I read a Dale Carnegie quote earlier this week and my thoughts turned to gardening, as they always do.
Before you read the quote, take a minute to answer this question:
Would you rather be an excellent gardener or a successful gardener?
I suspect most of us would like to be a successful gardener but how would that success be measured? If we chose to be an excellent gardener, how would we define what “excellence” is?
Dale Carnegie provides an answer that may influence those who chose “successful” to change their choice to “excellent”.
“Success bases our worth on a comparison with others. Excellence gauges our value by measuring us against our own potential. Success grants its rewards to the few but is the dream of the multitudes. Excellence is available to all living things but is accepted by the few. ~ Dale Carnegie
We are all tempted to look over the garden fence into our neighbor’s garden to compare our gardens to theirs. Who has fewer weeds? Better flowers? Nicer shrubs? Taller trees?
But where do such comparisons lead?
They can and often do lead to us thinking or making negative comments about the neighbor’s garden and his or her gardening ability if we think in comparison that our own gardens are lacking. “If I had the kind of time she has…” “Well, if I spent that kind of money…” “His flowers are nice, but he seems to have no sense of color…”
Somehow, getting caught up in these types of criticisms and put downs is often how we justify our own level of success in the garden, whether we are truly successful or not.
But if we strive for excellence as a gardener, defined as reaching our own potential, then comparisons to others and their gardens are no longer necessary. We can measure our excellence by how close we came to our own potential.
And what is our potential?
Our potential as gardeners ebbs and flows depending on the time, resources, knowledge and money we have to invest in the garden at any given time. These can all be influenced by our own health, the demands of family, the demands of work and even the temperament of Mother Nature in a given season.
As our potential changes, so will our gardens, and so will our definition of excellence.
When we strive for excellence, we no longer need to make comparisons to see if our garden is better than our neighbor’s garden. We just need to look within ourselves and ask if our garden reflects back our full potential as a gardener at that point in time.
If we can do that, garden to the fullest potential that we have at a given time, then we can and should consider ourselves to be excellent gardeners.
And thank goodness there is enough space in the garden of life for everyone to be excellent.