Recently on a roadtrip, my wife asked me to snag a snack from the bag in the back for her.

I reached and removed a small apple, but upon handing to her was immediately asked to take it back.

“I can’t eat this,” she said, showing me a dark spot on the back of the fruit.

I took the apple from her and spun it around. The opposite side was firm, shiny and red.

“Just eat from here,” I suggested.

Thus began a discussion about the differences between rot and bruising which has since led me to furious Google-searching and a new understanding of both my wife’s wisdom and the fragility of the common apple.

It turns out, I’d never really taken the time to diagnose the difference in our fruit basket between what was just banged up and what was decomposing. To me, any spot could be cut out if you tried hard enough. But the truth is – much like the popular colloquialisms about “one bad apple” – once real rot has set in, the entire fruit should be out of question for consumption.

This reminds me of twilight trips to the rural orchard near my hometown when I was a kid. My siblings and I would lope through twists and turns full of trees in the waning fall weather, grabbing at the low-hanging fruit we could reach and combing through the pieces that had already fallen or been picked and discarded. It’s hard to shake the distinct disappointment and revulsion experienced when you retrieve what appears to be healthy fruit from below a red delicious tree, only to find the bottom half disappeared, now a dark, liquid mess full of insects.

Consider the parallels in your personal life.

Follow the analogy: If I play the part of the tree, then the apples are my best efforts, notions, attempts and ideas. I like to think that all my output will be bright, shiny and red, but I am human. Some apples will never be nurtured long enough (will stay green); some will be over developed (squishy, rotten and red). A few will take a fall, need some TLC and maybe a few cuts around the core, but might turn out to be not only salvageable, but fulfilling and delicious. The key will be having my tree tended by farmers wise enough (and willing) to pick through the produce with me and honestly let me know when something can be saved and when it is best just left to return to the earth.

As we head into a new year, small talk among most will take on the idea of bettering oneself through new routines – do less of this, do more of that. New systems and structure to make you better may be missing the point, though. Most will admit that resolutions usually just lead to wasted money and lowered self-esteem.

Pick your partner wisely. In life as well as business.

Instead, evaluate who is going to help you pick apples.

I, for one, am already riding shotgun with a co-pilot who clearly won’t put up with any of my rotten output.

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