What an olive tree can teach us about focus

I was visiting an olive farm in Southern California today and had the opportunity to hear an educational talk on organic olive farming. Our guide took us through the orchards, giving insights into different tree varietals and care required to produce high-quality olives for oil making.

What caught my ear was what he had to say about pruning of the trees:

“The orchard manager needs to cut the new buds before they start to grow so that the trees resources are not dispersed, but all energy is focused on growing the desired end product (the olive).”

While growing new branches is what olive trees naturally do, the resources allocated to branches are resources away from what matters the most for the farmer, the olives.

Being distracted comes naturally to our novelty seeking, dopamine hungry brains. Just like the farmer’s at the orchard, we must be careful to do what is necessary to maintain our focus on what matters the most.