Tree planting and the psychology of business success

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David FullerTim Gilbert told me it would be tough but I never realized how tough tree planting was until I stood in the bush in the middle of nowhere, bugs swarming around my head, as I was exposed to the raw elements of a northern spring.

With my bag of trees strapped across my hips, shovel in hand, I bent down, picked up a dime, took two steps forward, cleared the ground with my boot, dug in my shovel and picked up another dime.

On and on I went, 50 dimes, 100 dimes, 500 dimes, 750 dimes – finally I hit my goal for the day of 1,000 dimes.

As the horn went signalling the end of the day, I forced my fatigued body back to the truck and squeezed in with the other planters for the long drive back to camp.

So what business wisdom can you learn from planting trees?

The truth is that tree planters are entrepreneurial. They work for themselves and have to figure out how they’re going to make enough money in a short window to provide the lifestyles to which they aspire.

There are several key success factors that great tree planters know:

Have a goal.

Not only do good tree planters know how many trees they want to have planted by the end of the day, they also know how much money they need to earn in a planting season to ensure they can go back to school or travel for the rest of the year.

Most business owners I know have very few concrete goals. They have some ideas about what they would like to see from their businesses, but those aren’t understood as concrete numbers, nor do they track their progress to that goal.

Tracking your progress.

Every night on the way back to the camp after a hard day of planting, Tim would call out names and each person in the crowded van would shout out how many trees they planted that day.

Not only did each planter have clarity on how much they made but they also had a benchmark based on what their peers were planting in similar terrain.

When was the last time you checked to see how your business was doing compared to similar-sized businesses in your industry?


The bugs might be eating you alive, the sun, snow or rain beating down on you. Your back hurts from bending over, your arms ache from hitting the ground with your shovel, your toes are bruised and your toenails failing off from kicking the end of your boots. But unless you continue to push yourself like a machine to put the seedlings in, you’re not going to get paid.

Sure, you can quit and go home like many others before you. But how are you going to replace that income?

Often in business at the least bit of resistance, we want to quit. A prospect says no, a lead turns out to go nowhere, we have a bad day with our employees or a bad month. These are the realities of business.

Yes, you can quit like many before you. However, only with persistence will you succeed in hitting your targets and achieving your goals and dreams.

Celebrate and recover.

One thing that migratory workers, tree planters and many others do after a hard day’s work is relax and celebrate their accomplishments. They know there’s another hard day ahead tomorrow but they’re grateful for what they’ve accomplished today.

Leaving the work in the field, they often relax and have an evening of music and celebration. How often have you been able to leave your work at work and really relax and celebrate what you’ve accomplished during the day?

Too often we forget to turn off our minds and relax so we can be prepared for the next day.

Business is like tree planting. It takes a psychology of dedication, persistence and the mindset to want to be successful.

Perhaps it’s time you set some goals, tracked your progress and celebrated your successes.

Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award winning business coach and a partner in the firm Pivotleader Inc. Comments on business at this time? Email [email protected]

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