I had a chance recently to travel through the United States. I found Montana to be an odd and desolate mix of wide, open nothingness and badlands type hills.
As this prairie girl traveled through those hills with the sheer rock faces and stepped, terraced rock formations, I was struck by one of nature’s miracles. Trees growing in the unlikeliest spots.
Could someone explain to me how mature, substantial-looking pine trees could grow on the edges of those rock outcroppings. How can they become established with no visible topsoil, dubious water supply and the battering winds? How can they grow straight and strong and true?
What stories could they tell—of drought, of brutal winters, of unceasing winds that threaten their very root hold? How many of them don’t make it?
Years ago I heard motivational speaker Jim Rohn — in discussing human potential — compare us to trees. “How tall will a tree grow?” he asked. “As tall as it can,” he drawled. Trees, he explained, don’t just one day give up and say, enough is enough. That’s it for me. I’m not growing any further. They grow as tall and as long as they possibly can. They grow around or through obstacles. They twist to get the sun if necessary.
It seems to me there’s a lesson in tenacity here for us.
Trees don’t sit around during happy hour or morning coffee complaining about how the brother-in-law and the government and the tax rate and the prevailing wind are holding them back. Pines don’t compare themselves to birches or palms and wish they were something, anything else. They don’t wish they’d sprouted 50 years ago during the ‘good old days’. They don’t gripe that those young saplings have got it made today. They don’t bemoan a lack of opportunity. Or timing of the rainfall.
They simply get a toehold, set down roots and dedicate their lives to being the best darn tree they can be. No holds barred, no questions asked, no excuses offered.
We, on the other hand, are not root-bound. We can pick up and leave. We can follow opportunity. We can change our luck, our location, our strategy.
Yet too many of us don’t.
“You’re not a goose,” Rohn continued. “You don’t have to fly north or south as the seasons change. You can go east or west or stay where you are.”
We have free will. Yet too often we’re reluctant to use it. It might involve risk taking, bucking trends, leaving comfort zones, facing fears. It might mean failure.
Hell, it might mean success. And sometimes that’s just as scary. So, we stay put, complaining about our genetics, our bad luck, our lot in life.
So, these days as I notice pairs of Canada geese back for the season or trees trying to bud with this cold, dry weather, I’m grateful for my free will and lessons from nature. From where I sit.
*Reprinted with permission