Why hire a digital marketer?

Organizations hire digital marketers to leverage the ability of digital strategies to accelerate the buyer journey. Companies use digital marketing to increase brand awareness, generate leads, and boost sales conversion rates, among other business objectives.

Why Plant Flowers

“Love is the flower you’ve got to let grow.” – John Lennon

I love watching the hummingbirds that flit around the yard.  We planted passionflower, a fruiting and delightfully flowering vine that grows voraciously, all along the fence that surrounds the main house.  Morning glory, another flowering vine with a pretty purple flower, also grows in abundance on the fence. (Nobody planted it; it arrived on its own.)  In some places, I can’t even see much of the fence because it is covered with vines and flowers.

I have already covered three good reasons for planting flowers!

Reason #1: Natural Beauty

Hummingbirds were not present in such abundance at the start of developing this little piece of land.  They began arriving in droves only after planting flowers. Not only do I enjoy observing these flying creatures, but other birds, butterflies, and the flowers themselves are beautiful and endlessly interesting to watch.  Quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Flowers are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world.” Ray – Raymond – often picks flowers for a small vase in the house, which is itself amply adorned with wild orchid flowers.

Reason #2: Enhanced Crop Yields

Flowers bring birds, bees, butterflies, and insects that are beneficial for vegetable gardens.  Not only does the garden stay healthier in the presence of flowers, but the increased pollination activity results in enhanced crop yields.  Intercropping flowers between rows in a vegetable garden is an effective method of boosting crop yields that is often utilized by professional growers.

Reason #3: Shade and Privacy

Flowering bushes and flowering vines are both excellent at creating shade and privacy.  When planted along a fence or some other supporting structure, bougainvillea, hibiscus, and passionflower can easily grow tall and wide.  Before you know it, you will be lounging privately in the shade and enjoying a gorgeous view filled with flowers.

“The earth laughs in flowers.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Of course, there are many more than just three good reasons to plant flowers.  In addition to enhancing the external environment, flowers are seriously beneficial to human health.  Read on:

Reason #4: Air Purification

Most indoor spaces are rife with air pollutants.  A NASA study from 1989 recommends that homes with less than 2,000 square feet contain an assorted variety of at least fifteen plants to effectively absorb airborne toxins.  When plants perform photosynthesis, they emit oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide and other air pollutants. Large plants are more effective at air purification than small plants.  As such, the NASA study specifies that a home’s fifteen houseplants should be large enough to require pots with diameters of at least six inches.

Beyond basic photosynthesis, several flowers and ornamental plants are particularly effective at air purification.  The farm grows peace lilies, wax begonias, spider plants, snake plants, Dracaena plants, Chinese evergreens, golden pothos and philodendron vines, ficus bushes, Boston ferns, and aloe vera.  All of these plants cleanse the air by removing some combination of carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, ammonia, xylene, and benzene. If you want to add air-purifying plants to your home that flower frequently, then peace lilies (Spathiphyllum) and wax begonias (Semperflorens) are likely your best alternatives.

Reason #5: Stress Relief

We’ve all heard the expression “stop and smell the roses” at some point during our busy lives.  It is meant to be taken literally. Fragrant or not, flowers provide stress relief and enhance positive emotions.  A 2006 Harvard study demonstrated that the presence of flowers increases feelings of compassion and kindness toward others, in addition to enhancing overall mood.  Participants in the study, who kept fresh flowers at home, even reported feeling more energetic and enthusiastic at work.

Non-fragrant flowers proven to reduce anxiety and depression include passionflower, hibiscus, and roses.  The soothing power of fragrant flowers is akin to aromatherapy, which is proven to alleviate stress. The fragrant flowering bushes jasmine and gardenia, of which the farm grows copious amounts, are both effective at lowering stress and anxiety.  Spider lilies, which grow wild here, emit a delightful scent after dark. I frequently pick them in the late afternoons to enjoy a soothing aroma throughout the night.

