Updated: May 15
Once upon a time, there was a young man whose father taught him to build houses. It was the family trade for ages, and together the family earned and lived a modest life. The builder grew restless after finishing school and told his father he wanted to seek his fortune in the world. His father reluctantly agreed, knowing that although he might lose a worker, his son needed to understand the outside world. He showed his father that he had saved a thousand coins, which was about four years’ worth of wages. As a builder, he earned one coin per day. He marveled at the pile of coins, thinking of the thousand days of hard work that created them. Picking up a coin, he remembered a day not long ago after a storm had drenched an unfinished house. Without warning, he had slipped on a wet beam and caught himself with his arms, legs dangling below. He safely dropped off the beam, but looking at the coin today, thought, were you worth it? After leaving his parents house, he traveled toward the City, which was a journey spanning several days. After paying his way, he soon realized that not only was he no longer earning coins and saving one per day, but he was spending multiple coins per day, and his pile of travel coins was slowly dwindling.
The Eureka Moment
One night, he struck up a conversation with a merchant at the pub at the Eureka Inn. The builder told the merchant how he realized he was trading his past life for his current life when he spent these coins, and how spending seven coins felt like he was just giving up a week of his life to someone else.
The Eureka Inn
The merchant said, “I’m going to give you a secret that took me a lifetime to learn. You need to learn how to earn money while you sleep.” With that, the merchant paid the bartender and wished the builder good luck, on his way before the builder even had a chance to think of a question. The secret nagged the builder’s mind. What did the merchant mean? Who pays someone while they sleep? In bed at the inn, he turned the idea over and over in his mind while he himself turned over, unable to sleep. Finally, he gave up on trying to sleep, rose and departed the inn through heavy fog. Following the road on foot to save coins, it soon became strange and unfamiliar, winding through the fog which finally cleared, leaving him standing next to an impeccably maintained orchard under a clear blue sky.
The Question Everyone Wants to Answer
Walking over to a person who was tending to one of the trees in the orchard, the builder asked for directions to the City. Expecting an old farmer, he was surprised to see a bright-eyed woman. Turning back to her work, she told the builder, matter-of-factly, “Directions don’t matter for someone who is dreaming.” This caught him off guard. She turned to face him. “You’re here to answer the question, aren’t you?” The builder’s curiosity overtook him and he asked, “What question?” “The question everyone wants to answer.” She gave him a subtle, knowing look. Pulling down a weighty branch, she pulled off a few leaves and fruit. As she did so, the fruit clinked lightly. He realized that the leaves were perfectly folded money notes and the fruit were coins. He couldn’t believe that he was seeing a living money tree. “You’re a builder, aren’t you? I’m a gardener. Let me show you something.” The woman strode off down a path without waiting for his answer. While strange, she seemed to know something he didn’t, so the builder followed her down a hill toward a corner of the orchard. This tiny section looked nearly the opposite of the huge healthy section. It was distressed and full of weeds. The broken trees had no leaves or fruit, and the earth was dry and cracked. “This is your life’s work,” she said. The builder was shocked. He had worked hard and saved diligently, to be told that his life’s work was a dead orchard? This didn’t make any sense. “But this can’t be mine. I worked so hard, and even saved up all this money.” He brought some coins out of his pockets. “Why was the other orchard so healthy compared to mine?” She took the coins out of his hand and threw them out on the ground. They glowed brighter and brighter and within seconds, the earth began transforming and liquifying. The coins, weeds and broken trees sunk into the earth and were swallowed. Soon, healthy trees surfaced, taller than him. The builder watched in wonder as money leaves and coin fruit filled the trees and the orchard looked just as healthy as the first one they saw. He reached out to pluck some of them, like she had, but they wouldn’t budge. “You have to let them mature first,” the gardener explained. “Be patient. But now you know what happens when you tend your orchard.” “Where did my coins go?” “They became seeds for new trees. I took the coins you saved today and planted them. With seeds, you can create new trees, and more money grows on the trees than you started with.” “How do I make seeds out of my coins?” “You put it in the ground and watch it grow, of course.” The woman walked uphill, beckoning for him to follow. It had to be more complicated than that, he thought. First, you have to find a plot of land where you’re allowed to grow your seeds. Then, you have to protect your trees. “How do you protect them?” The builder asked. “You have to avoid planting the bad seeds. Bad seeds come from people who don’t plant trees, but convince you to plant their vines next to your tree. They let you do all the work, then harvest money from the vines at the expense of your trees.” “But how do I avoid the bad seeds?” “Spot the bad seeds by learning their games. I have the feeling you’ll find an answer to your question soon.” She continued effortlessly uphill, while the builder was starting to feel a little winded. This still sounded too easy. He couldn’t help but think of everything that could possibly go wrong. It sounded good, but after four years of hard work, he didn’t want his life’s work to turn into a dead orchard. “Can my orchard die? What if we run out of water and have a drought, do I lose my life’s work?” The builder frowned. They were reaching the crest of a hill that overlooked the orchard in all directions. “You’ll have ups and downs, good and bad. Some days you’ll come out ahead, and others behind. But the land and the trees here bounce back quickly from downturns. They are very resilient, and in the long run…” She looked ahead at the valley below. It was desolate. “These are all people struggling to feed their families because they don’t understand the wealth they’ve been given. These orchards don’t produce at all. Your family has been here for generations. Even though they do important work, they never plant any of their seeds, and they end up right back where you started.” She turned around on the hilltop and walked back toward the healthy orchard. It stretched endlessly along beautiful rolling hills, with rows upon rows of flawless trees. “This will all be yours someday.” She smiled. “There is enough here to feed your family, and ten thousand other families. You will create something amazing that will make many people’s dreams come true, and not just your own. It’s the result of your life’s work.” She looked genuinely proud. “This is the question that everyone wants to answer? What is my life’s work?” “Now you’re starting to understand.” She gestured out toward the orchard. “You have a thousand coins you can spend, or a thousand seeds you can plant. One path leads to desolation, and other leads to harvest after harvest, for as long as you tend them.”
