The secret success of the magnolia tree

Image courtesy of Liz West and

I took the dog for a walk. The act wasn’t particularly notable. I haven’t been confined to the house for an extended period, or otherwise recovering from some debilitating injury or illness. This isn’t a story of bravery. It wasn’t cold outside, nor was it overly hot. This isn’t a story about overcoming the elements. In fact, there was very little about that morning’s walk that might differentiate it from any other walk I might take on a given day. But on this average walk on an average day, for whatever reason, I happened to beyond the space where my feet came in contact with the sidewalk.

“Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.” – Sharon Salzberg

I saw a tree in a neighbor’s yard. A magnolia to be exact. Its blooms had started taking on the yellowish tone of petals past their prime and the leaves were already showing signs of summer browning. It wasn’t a particularly beautiful specimen, but it wasn’t remarkably ugly either. The best word that I can use to describe it is, average. Being that we naturally prefer to seek out that extraordinary, my eyes immediately sought something more interesting to look at and landed on the more wooded area behind the magnolia where trees more than twice the magnolia’s height swayed against each other in the breeze. In comparison, the average magnolia now looked isolated and puny. It looked almost as if it wasn’t even trying.

“Just because Fate doesn’t deal you the right cards, it doesn’t mean you should give up. It just means you have to play the cards you get to their maximum potential.” – Les Brown

I felt a little sorry for the tree as I compared it with those behind it. I remember a magnolia tree in front of my childhood home that seemed to touch the sky. I remember climbing its thick branches, pretending to set up a home well above the ground like Tarzan or the Swiss Family Robinson, and using its huge strong leaves as a fan in the summer. When I was a child, there was no grander tree than a magnolia. It made me pause. To think, I was now considering this magnolia tree small and weak when the tree in my memory had achieved so much more.

“Many people never reach greater because they don’t leave good enough behind.” – Steven Furtick

The trees that towered behind average magnolia did not grow to their massive heights overnight. With so many close together fighting for the same sunlight, they had no choice but to grow up with each new generation building upon the last growing ever so taller. That kind of success takes time as much as determination.

“You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.” – Warren Buffett

As I continued my walk I imagined what the other trees might say to the average magnolia were they to talk. (I know, it might sound odd, but that’s the sort of thing that crosses my mind especially early in the morning). Did the other trees look down on their tiny neighbor in disdain, confident in their combined successful heights like some stereotypical A-list high school clique? Or did they secretly envy the shorter tree for the wide open space around its branches as theirs were tangled with their neighbor’s?

“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.” – David Brinkley

It occurred to me then why the magnolia tree had stopped growing upward. It didn’t need to reach the same heights as its neighbors to be successful. It grew where no other trees did, spreading its branches out to collect sunlight where little competition existed. The average magnolia had achieved an entirely different sort of success.

“The strongest oak of the forest is not the one that is protected from the storm and hidden from the sun. It’s the one that stands in the open where it is compelled to struggle for its existence against the winds and rains and the scorching sun.” -Napoleon Hill

And so as I finished my loop around my block, my thoughts about the magnolia tree also came full circle.

“There is a choice you have to make in everything you do. So keep in mind that in the end, the choice you make, makes you.”

“The most important key to achieving great success is to decide upon your goal and launch, get started, take action, move.”

– John Wooden

At the end of the day though it doesn’t matter if a tree grows up or out. To be successful all a tree has to do is grow a little every day. The same applies to people too.

quotes courtesy of


37 thoughts on “The secret success of the magnolia tree

  1. Brilliant, Allie! I love your creative way of crafting your point, which is to say that success looks different for all of us; it just depends upon your particular attitude and vantage point. I’ve recently arrived at the conclusion that so much in life is relative to what’s around it. Because of this, it makes better sense for us to work with what lies within!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes. Make sure you tell Sacha that she throws a good party, but it would have been even better had Allie won the lottery so she could have attended. Then throw chocolate at her (on my behalf of course) and run.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You do know that Sacha is a bit tough don’t you? She works out a lot and she might swing for me if I chuck chocolate at her? Ok well I like a challenge so will see how I get on 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. A fantastic collection of quotations and one of your best posts to date. I was reminded of “The Garden Song,” which I think was written by Pete Seeger, and recorded by many artists, among them John Denver. Thanks for a lovely message! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.