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Friday, July 10, 2015

Low Hanging Fruit

Throughout my brief time as an athlete, I’ve heard the phrase “focus on the low hanging fruit.” This was advice intended to help athletes to get faster at a specific discipline by paying attention to an “easy” solution. For example, fixing your body position on the bike would be low hanging fruit because it hardly requires any effort, but makes a dramatic difference in speed.

I think many people are reluctant to look at the low hanging fruit in their own lives. They are so focused on looking at the entire tree as a complex organism that they fail to focus on the branches right in front of them.

Perhaps they think to themselves “wow, that fruit at the top of the tree looks really good! I think I’ll try to get that one!” Then they fail, and then they give up.

Or maybe they look at the whole tree and think to themselves “how do I get all of the fruit off that tree?” That’s too hard, so they give up.

When you approach a staircase, do you try to jump to the top in one fantastic leap? No, you take the lowest step first. Then the next lowest step… Then the next lowest… Until the top step is the next lowest step.

The same is true for the fruit on the tree. As you start picking off the low hanging fruit, the fruit on the higher branches seems to suddenly become reachable. All that low hanging fruit is out of the way.

There was a time when there was a lot I wanted to change about myself. I found all of my flaws and character defects overwhelming, and it led me to believe that I wasn’t really a good person. To fix everything would be too challenging, and the big things I wanted to change seemed too far out of reach.

But there was low hanging fruit. I started to change little things about myself, such as my perspective on life in the morning, the frequency at which I communicated with God, the type of food I ate, my appreciation for little joys, my attitude, my gratitude. 

One by one, as I picked off the low hanging fruit, it became clear that the fruit on the higher branches was not so far out of reach, and the entire tree began to come into focus. I wasn’t a bad person with a set of overwhelming character defects. I was a human being on the path, picking fruit.

In order for athletes to improve, they must pick off the low hanging fruit which takes the least amount of effort so that they can begin to more clearly identify and set a course for ways in which they can improve. The same is true for all of us humans walking on the path.

As you look at the tree, don’t be overwhelmed by the volume of fruit. Don’t be discouraged by fruit higher up on branches which are out of reach. First grab the fruit right in front of you. All you have to do is reach out and grab it.