“You have a thousand coins you can spend, or a thousand seeds you can plant.”
This was becoming more clear, but there was still something that the builder felt was missing from this explanation. “Each of these coins is a day of my life that I traded for the coin. If I use these as seeds, can I get these days back when I harvest?” “You can, because just like fruit seeds, these seeds can reproduce. Each tree is from a single seed, but you can have many seeds from a single tree. When you look at these trees, each coin is a day of your life that you’ve earned back.” “You’re saying I can plant my thousand seeds, which took four years of my life to build. If I harvest ten thousand seeds, that means I get forty years of my life back? That’s more than I’m starting with!” “I’m teaching you how to be a time traveler, my friend. You can get forty years or more of your future to spend your time as you wish once you’ve traded money back to time. But with all things, there is a secret.” “Which is?” “It takes time for seeds to grow into a full orchard. My demonstration was purely for your understanding. So you must be patient. If you harvest too early, you’re robbing your future self.” “Now I finally understand what the merchant was saying.” “He said, the secret is to learn to earn money while you sleep. Now you know how. It’s simple. Plant seeds.” “How do you know what he said?” The builder thought, did she overhear him in the Eureka Inn? “Because he and I are part of the same dream, which exists to answer the question.” “The merchant’s question?” “No, life’s question.” “What is my life’s work?” “That’s the one.” “I can’t predict the future like you can. How am I supposed to know that now?” “It’s a seed, just like the seeds we’ve been talking about. You’ll find the way. After all, you found out how to grow money on trees in the middle of your journey to the City, didn’t you?” “I guess that’s true.” “Now if you don’t mind,” the woman led the builder to the edge of the orchard, “I need to make sure that all of these new seedlings are cared for.” With that, the fog once again swirled around the builder and he found himself facing a break in the fog toward the City. He wondered if it was even worth going to the City now. However, he felt uneasy about trying to learn gardening because all he knew was building houses. Maybe he could find someone who knew more about gardening to help. Also, he didn’t like the idea of having to wait years until harvesting.
Where Fortunes Are Made
After a few more days’ travel, he finally reached the outskirts of the City. It towered over everything around it, giving the impression of power and prestige. Surely, he thought, this is where fortunes are made. He asked somebody on the street who was well-dressed if they knew someone who was able to handle money and make it grow. The man on the street said, “I know what you need. Everyone here knows you need magic to make your money grow. Go find the magician at this address.” Arriving at the magician’s house, the builder was in awe. His house was the most magnificent of any he’d seen while walking through the City. As a builder, he couldn’t believe what it must have cost.
