Aw, priming the pump. Some of our life lessons are not always as obvious to us at a certain age or time as others. That said there was this aha moment when I was talking with Jonathan Milligan from Blogging Your Passion about my blog’s progress. A moment and remark made in that conversation reminded me of a story.

Priming The Pump

My grandmother’s house was old and well loved. The only running water that went to the house was in the kitchen. It was fed from the springhouse that was quite a distance from the house. The water came from an old-fashioned pump in the kitchen that set on a very large kitchen basin.

Priming The Pump,

I know what your thinking. Why didn’t they have running water brought by an automatic pump or city water that we now so take for granted. The answer to that question is the farm was way out in the middle of nowhere, and they had yet to sink a well and install a regular pump. That would eventually come later. What this meant for the household was we used an outhouse and all cleaning, bathing and washing up was done in the kitchen. For a 4 year old that was way cool. I loved watching my grandmother use the pump to get water. The sound of the pump grinding and gurgling from the pump and water was a fun thing for a kid my age.

Priming The Pump,

I remember asking my grandma why she always had to pump to get water; we didn’t have to do that in my home. She would tell me that was how she was able to get the water to come up the pipes to the house?

On a rare occasion Grandma would become a bit frustrated, saying she had let the pump loose its prime. She would yell for my grandpa and my uncle to help her prime the pump so that the water would flow freely again. I would watch in fascination as my uncle and grandpa would pump and pump and then pour water down the pipe and pump and pump again. It was really hard work priming the pump, and it took a while to get the water to flow.

Priming The Pump,

As a kid, all this didn’t make any sense as to why the water won’t just come up when you pumped the handle. Then there was the puzzle of why you would pour water down the pipe to get the water to come up to the house. I would cock my head to side and just watch as all the work ensued.

It always took a while, and much hard work to get the water to come. The water started with a trickle and then it would flow, full and heavy. When that happened it was cause for celebration.

Like any four year old, I was full of “why” questions. What was priming? How did you lose it? Why was it so hard? Why did you pour water down to make it come up? Why didn’t the tadpoles always come up with the water? On and on the why questions would go.

My grandma listened, and then did her best to explain. This is what she said; “Priming is the work it takes to get the water to come up the pipe to the kitchen. Sometimes you need to pour some water down to pipe to encourage the other water to come up the pipe. You lose your prime when you don’t pump very often. There is a screen on the pipe at the other end that keep the tadpoles in their springhouse home.”

Priming The Pump,

My grandma’s answers seemed to satisfy my questions. All I said in respond was “Oh” and went to off the play. It was many years later when I understood how all this priming and pump thing worked.

As it was with the farmhouse pump, so it is with life and business. It takes a lot of work and personal resources (priming, pumping and water) to get a business, project or relationship going. Once the business or relationship is successful, (flowing water) keeping it going is much easier. However, it still requires regular attention (regular pumping) to keep it going. The last thing is it’s important to put the proper processes or practices in place (screen for the tadpoles) to ensure you prevent any unexpected issues.

So here I am, busily priming the pump to my blog and business. I know that if I keep learning and working on all that I need to do, the business like the water will come.

How about you? Are you priming the pump business to get it all going? How do you correlate this to your life or business?

Life’s journey continues…

If you liked this, check out Crawdad Hunting, Sad Kitty Tale and Springhouse Frog. 

PS: What are some of your favorite stories? If you would like to write a guest post about an experience, we would love to hear from you.

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  • Leora Wenger

    As I am sitting here helping my daughter with her book report for her summer reading, I feel like I am Grandma priming the pump. It takes work to get her going, but she seems to be sailing along quite nicely now with her writing.

    Hearing about your grandma makes me think of how my own grandmothers worked to keep things going. They had running water, but life was often not easy. I like how she patiently explained to you how the pump and water work. I like how you took it all in.

    • Susan P. Cooper

      LOL, I am so there with you on that. I have done that and more with my own. It is rewarding when they finally starts to take off on their own

  • Cheryl Therrien

    Great story! I remember this all too well. I do like how you relate it to your web site and business. Makes total sense. :)

    • Susan P. Cooper

      Hi Cheryl, Thank you my friend… happy dance. :-)

  • Jon Jefferson

    I would imagine we both feel the same much of the time. Constantly priming and hoping the water will start flowing soon.

    • Susan P. Cooper

      Yep, I would agree wholeheartedly Jon. There are times I kinda wish it would be less hard and it all just start flowing. :-)

  • Elizabeth Scott

    As usual another wonderful story. I am so happy that I can prime my pump and hopefully my pump will be overflowing.

    • Susan P. Cooper

      I hope so too Elizabeth. I know how hard you’re working on it. :-)

  • Susan Oakes

    Another great business and life lesson Susan and I think the lesson of persistence comes in both for the pump to work and business to grow.

    • Susan P. Cooper

      Thanks Susan, I knew this would resonate with you my friend.

  • Michele Harvey Author

    I love your illustrations and analogies and yes, it is true that life lessons are not always obvious to us at the time we receive them. Thank you for sharing a piece of your childhood. As someone who grew up in a large city, I enjoyed imagining how different life would be, having lived on a farm in a more remote neck of the woods.

    • Susan P. Cooper

      Hi Michele, Than you so much for your kind words. I had the best of both worlds. we lived in the city and visited my grandparents often when I was very small. :-)

  • jeannettepaladino

    Wonderful story to make an important point. Are we continuing to prime the pump for what we want in life — more business, more friendships, more work/life balance? Pumping is hard work!

