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, written by Jeremy. Read the commentary.

I used to plant trees in the summer to put myself through university. It’s tough work but it pays well.

Tree planting is one of those few jobs that are so hard, so miserable, and so deeply testing that those who’ve done it have a respect for each other that’s nearly unshakable. I was fortunate to plant with one of the best crews and one of the best planters that the company of 4oo+ people, 2O-year-old company had ever seen. And my foreman was bright enough to realize that he would make more money in the long-run if he taught me to plant well. So, rather than dilly-dally, he threw me in with that great planter on his crew.

Now the best planters see their work as a bit of a game: every tree is part of the puzzle, the landscape’s a giant, multidimensional checkerboard, and you’re the queen of chess. As you can imagine, it nearly blows your cerebellum when you start out.

So, I watched this phenom do his thing and spent a month trying to keep up. By the end of those four weeks I was as good as anyone else on the crew and making as much money as any of the veterans but I still wasn’t anything compared to the phenom. He continued to plant more trees, more quickly and of higher quality than me — every single day.

He so thoroughly out-planted me, I was convinced he buried trees while I wasn’t looking. Most bitter was watching him plant his last tree, knowing full-well that he had started with more trees than me and I still inevitably had 1/4 of mine still to go. He’d usually finish with a grin and offer to help me finish off. But being arrogant, I’d refuse.

One day, after seeing this happen for far too long, I finally spoke up.

“How did you do that?” I gripped, glaring down at my bag full of trees, ”I’ve still got a butt-load of trees here … you do that every-friggen-run.”

He shrugged and started to walk back to the truck, “You’ve got to find another gear Jer.”

Another gear. One of my life’s best lessons.

Somehow it’s easier to work harder and pedal faster than it is to find a new gear. There’s lots of times that I’ve been pedaling like a madman and suddenly realize there’s another gear I can grab. As on bikes, so with entrepreneurs. There is usually another gear you didn’t know you could grab — better strategy, more efficient, sharper information. You simply need to find it.

Matt Blumberg has a good post on this. It’s worth a gander.

[link via a vc]

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