Social media lessons you can learn from sustainable gardening

A friend of mine manages the training department of a Midwestern insurance agency. Recently, he made a rather unusual request of his staff. He asked them to turn away from their computers and look out the window for at least ten minutes a day and think about anything but their work.

He’s a wise boss. We can get so bogged down in what we do during our working hours that we start spinning our mental wheels, spending more time on tasks than we’d need to – and not doing them as well as we might – because our brains are simply overtaxed and over-focused.

I’m guilty of that sometimes. My wife Arlene, who is a landscape designer here in southern California, knows this. So sometimes she drags me away from my office to see her more natural, more colorful world.

One day, she introduced me to an Asclepias Tuberosa, sometimes called the butterfly milkweed.

These blooming flowers are  lovely additions to gardens. But their presence brings in even more beauty, as it attracts Monarch caterpillars and butterflies to feast on their preferred meal.

Smart gardeners like Arlene know this. They plant butterfly weeds to attract the handsome butterflies, yes, but they’re only one element of a comprehensive plan to build beautiful, self-sustaining gardens. These intelligent landscaping schemes support every living thing that resides there.

Self-sustaining gardens require little water or human intervention and no pesticides, relying instead on the supportive nature of the physical world. Seasonal cycles and the cooperative relationships among insects, birds, plants and trees create a successful microcosm based on natural order. Every growing, crawling and flying thing both gives and gets from this environment.

The Virtual Garden

The first time Arlene showed me a butterfly milkweed, I realized that it represented the perfect metaphor for what drives me.  I like to envision and build tools that help people attract and sustain the right relationships in their worlds, the connections that help them survive and thrive.

It occurs to me that my wife and I really do the same kind of work, though we use different tools. Arlene uses her knowledge of nature — of how everything can work together in this amazing ecosystem — to build cooperative combinations of plants and soil and critters that both sustain the planet and make it a lovely place to live.

I use computers and phones and social media, and I surround myself with people who share my vision and want to turn it into a concrete vehicle for professional success and personal satisfaction.

That’s how I’ve built – and continue to grow — my virtual garden. To be self-sustaining and beautiful like the physical gardens my wife creates, I must find the right mix of people. To attract them, I must become like the butterfly milkweed – able to supply my network connections with something they need in order to flourish. In return, they pay this forward and help others enrich their lives.

Metaphors For Your Passions

One of the reasons we live in this new social world is to attract and retain business, to share our professional passions and help others explore their own. We’re also drawn to it because it delights us personally, helps us renew old relationships and build new ones as elements of our own self-sustaining worlds.

But to do that effectively, you need to share the things that you’re passionate about, that you believe in. Be aware that your corner of the social networking world can become a virtual garden of your own, one that you can sustain and be sustained by.

I’ll continue to explain how my butterfly milkweed metaphor can affect how you interact in the social media universe. The global connections that our online networks continue to make possible can have tremendous impact on your personal life and your business efforts.

So as you go through your day, look out the window more often and let the physical world show you the metaphors for your own passions.