Pink sunset clouds over coastline

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

– Langston Hughes

Have you ever gone to an event, attended a workshop, read a book or consulted a career counselor? Did you leave on the pink cloud of optimism promising yourself you were going to make something happen? You may even have taken some steps, but somewhere along the way you lost focus.

I just spent a weekend at The Social Venture Network (SVN) Conference [ed note: now known as SVC, Social Venture Circle].  SVN folks see business as a force for positive change. I left energized by people, ideas and success stories.

However, one story had a special impact.

An arctic expedition brought together political leaders from both sides of the aisle – captains of industry from companies not usually considered environmental leaders and other thinkers and influencers. According to the account, it was a transformative event. The participants walked, talked, butted heads, cried, and at last came together to create a manifesto for future collaboration about environmental protection.

I was breathless with excitement, eager to hear the outcome of this historic gathering. What I learned was that the event had taken place almost five years ago. It had since been abandoned. I was disappointed and deeply saddened. What had happened? What had not happened? Why hadn’t they followed through on their manifesto?

It’s because there was no gardener tending to this powerful seed of an idea.

Here is a lesson I learned from an asparagus grower . . .

Building an initiative, growing your relationship, or developing your career, especially one you love, is like growing asparagus. The soil has to be prepared, the asparagus crowns planted, the nutrients added, sufficient water supplied and time has to pass. The seasons come and go and there is more tending. It takes preparation, commitment, and patience. Yet the asparagus can’t be harvested the first year or even the second. It may take three years or more before the gardener can enjoy the nutritious green stalks. But if the gardener sticks with it, the asparagus may yield for fifteen to twenty, some say up to fifty years!!!

What a thought!

Is there something in your life that you really want that is taking a long time – a career idea, a relationship you believe in, a project you are excited about? Does it need nurturing? Is it demanding energy and commitment but isn’t quite giving you results yet??

Next time you’re tempted to abandon this project, ask yourself if this is an “asparagus project”?  Is this something that takes time and patience now but will yield long-lasting sustenance later? Then keep going. Is this a dream you are making come true that is taking a little longer than you thought it would to happen?

Remember that pink cloud of optimism you started with, and don’t let it float away . . .

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About The Author

Elizabeth B. Crook's picture

Elizabeth B. Crook is CEO of Orchard Advisors. For over twenty years, she has worked with CEO's and entrepreneurs to think and act strategically to grow their companies' bottom line and have more overall satisfaction. She has a gift for making sense of complex situations and mapping them so creative and practical approaches emerge. Clients speak of her insight, skill, authenticity, and willingness to ask the hard questions in a gentle way. 

She is also the bestselling author of Live Large: The Achiever’s Guide to What’s Next. Recent media features include ForbesFast CompanyDaily WorthPBS Next AvenueThrive Global, Conscious Company, and BetterBook Club.

A mother, grandmother, and ardent hiker, she lives on Music Row in Nashville. 

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