Planting Trees

A Long-Term Investment Over A Short-Term Payoff

Monday was Memorial Day here in the U.S., so Tuesday I extended the holiday weekend. Which is why this post is coming to you later than usual.

We planted a tree over the weekend (among some other, bigger projects, which you’ll probably hear about later). It’s a nice-looking oak tree. It will be a magnificent shade tree in 10 or 15 years.

My wife often bemoans the fact that trees in Utah are so slow growing. In her native-Texas, they grow much faster and with much less effort. But here in the desert we have to nurture trees.

Anyway, we love planting new trees. We usually add a tree or two each year, even knowing that we won’t reap any benefit in terms of shade or fruit for a long time. That’s okay with us, because we’re in it for the long haul.

The trees we planted when we first moved into our current home a few years ago have already grown quite a bit, and are offering a little shade in the heat of the summer, which our dog takes advantage of (though it’s not enough shade for too much else yet).

It can be really easy to get allured into short-termism. I could easily see someone asking the shortsighted question: “Why spend a few hundred dollars on trees right now when they won’t offer any shade for years?”.

Why indeed?

If you want shade right now, a young tree will not offer very much. And if you have that same attitude each quarter, wondering where to put your dollars, a new tree will probably not win.

But five years down the road, you will look back and regret not planting some trees that could offer shade or fruit or just natural beauty. But then you can only choose at that point to plant a new tree or keep putting it off (or potentially fork out a lot of money for a more mature tree).

I see this same attitude all the time in businesses. We take a quarterly or yearly approach planning and to investment, barely able to see past what will get the stock price up or increase sales for the next period.

The tree can’t win in that type of environment. A tree is a 10 year investment, and so few companies have the vision or willpower to see that far ahead. To understand that success isn’t just about immediately increasing sales or increasing stock prices, but about creating something meaningful that will last. It’s about planting a tree that will turn into a mighty oak.

Those of us on product teams often experience the thrash that comes with the lack of vision. Rather than planting trees and nurturing them over the long-term, too many organizations shift from one project to the next each quarter, often at the whim of the highest paid person, chasing after the alluring dollar or big deal or big client, never thinking about the shade tree that needs to be planted for the future.

So as you look at your work, what are you doing that is planting the trees for the future versus just chasing the next quarter? And how can you shift more to the long-term?

Good Reads, Listens, and Videos

The Bull Case for Ethereum (article) - ‘Ethereum is so much more than a cryptocurrency. It’s a “world computer,” and the “value layer” of the internet. It lets people build apps and products with money baked into the code. If you believe that web3 is going to continue to grow, then you likely believe that over time, Ethereum will become the settlement layer of a new internet.’

Facebook Un-bans Covid Theories (article) - Facebook announced it will allow posts about theories that Covid came from a laboratory leak in Wuhan after it had banned them last year. It raises interesting speech questions, but also interesting product questions. How should social apps handle speech? How much should they filter versus how much should they allow? And what happens when they get it wrong?

JBS Cyberattack (article) - Man, the cyberattacks keep coming fast and strong. Yet another one shutting down a major company.

How Ransomware Works (podcast) - And speaking of cyberattacks, this was a great explainer podcast on how the whole industry operates and why we’re seeing more now. I didn’t know how specialized it had become.

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