I often refer to money as one of life’s “gardens”. – Bari Tessler
Several months ago I helped plan a neighborhood garden tour. Not being a gardener myself I was left in awe by some of the gardens in our neighborhood. This left me wondering what it would take to grow a successful garden. I found my answer in a delightful story called The Daffodil Principle by Jaroldine Asplund Edwards.
The author was visiting her daughter, Carolyn, in the mountains of Southern California. Carolyn was excited to take her mother to see “the daffodils.” However, the weather was cold, rainy, and foggy and Jaroldine didn’t want to drive on the winding mountain roads.
Having seen daffodils before Jaroldine couldn’t understand her daughter’s excitement but reluctantly agreed to accompany her on the twenty-minute drive to the daffodil garden. When they arrived they exited the car and walked down a mountain path. As they turned a corner the sun broke through the clouds and Jaroldine “looked up and gasped.”
“Before me lay the most glorious sight. It looked as though someone had taken a great vat of gold and poured it over the mountain peak and slopes.
The flowers were planted in majestic swirling patterns – great ribbons and swaths of deep orange, white, lemon yellow, salmon pink, saffron, and butter yellow.”
Jaroldine asked her daughter who had created all that beauty? Carolyn responded that the garden was the creation of a single woman who lived in a small A-frame house nearby.
As they approached the modest house they saw a poster on the porch with the headline, “Answers to the Questions I Know You Are Going to Ask.” The poster read:
(1) 50,000 bulbs
(2) One bulb at a time, two hands, two feet, and very little brain
(3) Began in 1958
Jaroldine describes seeing the daffodil garden and reading the sign as “a life changing experience.” Through this experience Jaroldine came up with The Daffodil Principle, which is that we can accomplish great things by “learning to move towards our goals and desires one step at a time – often just one baby step – and learning to love the doing, learning to use the accumulation of time.”
So how do you grow a prosperous money garden? The same way you grow a beautiful flower garden or a productive vegetable garden. By using the daffodil principle. You start with a prudent plan and you patiently implement that plan over time, making adjustments when necessary. Indeed, upon reaching financial independence the sign near your money garden might read:
(1) Sufficient to meet my ongoing needs
(2) One dollar, one decision, and one day at a time. A solid plan and very little brain
(3) Began many years ago
The daffodil principle is reflected in this quote by Anthony Robbins:
“Most people overestimate what they can do in a year, and they massively underestimate what they can accomplish in a decade or two.”
Growing your money garden will be hard work at first, and progress will be slow, but if you are patient your money garden will one day become more prosperous and productive than you can currently imagine.
Are the Roots Healthy?
In college I had a summer job umpiring intramural softball games. The softball fields were across the street from the credit union where I had a checking account and a small savings account that I contributed to each paycheck.
While umpiring games I remember looking across the street at the credit union and thinking “while I am working here, my money is working for me over there.” This was in the 1980s when interest rates were high and savings accounts actually earned fairly decent interest.
It was then that I came up with a plan that made a lot of sense to me at the time. I decided that I would simply always live on less than I earned, save a little, and over time reach the point where my money paid me more than my job. I set the goal to make at least a little progress towards this goal each month.
The foundation of my plan to gain financial independence was solid but the idea that I would make progress every month – that each month I would be closer to my goal than the previous month – was incredibly naïve. As I have since learned, money gardens, like flower and vegetable gardens, don’t work like that.
Indeed, all gardens go through periods of production and periods of dormancy and money gardens are no exception. Life happens. You are hit with unexpected expenses, your income rises and falls, you get raises and lose jobs, and sometimes even smart investments lose money.
So what do you do when things aren’t going well for you financially? The answer comes from Chance the gardener in the book Being There by Jerzy Kosinski. In 1979 the book was made into a now classic movie in which Peter Sellers plays Chance.
Chance was a simple man who had worked all his life as a gardener in a rich man’s mansion. When the rich man dies Chance ventures off the estate for the first time and through a series of misunderstandings he gains a reputation as a wise sage.
With the economy slumping Chance is summoned by the President of the United States. When the president asks for advice on what to do about the economy, Chance is puzzled at first. Then, reverting back to the only thing he knows, Chance responds:
“There are spring and summer, but there are also fall and winter. And then spring and summer again. As long as the roots are not severed, all is well and all will be well.”
“I know the garden very well. I have worked in it all my life…Everything in it will grow strong in due course…If you love your garden, you don’t mind working in it, and waiting. Then in the proper season you will surely see it flourish.”
The president finds Chance’s advice incredibly profound. Concluding that the roots of the nation’s economy are healthy the president doesn’t take any drastic measures and the economy recovers.
What is true of gardens and national economies is also true of our personal finances. We will go through springs and summers, but also falls and winters. We will have periods of growth and periods of dormancy and even loss. As long as the roots are healthy (our plan is solid) and we have the patience to wait “all is well and all will be well” and “in the proper season” your money garden will flourish.
Which reminds me of the story of a corn farmer. Seeing his towering corn stalks loaded with nearly ripe ears a visitor asks the farmer, “What is your secret to growing corn?” The farmer responds, “Oh, I can’t grow corn. I just create an environment where corn can grow.” The secret to growing a prosperous money garden is to make sure you have created an environment where money can grow and then patiently waiting for the proper season.
Seeing the daffodil garden was inspiring to Jaroldine Asplund Edwards but also made her a little sad. Turning to her daughter she said, “What might I have accomplished if I had thought of a wonderful goal thirty-five or forty years ago and had worked away it ‘one bulb at a time’ through all those years. Just think what I might have been able to achieve!”
Carolyn, having been taught many important lessons by her mother, returned the favor by responding, “Start tomorrow.”
Carolyn was almost right. When it comes to growing your money garden, don’t wait until tomorrow. Start today!