Why Low-Hanging Fruit Will Poison You

2013 August 14
A friend and I are working on a collaboration. She’s actually a friend I couldn’t have had five years ago, or even two years ago. We’re wildly different in a lot of ways (and not just because her hair is as crazily curly as mine is stick-straight) and utterly complementary in a lot of others. Before, the differences would have made me feel anxious and insecure. I would have been second-guessing myself and wondering if her way of being was better than my way and angsting out over not being 100% understood, validated and endorsed for WHO I WAS. Ye gods, am I glad those days are behind me.
So, we’re working on a collaboration and we just can’t seem to nail down THE thing. We have good ideas that are interesting and marketable and play to our strengths, but there’s just something missing. We haven’t hit the jackpot yet, even though we have folks who will pay us for our work. After a call a couple of days ago wherein we discussed yet another avenue to explore, we agreed to regroup later in the week after we’d both mulled over the details. Something didn’t sit right, though, so I shot my friend another email: 

What I think is also worth giving thought to is identifying what each of us REALLY want to do in our lives. Not what we like or are good at or can make money from, but what we’d want to be doing work-wise if those things weren’t part of the equation at all and then brainstorming about whether A) there is a self-supporting angle to that and B) whether there’s an intersection in our two things and a way to help each other achieve them. A little new age-y, but I think we could handle it;)

Even if it was as simple as:

I like to do X
I don’t like to do Y
I bring Z to the table

that means we have a really clear sense of all the bases we collectively cover and what exactly a collaboration of our personalities/skill sets brings to the world.

WE COULD EVEN MAKE A VENN DIAGRAM.

And then, this afternoon, I received an eerily prescient email blast from the scarily talented Erika Lyremark. The message included a question that more or less boiled down to “What’s holding you back?” and an invitation to respond with your answer. I did and within minutes, Erika replied. We chatted by phone and, as she is gifted at doing, she nailed my issue in 90 seconds flat. “You’re a business whore. You keep getting seduced by throw rugs. If you keep going after the low-hanging fruit, you’ll always be stuck in this spot.” If there’s a way for being punched in the stomach to feel good, this would be it.

What I love to do more than anything else is to tell stories – to take ideas or bullet points or nebulous feelings and spin whole narratives out of them. I love to go hunting for information and sources and perspectives (the more diverse, the better) and then compose them into a cohesive whole that you read and absorb and think about and respond to. I love taking topics that you would think would never in a million years lend themselves to interesting stories and turning them fascinating tales. I love working with people and companies to help them identify what aspects of their work absolutely need to be shared with the world and then guiding them to where and how to do that sharing. LOVE IT. And I don’t do enough of it. There are a million (give or take) absolutely rational reasons why, but they can all be neatly classified under the heading of fear – fear of failure, of rejection, of powerlessness, of vulnerability.

My friend and I have talked a lot about “low-hanging fruit” lately in an attempt to figure out where the most accessible, easily-won market for our combined talents might be. It makes a lot of practical sense, obviously, but it doesn’t make emotional sense and it’s not lighting either of us up, no matter how much we try to sell ourselves on it. There is, as my call with Erika forced me to acknowledge, a better, truer way, it’s just not necessarily theĀ  easy path I was hoping for. And now that I’ve admitted as much, sticking to only the apples within arm’s reach doesn’t really seem like such a solid long-term strategy anymore.

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