Long Way To The Shortcut
Have you set out to do something, only to realize later that there was a much shorter, faster, more efficient way to go about it? Have you tried to cut corners to expedite the process of getting shit done, only to have that same shit hit the fan and then found yourself wishing you’d just done it properly to begin with? If you answered no to these questions, you’re probably one of those things incapable of checking the “I am not a robot” box that I often see when signing-up for stuff online.
For the last six weeks I’ve been working on crop and garden planning: determining weekly harvests, staggering our planting schedules to ensure variety throughout the season, calculating seed quantities required, costing out season extenders to maximize our growing time, mapping out garden plots in the most logical and ergonomic way…It kind of feels like weaving a tapestry made up of many fine and interconnected threads that I frequently tangle, and then stop, untangle and start again.
This planning process started with reviewing and analyzing all the data we accumulated in our first year. As I went through our log sheets, I found countless errors that in some cases made the data useless. I also came to realize that, despite reading and referring to many great resources, I made a lot of innocent mistakes in the planning process our first year that led to these errors. Re-reading the same resources this year, as well as some new ones, my approach is drastically different. Now that I have experience to work from in the intensive crop-relay model I am following, the advice I am gathering has a lot more value.
While I could scorn myself for not totally ‘getting it’ the first year, I realized the good advice never would have made sense until I made those mistakes. Even now, I realize I am probably also misapplying some information or advice this year, that will only become evident in the next year after I make a whole new set of mistakes. My ultimate goal in crop and garden planning is to achieve the greatest level of efficiency, but figuring out the way to get there is an iterative process and ironically not the most efficient one.
How do we get to where we want to be? There are direct routes and there are roundabout routes. Direct is swift and powerful. You pinpoint. You proceed. You conquer. Yet, there is the risk that in your haste you chose a target was not what you truly wanted. When things are easily achieved, you may find yourself successful yet strangely unfilled. Could this be because, even though we like to moan and groan about it, we all crave challenge? That evolutionary drive to not just be fit, but the fittest. That is not to say the direct route is easy. Rarely so, or we would probably always choose it. But sometimes our vision of what we really want doesn't appear so directly. Clarity, while intrinsically simple, can be difficult to uncover. And once uncovered, equally difficult to uphold. Perceived obligations, responsibilities and means to ends can easily muddle the purity of what we think we want.
Hence the benefit of the roundabout route. Though often frustratingly long and disorienting, a more productive way to think of it could be the scenic route. Along this route, some scenes may be beautiful and some quite ugly. You may take gloriously naive paths where things appear far better than they are, only to be funnelled into dank, dark lonely places where things seem far worse than they are. But eventually (hopefully) you surface somewhere in the middle where things just are. In this place of unquestionable truth and calmness, you recognize the dead-ends that lead to nowhere, the shortcuts where you can make life easier for yourself, and those inevitable detours you just have to take. Most importantly, you are humbled to know that you never could have appreciated the shortcuts, even if somebody pointed them out to you, without going the long way first. That might sound silly, but consider this: without acquiring the knowledge of the long, challenging way, you have no measurable means to appreciate the short, efficient way. Without this knowledge, the short way is just… the way. Like oversimplified, refined, white flour striped of all its grainy goodness, taking a shortcut without first acquiring the nutrient-rich wisdom of the long haul will leave you less knowledgable for similar routes to come.
So, in this rapid-fire, shortcut-addicted society we live in, I say embrace the roundabout way. When in new territory, take the scenic route. Remind yourself to see things as they are, not better or worse than they are. Acknowledge errors and treat them as crucial indicators to steer you the right way. Once you’ve mastered a task, the direct route will become undeniably obvious. And above all, eat whole grains.