Reason #6: Medicinal Benefits

In addition to stress relief, flowers provide medicinal benefits that are numerous and varied.  The farm grows jasmine mainly because it smells terrific, but it also makes a delicious cup of tea, enhances sleep quality, and aids in digestion.  Gardenia, another aromatic favorite, is used heavily in Chinese medicine to cleanse the blood and treat bladder problems and physical injuries.  The flowers of the morning glory vine are used as a laxative, for a general purge, or to stimulate menstruation or labor. (Morning glory seeds, on the other hand, are strongly hallucinogenic and should probably be avoided.)  Passionflower enhances sleep quality and treats epilepsy, in addition to reducing anxiety. What else:

  • Roses, another stress reliever, have anti-inflammatory properties and are rich in Vitamin C.  In addition to treating coughs and the common cold, rose petals can be eaten raw to improve blood circulation or brewed as tea for a mild laxative.  A paste or cream of rose petals is effective for treating many skin conditions.
  • Rosy periwinkle, brewed as a tea, treats diabetes and high blood pressure.  The periwinkle flower has beneficial properties that may also aid in the treatment of Hodgkin’s Disease and cancer.
  • Hibiscus flowers, which can be eaten raw or brewed as a tea, have numerous medicinal properties and taste delicious in salads too.  Hibiscus, like the rose, is anti-inflammatory and rich in Vitamin C. It is a stress reliever that also contains numerous minerals and cancer-fighting antioxidants.  Hibiscus can strengthen the immune system and promote healthy weight loss, in addition to treating high blood pressure, high cholesterol, digestive issues, and liver disease.  Hibiscus flowers come in many different colors, but red and pink hibiscus flowers are the most medicinal.
  • Begonias, by soaking the flowers in hot water, are used to treat headaches and rid the body of toxins.  Both the flowers and the leaves of begonias can be crushed and rubbed into the skin directly to heal sores and burns.

…And many, many more.  These are just the medicinal flowers that grow right here on this little farm!

Reason #7: Physical Exercise

Lastly, the act itself of planting flowers has obvious health benefits for the planter.  Although you could hire a gardener or simply buy cut flowers, neither of those options puts your body in motion or your hands in the dirt.  Gardening burns 200-400 calories per hour depending on your physical condition, and exercises your whole body. (Understatement of the year!  The amount of chopping, raking, clearing, and stump removal that goes into creating a flower garden in the tropics makes planting and weeding seem like the easy parts.)  Working with soil strengthens your immune system in addition to providing myriad other health benefits. So go find a patch of soil and plant some flowers! It’s much, much more fun than going to the gym.

“A flower blossoms for its own joy.”
~ Oscar Wilde

Planting flowers is beneficial for even a few more reasons, like increased biodiversity, erosion control, and slope stabilization for flood-prone areas.  Bee populations around the world are struggling and need more flowers in more places in order to survive. But really, isn’t the fact that flowers are so pretty a reason enough to plant them?  I think so.

How to Make a Difficult or Important Decision

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I mentor or collaborate with several different founders and small business owners, and even the occasional freakishly smart inventor.  Sometimes I get asked for advice on what to do or how to handle a particular business situation. Beyond whatever situation-specific guidance I can offer, my stock guidance is to simply listen to your gut and follow your heart.

But is it really that simple?  If you are faced with a vitally important or difficult decision, whether in business or in life, it is not always simple or easy to make the right decision.  Even if you know exactly what you should do, which you easily may not, taking action can pose a whole other set of challenges.  Time is a luxury that you may not even have; you may be in a position in which you are forced to act.

Making a momentous decision, while not something you do every day, can be excruciating.  What’s more, humans are naturally averse to change. The best you can do is to make the right decision, which – unfortunately – is not usually the easy decision.

Here I want to unpack the process by which you can most effectively and efficiently arrive at a decision that is right – for you.  Of course you can, and probably should, consider outside perspectives, but ultimately the decision is yours to make.  The courage to take action comes from you. For better or worse, you own the consequences too.

Ready to get a little bit irrational and silly, but also methodical and serious?  Yes? Excellent; let’s begin.

Step #1: Gather the information that you need.

More than likely, you have some questions.  Before you even attempt to consider which decision(s) you need to make, take the time necessary to gather the information that you need.  Don’t hesitate to ask the questions for which you really want to know the answers. Ask follow-up questions if need be. Get that information!  (Investors would call this “conducting due diligence.”) Your goal here is to gain a crystal-clear understanding of both the situation at hand and the courses of action available to you.  Remember, you can and should take the time that you need.

Step #2: Determine the decision to be made.

Now that you have informed yourself of the facts to the best of your ability, you are ready to define exactly what the decision is that you are making.  Maybe it’s obvious, but then again, maybe not. Either way, make sure that the decision at hand is clear to you. Write it down if you like. You can even list your available options, too.

Step #3: Consider what is most important to you.

