I’m a skeptical gardener. I’ll work in the dirt because I enjoy the results, but it’s working for me. Because I don’t perceive the human skill in gardening, I don’t derive any intrinsic pleasure from watching plants grow from seed to maturity. The plant’s design and function are both appealing to me. That is, however, nature’s art, not mine.

I, on the different hand, am a dedicated arborist. Working with trees isn’t about growing them; it’s about pruning them. It’s all about identifying a tree’s natural, healthy lines and shaping them to follow them over time. It’s about having a mental picture of what Treeness means in this specific location and plant and then bending nature to meet that picture. Working with trees is an art form because of this imposition of human will, whether expressed in miniature form through bonsai or in massive form through four acres of maple trees. That is why I chose to work as an arborist.

Recognizing that less is nearly always more, that the lack of a branch or limb is just as significant in communicating Treeness as its presence, is at the heart of being a good arborist. It’s simple to fill a room. That is the default since nature’s blind imperative, regardless of the internal or external repercussions, is to grow, spread, and gain more light. The core will eventually degrade the structure; therefore, the arborist must be inventive enough to envision the alternative and courageous sufficient to take action. The cut is always where the courage is. It’s always in the amount to impose human will and vision. The cut is always where the art is.

A chainsaw is Used rarely to cut down a living tree, or at least one that I want to preserve alive. For starters, I’m more afraid of my chainsaw than my tractor, which proves that I’m not scared of my tractor enough. More crucially, if a limb has grown so thick that you need to use a chainsaw to cut it down, you’re either performing medically necessary surgery or making a grave mistake in the imposition of your vision for this selective tree in this specific location. No, the handsaw and the lopper are my preferred tools. Just because the cut requires courage does not necessitate cutting with abandon and leverage.

I want to use two arborist analogies, one for investment and the other for the economy.

This is the non-mathematical companion piece to Rusty Guinn’s You Still Have a Choice on the investment front. We’re both stating the same thing about portfolio design and healthy diversity, just in different dialects.

If it were left to its own devices, Your portfolio will expand rapidly, but not to the point of structural disaster, but rather to the end of structural inefficiency. Of course, when I say “its own devices,” I’m referring to your gadgets, and when I say “growing,” I’m referring to the number of places available, not the value. The human desire to keep adding “good ideas” to a portfolio as they become accessible is as strong and natural as a tree’s want to grow more leaves to get more sunlight, and it can be just as damaging if left unchecked. Each branch, limb, and leaf that a tree produces has a cost. In your portfolio, you do the same. Each of these investments could be a great idea in and of itself. They are, however, just good ideas. Show me a portfolio of great ideas, and I’ll show you a tree that isn’t reaching its full potential, and by that, I mean value.

Having a lot of good ideas isn’t enough to build a portfolio to its full potential. By having a few brilliant ideas, it can reach its maximum potential. Okay, that seems self-evident. This one isn’t. A portfolio with fewer branches, limbs, and leaves that all work together to create a harmonious whole — even if those branches, stems, and leaves are just good, not exceptional — will achieve a more significant result than one with more units, limbs, and leaves of the same sound quality. I think a lot of people also underestimate how common fire occurrences can be with arborists, working with machinery and chainsaws can result in fires, so its handy having something like a co2 fire extinguisher that can deal with a fire before it gets out of hand, as a forest is perfect fuel for a fire to thrive.