 6-10 mins]

I’m going to tell you a story, so if you want, I’ll give you minute or two to get a cuppa or whatever else you might need to help you get comfortable first.

Before we get to the story however, I’d like you to take a moment to think back to some of the things you used to do and really enjoyed doing, or have had the opportunity of doing but never did, whether you only have to go back into recent months and years, or further back to your youth or childhood.

Perhaps it’s a hobby or interest, a sports activity or social club, or even an aspect of your job or career, something you used to spend time on and loved, but have stopped doing or let go of. Or it could even be something you’ve always wanted to try, perhaps dreamed of doing, but never got round to.

And with those thoughts in mind, are you sitting comfortably..? Right, time for our story…

“There were once two sons whose parents died and left them some land that they had bought not long before they passed away – two sizeable fields, one for each brother. There were restrictions on the use of the land for ten years, which meant that until that time had passed, it could only be used for agricultural and related purposes.

The eldest of the two brothers was already settled with his wife and children in the city, and decided to hold the land as an investment and wait out the ten years for the land to appreciate in value, then sell it on. He visited the field only once, a few weeks after it became his, and let it out to a local riding stables for the horses to run and graze in.

The younger of the two, however, despite already being settled with his wife and family in a town not far away, made a different decision.

He visited the field often, sometimes alone and sometimes with his wife and children. They would often work on the land from dawn ’til dusk over the summer weekends, spending several weeks simply clearing it of weeds. Over the following months they turned it and dug it over, fed it with local manure, removed the larger rocks and stones until at last, near the end of the first year, it was ready for sowing with winter vegetables.

Within another two years, the younger brother’s crops from the field were selling sufficiently well in the local market for him to pay two locals to tend the field, work it and harvest the seasonal crops to take them to market for him.

And by the time ten years had passed, the younger brother owned a thriving farming business, having bought more local land around the region to expand his crops and employing over 120 people in the local communities to plough, sow, tend and harvest, package, transport and sell his fruit and vegetables all over the region. And even though he was still settled in another town, working there as he always had during the week, he and his wife and children were now well-known and respected in the surrounding villages.

The older brother, meanwhile, was keeping his field as a financial investment, happy with his small rental income from the local riding stables…

Near the end of the tenth year an unfortunate announcement was made by the local council and the Highways Agency – a new bypass was to be routed through the area that would cut across the two brother’s fields.

Obviously there was outrage and protest from the local community but despite all this the local council, with the weight of national government behind them, insisted and began to buy up the land that the bypass would occupy.

The older brother hired a legal team, first to contest the compulsory purchase of the land and then, when they lost finally to negotiate a reasonable price for the sale. He got less than he was hoping, but still the sale still provided him with a substantial return for his years of waiting and holding on to the land, and he’d had ten years of rental income from the local riding stables too.

The younger brother however, fared a little differently. Before he’d even had a chance to engage his own solicitors, the local residents had formed a support group and were gathering funds from across the region, starting with the families and friends of those he employed, and with growing sympathy and quiet assistance from some key members of the local council too.

Their legal team based their case on how essential the younger brother’s farming business had become to the local economy, from those who looked after his farm to those who eventually sold it in the markets and shops around, and even to many of the local restaurants and hotels who were using his locally grown produce on their menus, to great acclaim. They also managed to get exposure in first the local and then national media and support grew even more.

However, despite their best efforts and a drawn-out court-room battle, the government eventually won out. The local community and legal team had done a sterling job though, and the final negotiated settlement for the younger brother’s one field was nearly six times the amount his older brother had received.

In addition, in recognition of the immense value of his business to the region, the local council agreed to replace his field with a brown-field site only a few miles away and to cover all the costs in clearing, cleaning and returning the site to agriculturally useable land.

Since the younger brother had bought additional land over the ten years, the dip in his business, though not insignificant, was more than paid for by the subsequent rise thanks to all the publicity and support he’d received.

But each brother had started with exactly the same potential – a single, unploughed field.”

Just take a few minutes to yourself to allow your mind to respond to that tale in whatever way it does, and perhaps to re-read any parts of it that you feel you want to go over again.

I know from my own life, and the lives of many of my clients, that we all have some form of ‘unploughed ground’ in our lives – parts of us that could yield really significant ‘fruit’, real benefits for ourselves and those around us – if only we were willing to invest a little time in clearing, weeding, cultivating, nurturing, feeding and harvesting it.

It may be one of those activities I asked you to ponder before the story, or something else may have come to mind as you listened to the two brother’s tale; a talent that we once began to develop but abandoned in favour of other, more ‘sensible’ things, maybe something you’ve always known was part of you, but other people discouraged you and so you’ve left it untouched all these years, or even something you are doing right now but intermittently and without true commitment or enthusiasm yet but you’re realising that to make the most of it you really do need to give yourself the chance to make it work properly for you to yield the fruit you deserve.

Whatever it is, you have a choice, as you always have done and will do until you let something else get in your way again or life runs out, and the choice is simply this: you can clear the space, put your hand to the plough and break up the hardened soil, sow the seeds and let the sunshine and showers of life do their job while you tend the ground and the maturing fruit, or you can just sit back and do nothing much at all and spend the rest of  your life wondering, “What if…?!”

Happy ploughing!
ps. One more thing I will point out if you’ve not spotted it already, is that although both brothers did get a financial return on their property, the second also created something much deeper and longer lasting, something that would outlive him, something that he could leave to future generations – a legacy.

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