This is the fun part.  Are you ready to think whimsically, irrationally even?  Are you open to brainstorming, even meditating? Here are a few choice word associations to help get your contemplative juices flowing:

Two Sides, Same Coin


It all boils down to love and fear.  Ask yourself these questions, and really listen to how your body answers:

  • What do I really need?  What do I want the most?
  • What am I most afraid of?  What am I hoping for the most?
  • What is my gut telling me?  What is my heart telling me?

Your answers don’t even have to be rational!  Or logical or practical or any of that. They just need to be honest, rigorously honest.  (“Rigorous honesty” is one my favorite Buddhist philosophies.) Feel your feelings without judgment or resistance.  Listen to your gut but follow your heart. Keep listening to that tiny internal voice and accept its truth. Remember that the more you listen, the louder it gets!

Step #4: Seek outside guidance and support.

After you think you know what you want, solicit the support and advice of those around you.  (Or don’t – this step is completely optional!) Confide in loved ones and seek advice from experts.  Give credence to those whose judgment you respect. But keep checking in with yourself, and revert back to step three if necessary.

Step #5: Listen for the answer to arise.

This is the scary part.  Plato says that a good decision “is based on knowledge and not on numbers.”  You’ve gathered all the information that you can, asked plenty of questions, listened to yourself, listened to others.  Now step back and simply listen for the answer; let it arise naturally. Wait if necessary. Go back to steps three and four if you like.  Allow a bit of time to pass, if at all possible. Most importantly, find courage to accept the answer that you receive – even (or perhaps especially) if it is inconvenient.  Trust your heart and gut, for your body holds the wisdom of the earth.

Step #6: Plan your next move.

Decision made!  Congratulations.  The time is now to plan your next move.  As the motivational speaker Tony Robbins says, “A real decision is measured by the fact that you’ve taken a new action.  If there’s no action, you haven’t truly decided.” Depending on its nature, your decision may be simple (although perhaps intimidating!) to execute, or may require more substantial planning and preparation.  Either way, more courage is required to propel you to begin to act. And just like with step one, take the time that you need to fully prepare for your course of action.

“Fear is a reaction.  Courage is a decision.” ~ Winston Churchill

The last step, of course, is to decisively put your plan into action.  You got this!

Why Plant Trees?

“I am the Lorax.  I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.”
~ Dr. Seuss

Belize was first colonized by the British for its coveted logwood (Haematoxylum campechianum), groves of trees that produce a rich red dye historically favored by the British aristocracy.  Many villages in Belize began as logging settlements. So, while clearing bush and noticing many large tree stumps, I was unfortunately not surprised.  Rather than lamenting the loss of so many large, undoubtedly gorgeous trees, I chose to make proverbial lemonade – which, coincidentally, depends on trees – by planting new saplings of the farm’s choosing.  Along the way, I have accumulated enough reasons for planting trees to write a book.  (Perhaps I will!) Behold twelve excellent reasons for planting trees:

Reason #1: Food

Hungry?  Plant a tree!  Trees can produce nuts and fruit, including berries, starchy foods like jackfruit and breadfruit, savory foods like avocado, and meaty foods such as coconut.  Food-producing trees take an average of 4-6 years to mature, but many are prolific bearers once production begins – and for many years to come! Most tree crops are seasonal, so it is important to plant a variety of trees that can (collectively) provide you with food all year ‘round.  In addition, planting several varieties of each species of tree is beneficial because many food-producing trees generate higher yields when in proximity to other varieties of the same tree. Some food-bearing trees, such as almond trees, are self-incompatible – meaning that they can only be pollinated by other (compatible) varieties of almond trees.  The farm has too many different types of food-producing trees to list them all, but about half of them are coconut trees. (I absolutely love coconut water and coconut meat!) Many of the trees came from the seeds of fruits that someone enjoyed eating.

Reason #2: Medicine

Some trees blur the distinction between food and medicine.  Soursop (Annona muricata), a delicious fruit-bearing tree of which we grow plenty, is powerful as an anti-inflammatory agent.  Tea brewed from fresh soursop leaves can reduce uric acid and treat back pain, infections, joint problems and ulcers.  Soursop has even demonstrated a promising ability to treat cancer. The farm also grows moringa (Moringa oleifera) in abundance; this superfood tree is rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.  As such, in addition to providing nutrition, moringa can help to prevent heart disease, treat diabetes by lowering blood sugar, reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, and mitigate the effects of arsenic toxicity.  What else:

