When a dream begins to unfold in your soul, be confident in your abilities to nurture its growth. The cultivation of your dreams does not depend on anyone else’s intentions or opinions of your efforts.
There’s lots of wisdom hiding in children’s stories if you just know where to look. Fairy tales teach us to follow our intuition; if the apple is too shiny or grandma doesn’t seem like herself, follow your gut and bolt! Fables remind us to honor our unique strengths; don’t try to run your race like everyone else—sometimes, slow and steady is your best bet. Children’s tales often convey such a mighty message in a tiny package that pound for pound, page for page, they offer at least as much inspiration as any self help book (or more!), but in an easier to digest format.
The perfect example of life’s wisdom hidden within the pages of a children’s book is The Carrot Seed, by Ruth Krauss. It tells the story of a determined little boy who plants a carrot seed, then waits patiently for it to grow under the doubting and watchful eyes of his family. Day after day he waters the ground, pulls up the weeds and tends to his seed as confidently as any master gardener.
What makes The Carrot Seed so extraordinary is the brilliant and effective map it provides for following a seemingly impossible dream. In a nutshell (or, rather, in a carrot seed), Krauss’ little gardener shows us exactly how it’s done: First, plant your dream with care. Look after them, and give them everything they needs to thrive. Politely ignore naysayers, and never give up, especially if you don’t see progress right away. Growth often happens in the unseen, and waits to make its grand entrance at precisely the right moment. Nurture your dreams well and wisely, and be confident that they will bloom. One day soon, they will.
But dreams, like carrot seeds, don’t always produce results on a predictable timeline. When nothing seems to be happening above ground, many dreamers get nervous and think about throwing in the towel. Often, this happens right before their hard work and faith is about to pay off. That’s why dreamers and little gardeners must resolve to stay the course when they set out for the life of their dreams. It may take lots of faith and patience, but don’t give up on your dreams before they’ve have had a chance to take hold.
In The Carrot Seed, it appears the little boy is setting himself up for a monumental disappointment. Despite his best efforts, his seed doesn’t appear to be growing. To add insult to injury, the boy’s family hassles him on every page, reminding him his efforts are bound to fail. Even the reader starts to worry a bit about the boy’s tender heart. If this little guy’s plant doesn’t make it, his hopes will be chalked up to yet another one of life’s let downs. (Er, I mean lessons.) Welcome to reality, little dude. Might as well get used to it. Life has plenty more disappointment where that came from, and it’s got your name written all over it. Maybe you should go for a zucchini plant next time; I hear anyone can grow those.
Thankfully, The Carrot Seed isn’t a book about giving up on your dreams. It’s a story of perseverance and belief in the face of doubt. No matter how many times the boy’s mother, father and brother insist his plant is a dud, he remains polite, calm, and positive, and simply returns to his work. He carries water, pulls weeds, and cares for his little seed with a single minded patience, faith and determination befitting the Dalai Lama himself.
One of the little gardener’s secrets to success lies in his quiet confidence. When it appears his carrot isn’t growing, he doesn’t throw up his hands or move despondently on to another vegetable, head hung in defeat. He continues taking care of his carrot seed, maintaining absolute faith in himself and his work. That unshakeable confidence and determination sustain his efforts throughout the story, even if the face of others’ doubt and a seeming lack of progress on the part of his plant.
This wise little gardener also doesn’t worry about things he can’t control. We never see him scratching his bald little head, trying to predict when his carrot will be ready to pull from the ground. He’s confident in the natural order of the universe, knowing it will unfold exactly as it should; his carrot will be ready when his carrot is ready, and there’s simply nothing else to worry about.
The book comes to a triumphant close when the boy harvests a carrot so humongous he needs a wheel barrow just to haul it home. Predictably, the boy’s family is surprised. The boy, of course, is not. He knew he’d produce a Carrot For the Ages, so large it would make the Easter bunny weep with joy. And because he worked hard and believed, the universe worked its magic and produced mightily for him. He ended up with the carrot of his dreams.
The Carrot Seed will remain a best seller for as long as the world has fertile ground in which to grow real, live carrots because we’ll always live in a world full of dreamers. It will always strike a deep and resonant chord with those whose dreams have been torpedoed with helpful advice from the peanut gallery, such as: “That’s impossible!”; “No one’s ever done that.”; “You’re not smart enough/pretty enough/good enough.”; etc.
In Krauss‘ gardener, dreamers find reassurance, along with a model of persistence and patient determination. Although his family literally leans over him as he works, loudly insisting his plant is going to die and he ought to pack it up and go home, he never becomes willful, cross or bothers himself with their criticisms. He doesn’t lash out, tell them to go to hell or shove it where the sun doesn’t shine. (Imagine where that would get a young gardener. About as far as it would get anyone; meaning, not far at all.)
Instead, he remains unaffected and unperturbed and follows through with his plans. He never allows worry and doubt to enter his world. Nor does he waste time, hunched over his plant, head in hands, fretting about its future and frantically over fertilizing the ground in response to his family’s onslaught of negativity. He simply works, waits and sits back to watch the earth take care of everything he can’t. And he’s just a kid!
When a dream begins to unfold in your soul, be confident in your abilities to nurture its growth. Know there will probably be a few loudmouth critics when you set out on your grand adventure. But in the end, the cultivation of your dreams does not depend on anyone else’s intentions or opinions of your efforts. Dreams require our faith and willingness to work with everything we have, knowing all the while things will turn out exactly as they should. When we give them the luxury of time, hard work and faith, they’ll cooperate as only dreams can- miraculously, spectacularly, and against all odds.
So, if you are a dreamer in need of inspiration, look no further than Krauss’ determined gardener. Remember his gentle optimism and perseverance in the face of doubt if you find yourself feeling weary. Know with every fiber of your being that all will be well in the end. There will come a day when your patience, hard work and perseverance will pay off. But be ready—when your day of harvest arrives, your dreams will have grown so big, bold and dazzlingly beautiful, you’re definitely going to need a wheel barrow to carry them home.