Plants Can Teach You About Business

Business Lessons In This Is Your Mind On Plants by Michael Pollan

Cover of This Is Your Mind On Plants by Michael Pollan

You can learn from everything around you. One book that I’ve recently learned a lot from is This Is Your Mind On Plants by Michael Pollan. If you want to purchase a copy for yourself and help out the blog at the same time, click that affiliate link.

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If you no longer have any bookshelf space or if you’ve already used your “fun money” for the month, consider getting this book from your local library. Many libraries also have e-book catalogues. I know my library has one with Libby. This is not an affiliate link. I just use this app on a daily basis.

Group of people holding plants

This nonfiction book is about opium, caffeine, and mescaline and their effects on the human body told through the author’s experiences with each plant. It is filled with humor and wit and makes for a fun read whether or not you have a horticultural background.

If business lessons in fiction are more your speed, check out last month’s post on Business Lessons In Harry Potter.

Opium was the basis of national economies, a staple of medicine, an essential item of trade, a spur to the Romantic revolution in poetry, even a casus belli.

– This Is Your Mind On Plants by Michael Pollan

Opium comes from the opium poppy. A plant that, until reading this book, I had never wondered about its accessibility. It is, apparently, relatively easy to grow, but requires some effort to harvest. As explained by Pollan, the law is not worded in the clearest manner. There have been people sentenced to prison due to misunderstandings of these laws. This is an important thing to keep in mind in business.

Legalize is something that confuses most people. Otherwise, there would not be years of schooling and training required to practice law. The law is often ambiguous. When in situations where it is unclear whether a thing may or may not illegal, if it is within the government’s best interests for it to be so it will be. Investing in a sound legal team is something that you will hopefully never need to use besides reviewing contracts. Note: Investing in a sound accounting firm is also a wise decision. Tax law can be even more complicated to the layman than criminal law. Going to federal prison is something that is best to be avoided.

When selecting a legal team, we followed the advice in FAKE: Fake Money, Fake Teachers, Fake Assets: How Lies Are Making the Poor and Middle Class Poorer by Robert T. Kiyosaki. Ideally, you want to surround yourself with a team that has the heart of teacher. Then they will teach you how to take advantage of tax breaks and laws that will benefit your company. And because of the teachings of our legal team, we want to make it clear that we are not endorsing the use of any of these illegal substances. Stay in school. Don’t do drugs.

We don’t usually think of caffeine as a drug, or our daily use of it as an addiction, but that is only because coffee and tea are legal and our dependence on them is socially acceptable.

– This Is Your Mind On Plants by Michael Pollan

A morning cup of coffee has become an important part of Western culture. Business meetings are even often done over a cup of coffee. It is difficult to throw a stone and hit someone who does not use this drug on a regular basis in some form or another whether coffee, tea, or soda. When reading this section, it made me think. What are habits that you have formed in running your business that you are now dependent on? Are these dependencies good, bad, or neutral? Do the dependencies help or hinder your business? As with caffeine, the dependency may not be strictly a bad thing. It may actually make your business grow and become more profitable. But it is important to be able to recognize them and to be able to assess their helpfulness on a regular basis.

For example, Payton no longer uses energy drinks due to the crash that often followed. The recovery time was negatively affecting his productivity. Another example, I became dependent on the habit of spending my time between shifts decompressing and relaxing before the next shift. I got caught up in needing to get in the ideal headspace for the job. This took up valuable time and negatively impacted my other business ventures. I found that being productive before my shift has become much more rewarding and satisfying.

To an extent, this is what all psychedelics do—not so much change how we feel inside (as stimulants or depressants reliably do) as imbue the world around us with never-before-appreciated qualities.

– This Is Your Mind On Plants by Michael Pollan

Mescaline was the one plant-based substance that I had not heard much about prior to this book, at least not under this name. Two most common forms of mescaline come from the peyote cactus and the San Pedro Cactus. Or you may have heard of it in one of its manufactured forms like LSD. Peyote is something that is sacred to many Native peoples. Many do not think the use of the word “drug” is not appropriate when referring to peyote because of its many cultural and religious uses. This is a good lesson to apply to business. In your business, you will engage with people (whether employees, clients, or customers) that have different cultural understandings from you. Because of this, it is important to look outside of your own understanding. Who are you marketing your business to? What experiences or backgrounds might they have that may cause them to view your business or products in a way that is different from your intent? Sometimes businesses do make mistakes in this regard. It is, however, important to recognize mistakes and make every effort to prevent them from happening in the future.

A common lesson in human resources is “perspective is everything”. So don’t leave your intent up for interpretation. Managing expectations is the best thing you can do for your brand. Always advertise the minimum you can perform. The low expectation also gives you a huge chance to over delivery causing a great experience even if that is your standard operating procedure.


These were some business lessons in This Is Your Mind On Plants by Michael Pollan. To review, sometimes your business may need a professional (especially when it comes to legal matters), examine yourself and your business to see if any habits or dependencies are having a negative impact, and be mindful of how you present your business.

Any idea of what book, show, or movie we should get business lessons from next? Let us know in the comments!