Cultivation is the tending to something in order that it may improve or grow.

I think cultivation can also be (and has already been) applied as a mental model to better design how we approach things. One example where this is the case is the concept of the digital garden. Instead of the normal stream of blog posts that we’ve come to expect from blogs, digital gardens follow a more β€œwiki” like format where content is built, updated and improved over time. In essence, the writer is cultivating their digital garden.

As a mental model it helps us think about our own systems in an interesting and satisfying way. It urges you to look around and engineer your environment to perfectly suit your purposes. It asks you to take a step back and introduce some method to the madness.

Here are some examples of what cultivating means to me:

  • Cultivation means finding the best tool for the job, it also means becoming extremely proficient with the tools you use.
  • Cultivation means you read interesting books.
  • Cultivation means you build and tend to your digital garden.
  • Cultivation means tending to your garden, introducing companion plants and building a resilient ecosystem
  • Cultivation means you accumulate scripts and automations
  • Cultivation means exploring and amending your habits, it means you clean your house on Mondays and exercise three times a week.
  • Cultivation means having a regular game night, hanging out with friends, and having interesting discussions.
  • Cultivation means …

Cultivation means being intentional about your approach (to goals).

That said, the reason I find the mental model of cultivation interesting is that it’s not just an aid in pursuit of a random goal, it’s not just a means to an end, a supporting activity. I believe, the act of cultivation is intrinsically rewarding.

πŸ“ˆ the effects of cultivation

The principal reason why you should pay attention to this mental model is because of it’s limited cost and compounding effects.

It’s easiest to explain the effects I’m hinting at with an example of cultivation. If you’re a developer then you’ve probably heard of vim, a text editor that’s used from the terminal. It’s extremely hackable, to the point where it’s as powerful as any IDE you might chose.

Vim doesn’t have many obvious knobs or buttons, and people famously joke about the difficulty novice users have in closing the application.

In spite of this barrier to entry vim has remained a popular tool amongst programmers. The main reason? A reported huge boost in productivity. The same things that contribute to the steep and somewhat unforgiving learning curve of vim, help developers boost their productivity down the line.

Taking the time to dive deep and become very comfortable with the tools you use gets at the core of cultivation. An initial investment of time and effort provides developers with a lifelong boost in quality of life, productivity, etc.

Consistent cultivation will have compounding and pervasive effects.

πŸ§‘β€πŸŒΎ be a farmer

Think of yourself as a humble farmer tending to your memes habits, environment, and systems. Over time you’ll benefit from compounding improvements.