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Inch by Inch


By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D.


Reading my friend Andrea’s newsletter from Be Love Too Farm I am reminded of the words of the Garden Song by David Mallett popularized by Peter, Paul, and Mary.


“Inch by inch, row by row, I’m gonna make my garden grow…

Pullin’ weeds and pickin’ stones, we are made of dreams and bones

I feel the need to grow my own ’cause the time is close at hand.”


She was explaining in detail “The Life of an Onion” from a small onion plant to your table. The process is very labor intensive with many, many hours of work. She and her husband, Steve, began organic farming about four years ago with their dream, lots of enthusiasm, and very few agricultural skills. Through trial and error, much learning, and hours of work, they are succeeding. You can find the produce they and other local organic farmers grow at the Bad Seed Market on Friday afternoons.


It seems that every great achievement, breakthrough or transformative experience is preceded by hard work, frustration, disappointment, and persistence. I am reminded of Artistotle’s thought, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit.” The key word here is ‘habit.’


When Isaac Newton was asked how he had managed to discover the physical laws of the universe, he answered, “By thinking about it day and night.” Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb, motion picture camera, and the phonograph had 1,093 patents on his many other inventions. In regard to the invention of the light bulb, he said “I now know definitively over 9,000 ways that an electric light bulb will not work.” Shortly after that and with 10,000 attempts he invented the light bulb. He said, “Genius is ninety-nine percent perspiration and one percent inspiration.”


Trying, failing, and trying again are the ingredients of transformation. This is a process that occurs as we face the difficult reality of life that failure is inevitable but not lethal. Robert F. Kennedy said it well. “Only those who dare to fail greatly can achieve greatly.”


If you look at your life, you will see the patterns of failure and success, falling down and getting up, learning from hard knocks and blows to the ego. Our first lessons in life usually come as we learn to walk; falling as we go. That sets the theme for the lessons to come.


We often look at people’s achievements and envy their success often without knowing what it may have taken for each individual to get where they are.  With all this said, we all know how hard it is to persist, never give up, and try again when we are discouraged by failure. This is the transformative revolution from the inside out.


I have often set out with a particular goal in mind, working hard to achieve it. Whether the goal is achieved, or not, as the case may be, I realize that what I have learned, and the ways in which I have grown are not even about the goal. The real lesson and inner revolution are what I have learned in the process.


I encourage my friends Andrea, Steve, and baby Abigale to continue this great undertaking, one onion and sweet potato at a time, realizing their dreams inch by inch and row by row. You can be an example for all of us as we work on our own personal gardens of transformation.


What are you learning as you build the habits of persistence, working through that difficult relationship, the challenging job situation, the health challenge, or the financial problem? I wish you the habit of never giving up, trying and failing, and, while you do that, achieving a great inner transformation.

Jude LaClaire, Ph. D., LCPC is a counselor and educator at the Heartland Holistic Health Center. She is the author of the “Life Weaving Education Curriculum” which teaches creative, effective, holistic problem-solving. For counseling appointments, seminars, in-service training, or speaker’s bureau, call 816-509-9277 or


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