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Low-Hanging Fruit

Updated: Apr 14, 2020

What do people mean when they talk about “low-hanging fruit”? Today, that idiom breezed my way, while I was sitting in a coffee shop. A window washer step into the shop, after he'd washed its windows. He was perspiring but smiling. Another man, dressed in business attire, reached out and shook his hand. The window washer said, “There are low-hanging fruit my friend, but you gotta go get ‘em.” Their conversation spiraled my thinking. I had heard, that in business, it's good practice to go after the low-hanging fruit. But is it indeed better to go after the easy fruit?

An article in Price Economics traces the origins and usage of this idiom. The phrase was first used in the 1960's, with variations. Today, its usage remains strong in the business world. For some, it’s a way of life, a philosophy. “Think of your business as an orchard…the ability to spot low-hanging fruit is your livelihood.” According to Price Economics, generally, businessmen and marketers refer to low-hanging fruit as a good thing — a quick fix that produces ripe, delectable results.

The author of the article wanted to find out if picking the low-hanging fruit, in the real world, is truly a good idea.

One apple grower observed that picking low-hanging fruit is actually more challenging. You want to start from the top and work your way down. It's more practical to move downward, while carrying a bag around your shoulder and dropping apples into it. Another plant breeder stated, “In taller apple trees, the fruit that is high up, exposed to the sun, ripens the fastest. Low-hanging fruit doesn’t get much sun, and is not as ripe — not as delectable as the higher fruit. You want to pick the low-hanging fruit last, so it has more time to develop.”

Applying this to different corners of personal lives, I see that picking fruit from top and bottom are each a good approach. The key here is making the effort. The window washer sees his work as an opportunity, perhaps an offering. Perhaps he sees this as accessible income, livelihood within reach.

What about for those who are willing to work extra hard to get to the top, knowing that the picking will be much easier on the way down?

My daughter, Amanda, asked a question of me and her siblings during a FaceTime call to sister Gabby in NYC. "Should I go to grad school and work hard to get a better position and higher pay? Or do I forget the whole thing and just enjoy life now, that I'm in my 20's?" We didn't think Adam, the teenager in the room had much to say. But he injected. "Well, I disagree with not working hard right now. I prefer working hard now that you're in your twenties, then you can enjoy life later. All the things you want to enjoy in your 20's, you can transfer to any time in your life."

I don't know what Amanda will decide. But I do know she, at least, has a basket in hand and is willing to give it a go. She's giving thought on how and when to fill her basket. Go grab that fruit!

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