Don’t Sell Watermelons for $1 (or, Stop Being Busy for Busy’s Sake)

Are you using your time to be successful? Last night a friend sent me this video.

This talk was, overall, excellent, but this story really struck me as a small business owner:

Two men formed a partnership. They built a small shed beside a busy road. They obtained a truck and drove it to a farmer’s field, where they purchased a truckload of melons for a dollar a melon. They drove the loaded truck to their shed by the road, where they sold their melons for a dollar a melon. They drove back to the farmer’s field and bought another truckload of melons for a dollar a melon. Transporting them to the roadside, they again sold them for a dollar a melon. As they drove back toward the farmer’s field to get another load, one partner said to the other, “We’re not making much money on this business, are we?” “No, we’re not,” his partner replied. “Do you think we need a bigger truck?”

These men were working so hard and while their customers were probably happy with cheap watermelon, it wasn’t helping them get ahead. And, in fact, they were getting behind with their own success. Getting the watermelons, transporting the melons, and selling the melons all took their time and their money. Trucks aren’t free. They were busy but not successful.

How much time do you spend being busy but not productive?

This is my goal for the year–to stop being so busy and start being productive. I ask myself: how does this activity help me meet my goals?

This does not mean I will stop helping people for free from time to time. It doesn’t mean I’m going to give up television altogether. But, it does make me sit and think a bit on how I’m using my time and how it helps meet my goals.

So, the next time you feel overwhelmed, ask yourself if you’re just selling watermelons for $1. If you are, change what you’re doing or increase your asking price.

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

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6 thoughts on “Don’t Sell Watermelons for $1 (or, Stop Being Busy for Busy’s Sake)

  1. A woman was visiting Times Square in New York City. She saw a man with a coin-changer device on his belt. As she watched, people came up to him, handed him a dollar, and he would make change.

    Intrigued, she approached the man and said:

    Woman (W): “What are you doing?

    Man (M): “Making change.”

    W: “Why?”

    M: “It’s my job, it’s what I do to make a living.”

    W: “Are you good at it, do you ever make a mistake?”

    M: “Nope, no mistakes. Been doing this for three years now, one hundred percent accuracy.”

    W: “But then, how do you make any money doing this?”

    M: “Volume.”

  2. Great point. Got a freelancer project today. I was preparing to send the price offer, the same as before, I was annoyed for not having the courage to ask for more…I stopped and decided to double the quote. I wasn’t a large amount but I had the courage to ask for double. Guess what! They accepted it. My services are always great but I can’t ask for more because I don’t think I deserve it. Today I made a change…

  3. This article harkened me back to the challenges facing job-seekers in a world with stagnant wages, gig-economy, and the “part time” epidemic. These men selling watermelons, at what effectively amounts to their own expense, reminds me of when my generation (millennials) were first entering the workplace.

    One of the most popular pieces of advice was to take an unpaid internship. You’ll get ♪experience♪ and ☼exposure☼, people said. I still see memes circulating in jest about how perfect that was because their rent just so happened to be 1200 exposures that month!

    To be fair, there is some truth in working at a deficit if it does increase your notoriety and experience with the subject. Taking your watermelon parable as an example, now people know of a reliable, cheap watermelon dealer in their area. First impressions are everything, so even if they raise the price a fair bit they’re likely to still attract a crowd. Even established corporations use this tactic to attract buyers. Free samples in the grocery store, for example, are wasted product if one doesn’t factor in the benefit of exposing the product to demographics who would not otherwise have tried it and the potential for sales as a result.

    Still, for employees entering the workplace, unpaid internships and part-time jobs with hours just below the threshold to receive benefits drive up turnover and costs associated with training. It’s a poor long-term strategy, when estimates that every lost employee represents 6-9 months of that person’s salary.

  4. This article really hit home. I do so much work as favors because it’s so easy for me and hard for the average person – but my time is still valuable. Last year, I started speaking up and asking to be paid (at a discount) and guess what, they happily paid. So now I am not cranky and got a few extra bucks.

  5. This idea is simple and beneficial and very hard to act upon. It makes me think of how many managers don’t know how to evaluate results so they evaluate busyness. Like the guys with the watermelons, they can’t see the real problem. It’s alarming to think back on all the managers I’ve known who thought their people were working like crazy when their employees were whispering behind their backs about how they lacked work and didn’t dare say that again to the boss. Count on it that the manager who finds occasion to make the statement, “Not enough work? Hah! There’s more than enough of work here for everyone!” has under-loaded workers who wish they had enough real work, but lacking it, just look busy with all their might.

  6. This story reminds me of efficiency experts who claim that certain amounts things can be done in a certain amount of time, regardless of what else is occurring because they are not thinking in reality. Yeah more “volume” may mean more production but at what cost? To achieve high volume movement plus profit has a lot more steps than just working faster. So this watermelon story has many applications as shown by the comments. But it all comes down to what did you learn and how would you do it better?

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