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What I Learned From Trees

The Lesson One of the reasons we resist letting go of things in life is because we tend to focus on what we feel we must give up instead of what we have to gain.  Full disclosure: In a life carefully controlled and curated, I am the poster child for resisting any change that requires […]

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The Lesson

One of the reasons we resist letting go of things in life is because we tend to focus on what we feel we must give up instead of what we have to gain.  Full disclosure: In a life carefully controlled and curated, I am the poster child for resisting any change that requires letting go of something.  Well, actually anything in business and in my personal life.

Twice daily pup walks have always given me time to breathe and to reflect.  As I stroll along my neighborhood streets marveling at spinning and spiraling autumn leaves dropping from branches high above roofs of houses, I realized that there is a natural order of things in all of life.  When it comes to trees, they give up their tight hold on leaves, those very things that have provided sustenance all year long.  This process of letting go is an integral part of the cycle of life in all beings.  Late in the summer, the process starts.  First, the leaves stop production of chlorophyll which causes the green color and are responsible for absorbing sunlight which is essential for “food” production.  Chlorophyll is the chemical which gives them food and is key in the process of keeping them alive and healthy.  But each autumn, the chlorophyll deteriorates, and, in some cases, we see a beautiful revelation of color.  These reds, oranges and yellows are present in the leaves all year but are masked by the green chlorophyll molecule.  The chlorophyll is released and then the leaves, which no longer serve the tree in the way they were intended, let go.  They fall to the ground to either give pleasure to dogs and kids running through them or to create endless piles of work for those of us that rake and sweep them up. 

This is the nature of things.  There is no thought process, no decision making each fall.  The tree doesn’t say “Oh no, I’m not letting go this year.  I think I need to keep these leaves on.  And I’m also going to hang on to the chlorophyll because it feeds me and keeps me going.” 

But as the days shorten and the temperatures drop as they always do, the natural order of things occurs.  The chlorophyll starts to degrade and is no longer produced.  What if that tree went into a panic and tried to do everything possible to hang on out of fear?  Well, frankly it just doesn’t work that way.  The trees let go.  We rake up the litter and the tree sighs into a winter sleep as happens every year.  And unless something unforetold happens, new leaves appear each spring and the cycle starts again with the emergence of new foliage and added growth. 

That’s the way life was created.  In cycles.  We and those trees hold the utmost trust that there is a promise of natural order.

Lessons Applied

As the founder and president of a successful business with branch offices throughout the state, I was very careful to control every facet possible of the company’s operations early in its history.  For years I never strayed far from the corporate fold, believing that if I were absent from the office for too long or took time for a deserved vacation, the organization might collapse into a pile of smoldering debris never to be recovered. Believing this in every fiber of my body initially hindered what could have been amazing growth opportunities for the company and emerging leaders as well.  As I grew more reasonably into my leadership role, I learned and then practiced the fine art of letting go of such tight control in order to appreciate and enjoy the development of what could unfold in the arena of growth as well as the emergence of real superstar managers and future leaders.  Financial success was achieved.  But personally?  Well that was yet another row to hoe.

Being on high alert as a business owner was a way of life.  I did eventually begin to take time off and release the day to day operations, but in an unhealthy way.  There continued to be constant checking-in via phone, double checking others’ decisions and lacking in appreciation when mistakes were made and corrected independent of my meddling. With computer integration I created mountains of emails and texts which added to rather than alleviated my anxiety.  If I were going to really live into my purpose of supporting and encouraging new leaders, I needed to not only act “as if” but I needed to find a way to personally unplug from my need to micromanage.  Listening to those wiser than me, learning from thought leaders, mentors and role models gave me a sense of how I needed to change.  When a planned 3 week absence with only minimal contact with my team resulted in a well-run organization and a more relaxed me I realized not only could the company survive without my incessant meddling, but that those who I had allowed to live their best leadership roles took to my absence in a way that blew me away.  They not only ran the company, but the company thrived.  I  realized that my tight grip which had a stranglehold on the company’s development could also be loosened to provide space for those who worked with me to blossom, to develop and to become everything that they were identified for being.  Booyah!  And then in reflection, I became a true believer in the whole of it, the whole enchilada of letting go to allow what is natural growth, improvements and development.  I began to see the benefits in my personal life as well as my business life.  It is what is called a natural order of things. 

And then I took a walk. 

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