The Magician’s House
After knocking on the door, the magician answered quickly with a wide grin. “You must be here to seek your fortune,” he said. He welcomed him inside. “You’re very wise to have found me. As you can see, I’ve been making fortunes for people for a long time.” They walked onto an enormous balcony overlooking the City. The builder explained that he wanted to turn his small fortune into a big one, and was the magician able to help? The magician turned and said, “Now, normally, I don’t bother with such small fortunes. In your case, though, I feel like the sky is the limit. I’ll let you in on a deal – I have these magic fortune-boosting seeds, which normally sell at a high price. Because I like you, and you were smart enough to seek me out, I’ll offer you a special deal, but that deal is only good for today.” He didn’t want to lose out on the deal, but still wanted to ask a couple of questions. “How do they work?” “Just like I explained, they are fortune-boosting seeds. I just ask people to let me tend their orchard, and I’ll take care of everything. You won’t even have to come out to your orchard or even bother looking at it. No headaches, and it’s worry-free.” The builder was surprised, it was like the magician knew exactly what he wanted and had all of the answers. It was so simple compared to the orchard. “I met a gardener who told me that time was the secret. Why didn’t she tell me about you?” The magician responded quickly, “I’ll bet there’s a lot she didn’t tell you about. What about the volcano?” “The volcano?” “Years ago, a volcano nearly destroyed everything. If it weren’t for people like me, who knows what might have happened. I even have volcano-fighting seeds just for the occasion. See, I knew she was keeping things from you.” This was discouraging. He’d have to ask her why she didn’t tell him on the way back. “You have volcano-fighting seeds, too?” At least now he felt like someone is doing something, the builder thought. “Just one condition,” the magician continued. “You hand over your orchard to me. I get to keep anything my fortune-boosting seeds produce. You still keep what your seeds produce, so it’s only fair. Deal?” “You have a deal,” the builder said. The magician grabbed his hand tightly, “See, I knew you were one of the smart ones.” The magician poured a drink and placed it in the builder’s hand, saying, “To a lucrative partnership.” He put his hand on his shoulder, picked up the bottle and gave it to him. “Here, this is for you and your journey back.” Without realizing it, the builder had been walked back outside. “Just keep saving those coins and send them to me,” the magician said. “I’ll take care of the rest. Good luck!” The door shut, and the builder felt like the entire conversation felt somewhat rehearsed, but he wasn’t sure why. Walking back through the town center, the builder crossed through the market square to stop and pick up some food before traveling back home. The market square was completely full of people selling a variety of goods. One person caught his eye because of a sign on the front that said in huge capital letters, “DOUBLE YOUR MONEY!!!” The builder was trying to decide if it was a good idea to keep watching the man standing by the sign who was trying to get the attention of people walking by, but the man, who was a gambling promoter, already spotted the builder. The promoter walked up to him and said, “Want to double your money? Bored? Tired of waiting for good things to happen? You’ve never felt a thrill like this in your life!” The builder decided to find out what he had to offer. “I’m here to seek my fortune, can you tell me how you double your money?” “Now you’re the kind of person I’m looking for!” The promoter seemed overly excited about everything. “You have to play to win.” “How do I play?” “You pay me for seeds that will grow money faster than anything you’ve ever seen! They even shine like gold.” He held the seeds out, and sure enough, they had a golden hue to them. “Can I bring these back if they don’t work?” “Sorry, no refunds, part of the game, kid. You might lose, but then you might win. You might double your money, if you’re lucky!” The promoter made it sound like an exciting adventure. “All right, I’ll try some,” the builder said, trading some of his coins for seeds. “Good luck to you!” Slinging his bag over his shoulder, the builder realized that it was lighter after giving coins to the promoter. Even so, he thought, it was temporary until the seeds doubled his money. It was time to begin the journey back home. The City was busy and expensive and he decided that after all he’d experienced, building houses in the countryside was a good living because he enjoyed being around nature and was able to save many coins for his orchard. On the way home, he wanted to stop by the orchard, but didn’t remember where it was. Fortunately, he found his way back to the Eureka Inn, and while walking the very same path, he ran into a wave of fog that looked strangely familiar. Following the path buried under the fog, he found himself back at the orchard, as he’d hoped. However, the gardener was nowhere to be seen.
Giving Your Life’s Work Away to Cheats and Liars
He followed the path toward the hilltop where he last saw her show him his future orchard. As he reached the top, off in the distance, a snow-capped mountain shuddered and the snow cap slid in an avalanche down the side. An earthquake hit as a crater opened up with lava and flashes of fire inside, and a volcano took shape with a rising pillar of ash and lightning above it.