  • Neem (Azadirachta indica): The neem tree, with over 130 different biologically active compounds, is a powerhouse of medicine.  Antibacterial, anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiseptic, antimalarial, anti-microbial, and anti-viral, this tree can treat almost any ailment.  All parts of the neem tree – the leaves, twigs, bark, seeds, roots, fruits, and flowers – have medicinal value. Neem as medicine can be prepared as tea, paste, or oil, or the leaves can be simply eaten raw.  Ayurvedic medicine practitioners swear by neem as a remedy, and we love it too.
  • Noni (Morinda citrifolia): Another fruit-bearing tree (although perhaps not a fruit you would enjoy eating, or even smelling), the noni tree has serious medicinal potential.  Rich in antioxidants, noni can treat arthritis; prevent gout; boost energy levels and your immune system; heal & moisturize skin and relieve scalp irritation; ward off signs of aging; reduce fevers; relieve stress; and reduce the risk of cancer.  It may taste like dry vinegar and smell like soap, but your body loves it anyway.
  • Pine (Pinus): The Caribbean pine tree (Pinus caribaea) grows well in Belize.  One in the front yard, planted as a seedling, is absolutely thriving.  In addition to yielding edible nuts, pollen, and bark (caution: the bark must be boiled first before consuming), pine trees have antiseptic, inflammatory, antioxidant, astringent, and expectorant properties.  Pine needles can be brewed as a tasty tea to treat colds, coughs, congestion, and even scurvy. Prepared as a bath, pine needles can also improve circulation and ease sore muscles. Pine resin treats skin conditions and can draw splinters and other foreign matter, including toxins like snake venom, from the skin.  The bark of the pine tree has antiseptic properties that make it useful for wound care.

Other medicinal trees grow on the farm that were not planted by human hands.  The gumbo limbo tree (Bursera simaruba) and trumpet tree (Cecropia peltata) are two powerfully medicinal trees that grow wild here.  Gumbo limbo trees can effectively treat insect bites and other skin conditions, in addition to remedying gout, backaches, urinary tract and other infections, and fevers.  Trumpet trees are a kind of medicinal cure-all, capable of treating sore throats, warts and corns, herpes, liver disorders, colds, snake and scorpion bites, anxiety, high blood pressure, diabetes, and asthma.

All trees, just by being near them, bolster our immune systems.  Trees release phytoncides – more than 5,000 of them! – which are volatile gasses that help trees to ward off rot and attacks from bacteria, fungi, and insects.  Just by breathing them, phytoncides can increase our levels of white blood cells – a major benefit to human health as well.

Reason #3: Stress Relief

Trees, no matter what kind, are proven to relieve stress, depression, and anxiety.  Residing in the jungle, we don’t need scientific studies to tell us this, but there are plenty that do so anyway.  Looking at trees, or even a tree – or even just an image of a tree! – activates the parasympathetic division of the central nervous system in the brain.  This is the section of your brain that calms breathing, eases blood pressure, slows your pulse, activates digestive juices, enables intestinal motility, and relaxes skeletal muscles.  Looking at trees or walking in a forest also lowers the presence of the stress hormone cortisol. Although a few trees will suffice, a lot of trees is always better. More trees equals less stress and a greater sense of wellbeing.

Reason #4: Fresh Air

Trees perform photosynthesis, which absorbs carbon dioxide and other air pollutants and releases oxygen.  Just one mature tree, in a single year, can absorb 48 pounds of carbon dioxide and release enough oxygen for two people to breathe for the entire year!  All trees absorb the gaseous pollutants ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide, but certain varieties of palm tree are especially effective air purifiers.  Lady palms (Rhapis excelsa), date palms (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens), and bamboo palms (Chamaedorea) – all of which grow wild in the tropics – also purify the air of formaldehyde.

Reason #5: Shade

Trees provide shade, which not only makes outdoor spaces more comfortable but also conserves energy.  Just three shade trees strategically planted around a house can reduce the need for indoor air conditioning by up to 58 percent.  In the tropics, shade is needed to fight the “heat island” effect that makes urban environments rather unpleasant. Trees cool the air by providing shade in addition to transpiring water; a single mature tree can produce the same cooling effect as ten room-size air conditioners operating 24 hours per day.  Gumbo limbo trees, in addition to providing medicine, are ideal shade trees. The cut trunks of these trees can regrow as new trees, which makes them an excellent choice for fence posts.

