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John Petersen

Planting Seeds: Giving With No Expectations

At some point during my earliest memories of elementary school, we were taught that we should strive to make the world a better place for generations to come. It must have been an Earth Day or Arbor Day. They gave everyone in my class a baby tree. Our mission was to take it home and plant it. Planting trees is good for the environment they told us.

My tree died.

It would be cool to have a 25 year old tree at my parents' house and know that this tree is mine. I would have named it Barky. I think we trampled Barky playing soccer in the yard, but if it wasn't soccer it would have been something else. Seeds and trees have infinitely low survival rates.

Planting the seeds of opportunity

Now, as a 32 year old, I plant more seeds than my teachers ever could have expected.

The seeds I plant now are different though. They still have an infinitely low survival rate. Maybe even lower. And yet I keep planting. And nurturing. And planting. And patiently waiting.

The seeds I'm talking about now are potential business opportunities.

I plant these business opportunity seeds knowing that almost all of them will yield nothing. I go out of my way to help a young entrepreneur. I offer help to people who ask. I provide brutally honest feedback. I give back to the community. I listen. I answer questions on Quora. I meet with a friend of a friend's girlfriend to listen to a pitch. I introduce people who will benefit from meeting each other. I spend way too much time responding to emails.

I do all of these things knowing that almost all of these seeds will never bear fruit.

Don't count your seeds

Without question, I'm the worst farmer in the world. I don't even know what I've planted anymore. I've planted so many seeds that I've lost count, or more accurately, I've never bothered to count. It's not about keeping score.

It's about that one time when a seed that I had long forgotten breaks through the soil and says hello. That's why I keep planting seeds. And maybe one day, one of those seeds will grow into a tree or a flower and make the world a better place.

It's not altruism; it's business

Don't get it confused. I'm not spending all this time planting these seeds because I'm a nice guy. I do it because it's the only way I know how to succeed in business.

Do more for other people than anyone else is doing and you'll win.

For me, that means doing these little deeds and then moving onto something else. Every once in a while, one of those seeds will make an introduction to a new client, offer to help me in some random unexpected way, or my personal favorite:

"Hey John. I like the way you do business. I want to hire you to build our app."

That's when I know I've added massive value. That's how I know all my planting efforts were totally worth it. And that's why I continue to plant more seeds every day.

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