Below the volcano, the builder finally saw his orchard, but it was completely strangled with a network of all sizes of vines. The vines seemed to be thriving more than the struggling trees. The other half of his orchard wasn’t even an orchard, it was a wheat field. “What have you done now?” The gardener had appeared next to him while he was looking the other way. While it startled him, he was glad to see her. “Is that someone else’s orchard now? It looks awful.” “It’s yours. You gave your orchard and your coins away to the magician and the promoter, remember? I wanted to show you what happens when you give your life’s work away to cheats and liars.” The builder’s eyes widened. “I caused all of this? But the magician said he’d use fortune-boosting seeds and take care of everything!” “Your orchard was suffocated by vines from his seeds, which add to the magician’s harvest, not your own. Why else do you think he wanted to hide everything from you?” “So that’s why he had such an incredible house, bigger than any I’d ever seen. He did hide things from me, but so did you.” “The volcano? That’s an old trick he uses to try and scare people into using his bogus seeds. The volcano has always been here, but it doesn’t matter.” “How can it not matter? It can destroy everything!” “It can destroy your harvest, but even if it does, it will enrich the soil and you’ll have bigger harvests for years afterward. Dream volcanos scare people, but they don’t destroy value, only prices. That gives you space to add more trees.” “So even if the volcano erupts, the harvest is okay?” “You might lose a few weak trees, but everything else will survive until the big harvest. The weak trees will be replaced with stronger, longer-lasting ones. That’s why the volcano doesn’t matter. That’s why I didn’t tell you.” She beckoned for him to follow her downhill. “There’s something else you should see.” They walked past the sad, vine-trapped section of the orchard and she pointed out there was almost as much money growing on the vines as the orchard itself. At the bottom of the hill, a high privacy fence blocked the builder’s orchard from view. They shoved through a weak point in the fence. “He kept this out of sight for a reason. The magician was right, the seeds are fortune-boosting. But they boost his own fortune, not yours.” She pointed her thumb back at the volcano overhead, saying, “And now you see why volcano-fighting seeds don’t work either. You can’t fight a volcano, you can only make it work for you. It’s creating a huge amount of energy, but you have to be able to harness it.” They continued on toward the wheat field. The wheat field was completely open and seemed very delicate with the volcano in the background, but the new coins were just beginning to grow out at the top. “I brought you here at an important time in the future, so you’d know what happened.” “This is the field from the seeds that I bought from the promoter? This looks easy, maybe I should plant wheat instead of the orchard trees.” No sooner had he spoken, than two huge rabbits thumped into view. One scooted around the corner of the orchard and the other crunched on a fence post it pulled out of the ground like it was a feather. They both ended up on the same side of the field and wiggled their noses at the golden field of wheat. “That’s why,” said the woman. The builder was too stunned to even move, as the rabbits were big enough to crush him under their big feet. They started grazing on the field and gobbled up the wheat in big chunks. One of them started digging on the field and ripped the rest of it up within seconds. As a team, they were fast and the entire field was reduced to dirt right before his eyes. “My golden wheat field!” The builder put his hands on his head in despair. “Where did those come from?” “They belong to the promoter. Those rabbits gobble up anything that is gambled.” “I lost my wheat field because of them?” “The rabbits’ names are Risk and Chance. Once you gambled, it was only a matter of time before the rabbits found you and consumed everything. Nothing else matters to them.”
“The rabbits’ names are Risk and Chance.”
“But the promoter told me that he’d double my money.” The gardener laughed. “Did you read the tiny letters at the bottom of his sign? They said ‘You might lose everything.’ You might double it, but eventually you will lose it all. If you tempt Chance, Risk is not far behind.” “It just seems like between the volcano and the rabbits, my orchard won’t survive.” The builder was dismayed after watching the rabbits destroy his wheat field. The gardener began walking him back along the path. “The bunnies can’t destroy the orchard. It’s too strong and they like to choose weaker targets. Buy plenty of sturdy trees, and don’t put all your money in one expensive tree, especially if everyone seems to be buying one. Expensive trees are fragile and break easily.” “What should I do for the volcano?” “Again, buy plenty of sturdy trees. Build a hedge to protect them from the volcano. If one starts to die, replace it with a stronger one. Don’t panic and abandon your field because the volcanic soil will reward you with the biggest harvests you’ve seen. Be patient.” “I feel like I wasted all of this money on the magician and the promoter. Those coins might have been seeds for my orchard.”
Take Care of Your Orchard and it Will Take Care of You
“It’s a hard lesson, but a simple one. Your orchard can’t grow unless you do two things: plant it and make sure it stays alive. If you give it to the wrong people, you’ll never have any to plant.” “Is this the only way? I came here to seek my fortune, not plant an orchard.” “You survive on one coin per day.” She leaned over and looked at him with intelligent eyes.
“Know what? All you need is to harvest one coin per day. Take care of your orchard and it will take care of you.” She turned and began walking back toward the field. The builder tried to stop her and ask more questions, but the fog closed in quickly and he found himself once again standing outside the Eureka Inn. It was closed, so he began the walk home. Along the way, he saw farms and orchards and could not help but think about what the gardener had told him. He used his coins sparingly on the way back home, knowing that each one had the potential to be a tree in his money orchard. The builder arrived home late, exhausted, and threw himself into bed. He dreamed of huge rabbits and volcanoes.
“He dreamed of huge rabbits and volcanoes.”
Upon waking up, he realized the entire journey had been a dream. He checked his coin pile and found, to his delight, that his thousand coins were still there. I’m not ruined after all, he thought. His mother met him in the kitchen. “Did you get a good night’s sleep?” The builder said, “I did, until I ran into these huge rabbits in my dream.” “Huge rabbits? “Two of them, Chance and Risk. They ate my bad decisions. But I’ve decided to learn more about gardening.” “Gardening, really? You know, I wish your father and I would have learned more about it when I was young. If we planted seeds when we moved here, we might have had a huge orchard by now.” The builder smiled. “I have a thousand. Let’s plant some seeds today.” ***
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