Reason #6: Reforestation

Trees are (fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective) a cash crop.  At the dawn of human civilization, the planet was home to approximately 5.6 trillion trees.  Due to both population growth and deforestation, the world has already lost about 46 percent of its trees, and continues to lose 15 billion more trees every year.  Since trees absorb significant amounts of carbon dioxide, reforestation is crucial for fighting global warming. Although you personally are not likely to replant an entire forest, every tree counts.  The prognosis for climate change is dire, and many recommend reforestation as the solution with the most potential for mitigating climate disaster.

Reason #7: Habitat Creation

Planting trees creates habitat for all kinds of creatures.  Just like with the hummingbirds that arrived in abundance only after planting flowers, planting trees attracts birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects, not to mention beneficial fungi and bacteria.  (Conversely, cutting down all of the farm’s trees—*shudder*—would cause the vast majority of forest creatures to quickly vanish.)  Animals collectively utilize every part of the tree for a variety of purposes, including food, shade, building materials, protection, and a place to call home.  And many look simply adorable doing it! Lately I’ve been enjoying nocturnal visits from a nightwalker (kinkajou or Potos flavus) who crawls around in the trees above my cabin.  So irresistibly cute!

Reason #8: Erosion Control

Trees control erosion by reducing wind speeds, slowing floodwaters, retaining soil moisture, and providing structural stabilization for soil.  As massive as many trees grow to be, their root systems grow even larger. Estimates vary, but the roots of most trees grow to more than twice and sometimes up to seven times the diameter of the crown of the tree.  Wow! Closely planted trees may adapt by extending their roots deep rather than wide, while trees planted near bedrock will extend their roots wide rather than deep.  Trees growing in compacted, nutrient-poor soil often grow fewer, thicker roots that extend further afield in search of nutrition, while trees growing in loosely compacted, nutrient-dense soil produce roots that are thinner and shorter but more prolific in number.  Planting trees on steeply sloped surfaces, where erosion control is crucial, is an excellent way to provide the necessary structural support. The farm is blessed with flat, relatively protected land, but planting trees anyway adds and helps soil to retain important nutrients like nitrogen.

Reason #9: Natural Beauty

Trees are beautiful to watch, especially at the first and last lights of day, when even average-looking trees make dark, intricate fractal patterns against the pale sky.  Some trees, like the flamboyant tree (Delonix regia), are simply breathtaking when in full bloom.  Camouflage enthusiasts would be especially fond of macurije trees (Matayba oppositifolia), which have a very interesting camouflage-patterned bark.  I enjoy observing the uniquely complex patterns of vines that grow aggressively along and around the trunks of many trees.  I’ve even found natural wooden “rings” wrapped around tree branches that could be used ceremonially as engagement or wedding rings! Trees may not always be as blatantly stunning as flowers or ornamental plants, but they are frequently beautiful and fascinating nonetheless.

Reason #10: Physical Exercise

Planting trees is a fantastic way to get physical exercise.  Just like with planting flowers, planting trees puts your body in motion and your hands in the dirt.  Gardening burns 200-400 calories per hour depending on your physical condition, and exercises your whole body.  (Understatement of the year! The amount of chopping, raking, clearing, and stump removal that goes into creating space to plant trees in the tropics makes the actual tree planting seem like the easy part.)  Working directly with soil strengthens your immune system in addition to providing myriad other health benefits. Plus, the act of planting trees is much more rewarding and fun than simply sweating it out at the gym.

Reason #11: Property Value Enhancement

Maybe not right away, but trees enhance property values.  Mature trees, well placed, can increase a property’s value by nearly twenty percent, according to several studies conducted across the United States and Canada.  Clemson University researchers in a 1994 study concluded that homeowners typically receive more than a 100-percent return on money invested in tree-planting and landscaping.  Interestingly, flower gardens, planted in the absence of trees, were not found to boost property values to the same effect.

Reason #12: To Pay it Forward

Planting trees is an excellent way of “paying it forward.”  According to an English proverb, “He who plants a tree loves others beside himself.”  If you plant a tree today, you personally may not be present to reap all its benefits in the future.  But the trees you plant now will undoubtedly benefit many others for many years to come, in the same way that you benefit today from the actions of people who planted trees twenty years ago.  Planting trees provides a kind of karmic insurance policy for the continued prosperity of all forms of life.

“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago.  The second best time is now.”
~ Chinese proverb

I can think of plenty more reasons to plant trees.  They are fun to climb, provide building materials for shelter, create privacy, help to cleanse groundwater, and can repel mosquitoes (thinking of you, neem trees).  But the bottom line is that trees equal life. What we humans do our trees, we ultimately do to ourselves. Plant a tree and you may even save a life.