    • Susan P. Cooper

      That it is Jeannette. We sometimes forget that we only get our reward form our priming, so to speak.

  • Arleen Harry

    I love your stories and it is a great analogy with business. As you know I have a promotional products website. In the beginning I did all the work on the site. It was back in the early 90’s and it really didn’t matter how your site looked. As things progressed and people wanted more I had to change along with the times and hired a web developer to make the site more user friendly. I am still priming the pump to stay in business I will never be able to stop, or I will not have any water (business).

    • Susan P. Cooper

      Hi Arleen, Thank you so much, that makes me very happy. :-).

      I think you have done an amazing job of growing your business. Keeping it up to date and relevant is all part of it. I say bravo my friend. :-)

  • Debra Yearwood

    Love the story (as usual) and the analogy is such an excellent one. It takes so much work to get going in business and then constant attention to maintain. There’s no such thing as resting on your laurels if you want things to remain successful. I’ll just remember that I have to keep pumping. :)

    • Susan P. Cooper

      Hi Debra, Thanks my friend, that means a lot to me. It really does, and it doesn’t end there. I like you, will continue to pump away. :-)

  • Dan Meyers

    Very relevant analogy, Susan… and as always, told in an entertaining way! I know we all wish our blogs would’ve taken off without the priming, but we learned it doesn’t happen that way. However, you’ve done quite well at priming your site, and now the traffic shows!

    • Susan P. Cooper

      Aw Dan, we have been through the priming and pumping together, haven’t we? It take a lot of work but if you are patient and keep it all going, things do happen. :-)

  • Lorraine Marie Reguly

    I have to echo Dan and say pretty neat analogy!

    • Susan P. Cooper

      Hi Lorraine. Thank you and keep pumping my friend. :-)

  • Broadcasting Sunny

    I hope I’m priming my pump, properly. I’m willing to do the work but I question if I’m doing it the right way. Again, I enjoy your podcast. It’s given me something to think about. Thanks

    • Susan P. Cooper

      Hi there, we learn as we go and I am sure you headed in the right direction. Have faith and keep at it. If you do that, it will happen. :-)

  • Mommywithaplan

    I love your stories. I also like that my son can understand the message and apply it as well as myself. Just like Sunny said I sometimes wonder if I’m priming my pump properly.

    • Susan P. Cooper

      That is so cool. It pleases me so that you felt it had enough value to share with your son. I think we all doubt at times. It is all part of the process of growing to success. Just keep working your plan and things will fall into place. :-)

  • Jeri Walker-Bickett

    Even though I’ve been working on my first book for a year and a half, more and more, I’m looking at what I’m doing as priming the pump. I’m taking my time to do things the right way, rather than the hasty way.

    • Susan P. Cooper

      Hi Jeri, Part of creating and building anything right requires patience, education and then finding a way to do it to the best of ones ability. The hard part is not pushing to get it done to fast. A saying comes to mind; “Act in haste repent in leisure”. That is not what anyone wants to do. :-)

  • Adrienne

    Hey Susan,

    My Dad’s Mom lived out in the country and they did have well water. Unfortunately, a good bit of the time when we’d first turn it on it was all rusty. We use to think that was so gross and especially when you needed to take a bath. The house was really cold too, only space heaters in the rooms and as kids coming to visit we couldn’t understand why she just didn’t turn the heat on. I so get where you’re coming from but at least the water ran in each bathroom.

    Our business are like that water aren’t they! Always needing to prime the pump.


    • Susan P. Cooper

      Hi Adrienne, That rusty water wasn’t so much an issue at my grandmas because it from a spring, but it was where my uncle lived (he had well water with a automatic pump) and I hated the smell of it. We would let in run for a while until it ran clear. :D

      Yes it is, We do forget that sometimes, don’t we. :-)

  • Patricia Weber

    It’s interesting how just a casual remark in a conversation with someone can lead you to some story telling. Prime the pump is a wonderfully effective metaphor for in particular, paying attention; ie, to be regularly pumping. Valuable insights Susan. Thanks.

    • Susan P. Cooper

      That is so true Patricia and thank you. We forget that sometimes. It really is about “what we get out of something is a direct result of the effort we put in to it”. :-)

  • Rebecca Thompson

    I am hoping that working on the blog and all I have to do, that the business will come. We seem to be in similar situations and I would love to know how you are going about it and your successes (and failures, although I do hope there are not too many of those).

    • Susan P. Cooper

      Hi Rebecca, I am priming and pumping away. It would be fun to share our collective leanings sometime. :-)

  • Margaret Duarte

    What a “timely” story, Susan. I’ve been neglecting my pump, so to speak, and sometimes the water seems no more than a trickle; though I know there’s plenty of water – out of sight, but there none the less – that can be tapped with a little effort. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Susan P. Cooper

      Hi There Margaret. I so get how you feel, sometimes all that priming can get to be a bit tedious, can’t it? But I keep thinking just one more pump and then it will come. In the end it takes effort and perseverance… Sigh! :-)

      BTW: we are way over due for a coffee or a glass of wine my friend. :-)

      • Margaret Duarte

        Yes, Susan. It’s a must do!

        • Susan P. Cooper

          Let’s make a plan. :-)

          • Margaret Duarte

            Hi Susan. Email me when you have the time. Coffee sounds great!

          • Susan P. Cooper

            Will do. :-)))

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