The Secret Ingredient to Growth (It's Not What You Think It Is)

How my dying houseplants taught me I was overwatering my business and my life.

I had a houseplant problem on my hands. 

Well, two problems actually. The first is that I’d collected an utterly ridiculous number of “rescue plants”— the little pieces of succulents that fall from grace and end up withering away somewhere on the sidewalk— and I was running out of space for them in my small San Francisco apartment.

The second problem is that I'd killed every single succulent I re-potted inside my house. Every. Single. One. All the outdoor plants: thriving with a capital T. All the indoor plants: dying a wilt-y, sad, slow death. 

Potting my “plant rescues” while my other rescue snoozes.

Potting my “plant rescues” while my other rescue snoozes.

My bruised ego needed some answers (yes, I’m somewhat attached to my green thumb identity). I wandered into my neighborhood succulent store in search of a solution to this unexplainable plant genocide. The lovely owner explained that succulents are quite particular and certain varieties need an almost exact replication of their outdoor environment to survive (which is almost impossible to create, she noted). 

“Also,” she said, “if you’re an over-nourisher you’ll kill them every time.” 

“An over-what?” I asked. 

“You know, you over-tend, over-water, over-feed, over-everything. Essentially you suffocate it when what you really need to do is give it space and let it grow. And when you don’t, the plant will die.” 

Oh hey there, spiritual plant lady dropping the truth about life. And business. And relationships. And pretty much everything. 

I AM an over-nourisher. Many of us are, especially those of us that are creators and entrepreneurs. We water the shit out of our dreams! We simply can’t help but put all of our love, focus, attention and intention into whatever it is we are building, whoever it is we are supporting, whatever business idea we are manifesting. And generally there is a sense that it is never enough. There’s always more to tend to, more to water, more to bring to life. If only we can push just a little bit harder for a little bit longer and add a little more water, we will surely make it grow faster

Striving vs. Allowing 

This sense of “more is always required” is connected to the energy of striving, of pushing, of willing yourself and your business to thrive. We overthink, overwork, overwhelm ourselves, overload our schedules day in and day out. All of my indoor plants— because they were in my sight day in and day out— were receiving this over-doing it energy. The result? Well, you already know the answer to that. 

But while I was still caring for my outdoor plants and tending to their needs, they simply had more space to be in their natural environment in their actual rhythm. I was infusing them with the energy of allowing, of giving them space to let their growth unfold more organically. And they were flourishing.

It made me recall the first time I took a REAL vacation after starting my food company Healthy Bites. I finally gifted myself a break after years of endlessly grinding, but I was honestly terrified to be unavailable to my team, to shut off my computer and completely check out. And I felt guilty about it too. What if the whole thing falls apart? What if there’s a huge problem and no one knows how to deal with it? How many refunds will I have to process? What if the building burns down?!!!  Every imaginable worst case scenario ran through my mind. 

But I felt all that fear and guilt, and I did it anyway. The result? I came home completely renewed and over the next few months my business exploded. There was no logical explanation for it, no new marketing strategy, nothing I was doing differently. The only thing that had changed was me and the new, refreshed energy I was able to infuse into my company. 

What I realized what this: the experiences, opportunities, and possibilities in my life at that moment directly matched my current vibration. Slowing down gave me a chance to reset and raise it up and new business opportunities were flocking to me. Because the things that are most aligned for us in our life know how to meet us when we are honoring ourselves and what we truly need, not when we are in a state of constant sacrifice and depletion. Just like a flame, your life and your business need air and space to ignite. Without it, you will smother it and the fire will die. It may take awhile, but eventually you WILL burn out.  

Rest Ignites Growth

What if it’s possible that we actually develop our inner fire, resilience, and growth through rest? Through doing less and being more? Through the energy of allowing rather than striving? What if the embodiment of a true growth mindset means you actually have to turn off and recharge more than you’re comfortable with so that you can give yourself space to sink into the nourishing soil of stillness? 

I believe that it’s not only possible, but essential. As Anne Lamott says, “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes…including you.” In other words, your ability to continue to create is in direct correlation with your willingness to rest. Rest also ignites growth. 

So, for all of us over-nourishers out there, let’s practice putting down the watering can more often and giving ourselves more space to recover more often so that we can truly nourish ourselves and our dreams. Your life, your business—and your houseplants—will thank you.