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When you make a living working the soil, you tend to learn a thing or two about patience.

Unless you're using time lapse photography, you can’t get a plant to grow much faster than it’s going to grow.

That’s kind of the ying and yang of Rule 3. On one hand you accomplish amazing things, but on the other hand you have to take the long view.

a few flowers

I don’t know where I came across The Daffodil Story but I don’t think I was rocking the Rules at the time. At least not in blog form.

I’m going to put an abridged version here as there's a lot of build up before you get to the meat of the matter.

Imagine you’re out for a walk, and you saw a field like the one in the picture. You’d probably think that this was a farm of some sort.

But what if you then saw an old weathered sign hanging from the mailbox leading up to the house.

  • 50,000 bulbs
  • One at a time, by one woman. Two hands, two feet, and very little brain
  • Began in 1958

Now wouldn’t that bake your noodle?

I like the daffodil story because it shows how powerful Rule 3 – Persistence can be. Unfortunately, from a teaching point of view it’s easy to discount this story. After all, it’s not real. It's just a story created by a talented author. Didn’t really happen, right?

While you’re stewing on that let me introduce you to A Man Named Pearl.

A while back I ran across a documentary about a guy in Bishopville, South Carolina named Pearl Fryar. Turns out that he’s a living, breathing version of The Daffodil Story.

Seems he had trouble buying his property. Owners in the area thought he wouldn’t keep up his property and their property values would drop if he moved in.

That got Pearl somewhat peeved and a little obsessed. He decided to win the Bishopville Yard of the Month award to prove a point.

Rule 1 – Focus: He tried to buy some high end plants for his yard but the local lawn and garden store wouldn’t sell him any of the topiaries. The shop keeper thought it would be a waste of money since Pearl was an untrained novice and would probably kill them pretty quickly.

What he did do, was give Pearl a quick class on how to make a topiary and told him he could grab dead and dying plants from the compost heap behind the store to practice on. Turns out, that quick class and access to the compost heap was the toehold Pearl needed.

Rule 2 – Action: With that meager start he worked tirelessly year round, year after year. Learning, experimenting and working his 3 1/2 acre yard. Every spare moment. Weekends, after work. Didn’t matter. And of course he did win the competition. He won it so many times they may have retired the award. I don’t know.

Rule 3 – Persistence: That would have made a nice story if it ended there, but Pearl is still at it today. As usually happens when Rule 1 is in charge, he ended up someplace that he hadn’t envisioned. Pearl has taught at colleges and universities, travelled internationally and become a large part of his home town’s tourist industry. You can follow the links and check out his story in full if you’d like. It’s pretty interesting.

Why Rule 3 is so hard to do

I doubt that the fictional daffodil lady or the very real Pearl Fryar were thinking about my silly Rules when they started. That’s probably a good thing, because over thinking is what kills Rule 3.

Projects and goals always look insurmountable when you focus on their bigness. Rule 3 is how you take that bigness and chop it down to size.

With Rule 3, you aren’t accomplishing a big thing at all. You’re knocking out all the little things along the way. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

In Chris Carter world, my chosen tool for chopping down trees is a sledge hammer. That’s because whenever I need an axe, it seems all can ever find are hammers. So I work with what I’ve got and just start swinging. As long as I keep taking the next swing, that tree is coming down.

And that’s the lesson here. You can configure your world any way you want to.

Decide what you like, what you don’t like, then grab a sledge hammer and start swinging.

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